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Lab Tech Guy on the acetonitrile shortage


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'Ask Lab Tech Guy' is a regular feature in the e-newsletter from Mourne Training Services and is posted on the MTS blog. Find out more on the MTS website at

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Lab Tech Guy on the acetonitrile shortage

  1. 1. ©2009 Mourne Training Services
  2. 2. ©2009 Mourne Training Services Dear Lab Tech Guy, Recently it has become very difficult to obtain HPLC grade acetonitrile for my laboratory. Call you tell me what is going on and please give me some advice on what I should do? Yours, Trevor (Hull, England)
  3. 3. ©2009 Mourne Training Services Dear Trevor, The current shortage of acetonitrile is worldwide. It is reportedly due to a combination of factors coming together in a ‘perfect storm’ kind of way. The factors in question are: 1. The economic slowdown – acetonitrile is a by-product during the production of acrylonitrile (used in plastics for products such as car parts), the demand for which has slumped. 2. Several factories in China were closed during the preparations for the 2008 Olympic games. That’s going 3. A plant in Texas was put out of action by a hurricane. to make a terrible mess. All these events have coincided to cause the problems you are now facing.
  4. 4. ©2009 Mourne Training Services Obtaining supplies of HPLC grade acetonitrile can be very frustrating at the moment. Although supplies of acetonitrile appear to be recovering, solvent of the purity Pssst! Wanna buy required for HPLC is still subject to shortages. Previously some acetonitrile? reliable suppliers are failing to make good on orders or increasing their prices by exorbitant amounts. Not unexpectedly a number of speculators have appeared in the market, attracted by the potential for high financial gain. Recycling from solvent waste is an attractive idea for obtaining acetonitrile. It is not as simple as isolating the acetonitrile using a rotary evaporator because acetonitrile forms an azeotrope with water at atmospheric pressure, thus you can not get higher than 85%. Simple distillation recyclers also have this problem. Typically the purity obtained is not high enough for most HPLC applications.
  5. 5. Decision to build up a supply of acetonitrile to last out the shortages: 5/5 Decision to store the acetonitrile supply near a naked flame: 0/5 ©2009 Mourne Training Services My advice is to use your supplies of acetonitrile very, very carefully until the situation improves, this may not be until the second half of 2009. If you can, try using methanol instead. I’m afraid that we will just have to wait until the acetonitrile industry once again becomes solvent. Yours flammably,
  6. 6. Brought to you by... ©2009 Mourne Training Services