Explosion with sodium azide

Victor J. Hruby; Lakmal Boteju; Guigen Li
University of Arizona, Tucson

Chemical & Engineering News (11 Oct 1993) Vol. 71, No. 41, pp. 2.

We would like to echo the warning of N. P. Peat and P. M. Weintraub (C&EN, April 19, page 4). We had a similar experience during rotary evaporation of methylene chloride following an SN2 azide displacement reaction. A violent explosion destroyed the rotary evaporator and the cold finger traps to the vacuum pump. Fortunately, the experimenter was some distance from the rotary evaporator and suffered only minor injuries and returned to work the next day.

As discussed by Peat and Weintraub, undoubtedly, our detonations were caused by diazidomethane. We likewise have instituted a policy in our laboratory that no reactions with azide be performed in the presence of halogenated solvents, and to carefully review any reactions in our laboratory involving azide. Since there are many literature procedures in which azide reactions are run in halogenated solvents or cosolvents, including our own [Tetrahedron,48, 4733 (1992)], we strongly urge that all synthetic laboratories institute policies to avoid azide reactions in halogenated solvents or cosolvents.

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