I checked the HMS Beagle Science Store blog at http://hms-beaglescienceblog.blogspot.com/ today and they have a good article about “Home Laboratories Under Attack”. Their blog makes a good point about the importance of home based labs, particularly with the home school groups. The blog makes more good points that we should contact our law makers to encourage their support and let them know that not all home based labs are for illegal activities. Robert Bruce Thompson, author of “Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments” has an interesting look at the demise of the chemistry set. You can find his blog and video presentation at http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2008/07/robert_bruce_thompson_on.html
I started a topic today in the Yahoo Group for MaterialsScienceTeachers http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/MaterialsScienceTeachers/ regarding an article I found on Makezine http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2006/05/the_golden_book_of_chemistry_e.html about “The Golden Book of Chemistry” being banned in the 60’s. If you follow the article far enough you get to a web site where you can download a torrent file with the book as a PDF file. This is a great book and such a lost treasure.
I found another gem from the past courtesy of Bre Pettis on Twitter who passed along a link about the ABC TV show “Why Is It So” which started in the 60’s. The link to this article is http://www.abc.net.au/science/features/whyisitso/. Bre produces videos for Makezine and is a member of the NYC Resistors hackers club. You can follow Bre on Twitter @Bre
Continuing with my research on trying to live off-grid one item that we need year around is refrigeration. I was looking for a means of keeping foods cooled or frozen and possibly some kind of air conditioning. Humidity gets so high in the Ozarks region that swamp coolers used in the southwest parts of the country are ineffective here. When I visited with an Amish family a couple weeks ago they said they use a kerosene fueled refrigerator. The kerosene refrigerators are very similar to the kind used in recreational vehicles. They both use an ammonia absorption method. I have an old RV fridge that’s not working and I want to inspect it closer to see how that technology works. I bought a book titled “Modern Refrigeration and Air Conditioning” at a thrift store a few months ago and it is helpful in explaining the conceptual technology but not specific enough to build one. What I really wanted to find was some kind of Open-Source DIY instructions on how to build a refrigerator.
One article that comes close is the solar ammonia absorption ice maker www.free-energy-info.co.uk/P13.pdf, this looks interesting. It uses a large solar collector for its heat source. Another article, however, caught my attention from a group called Needful Provisions and it describes the Adsorption-Desorption Solar Refrigerator http://www.needfulprovision.org/main/solaroven.php. This method uses the mineral Zeolite which has the property of being absorbent at room temperature and releases moisture at a higher temperature. According to the article this material is abundant and is used in products to clean spills, and absorb odors. I spent a couple of hours trying to find the mineral Zeolite in consumer products in an auto parts store’s oil dry, pet store’s kitty litter, the big box home improvement stores and the crafts stores for absorbents and dessicants without any success. Most items had clay or other fibrous materials like recycled paper or corn cobs. I expected to find the real stuff at the HMS Beagle store and sure enough they had what I wanted. I got some of the Molecular Sieve and want to experiment with its moisture absorbing and releasing properties. I would also like to compare its abilities to some of the consumer grade items that are more widely available.
Hmmm, Experiments… Experiments to understand scientific principles while using chemicals and materials. Should I try to understand more about material science and refrigeration principles or give up on the idea because some government authorities may freak out as pointed out in the HMS Beagle Store blog previously mentioned?