What Should You Check Before Using a Rotary Evaporator?

Author: Evelyn w

Sep. 15, 2023


Understanding Rotary Evaporators

Rotary evaporators are indispensable tools in laboratories, facilitating the efficient separation of solvents from samples. These devices operate on the principle of reducing pressure to lower the boiling point of solvents, allowing for their controlled evaporation at lower temperatures.

Potential Hazards and Safety Precautions

Working with rotary evaporators involves specific hazards that should be mitigated through proper safety measures. Here are some potential hazards and how to address them:

Burn Hazard

Safety Measures: When using the heating water bath or cryogens for cooling (typically ranging from 25 – 95 °C), wear lab coats, eye protection, closed-toe shoes, and appropriate gloves.

Implosion Hazard

Safety Measures: Be cautious of the vacuum system to avoid implosion. Regular maintenance ensures the integrity of the equipment.

Ignition Hazard

Safety Measures: Prevent the accumulation of flammable liquid vapors by maintaining proper sealing and ventilation.

Inhalation Hazard

Safety Measures: Avoid toxic chemical vapor exposure by maintaining a well-sealed system.

Mechanical Hazards

Safety Measures: Prevent entanglement and other mechanical accidents by securing long hair and avoiding loose clothing.

Electrocution/Shock Hazard

Safety Measures: Ensure proper electrical safety by checking outlets and cords.

Cut Hazard

Safety Measures: Inspect glassware for damage and handle it with care.


I was working in the lab one day when my colleague picked up a rotary evaporator, inserted a flask of solvent, and hit the switch. Nothing happened. He looked at me and shrugged his shoulders. “I guess it’s broken,” he said. I walked over and checked the machine. It wasn’t broken, it was just miscalibrated. The moral of the story is that using a rotary evaporator requires some knowledge and care. They’re temperamental pieces of equipment that need to be set up and maintained properly to ensure safe and effective operation. Here’s a checklist of things to check before using a rotary evaporator:

Sealed and Leak-Free Connection: The flask should be tightly sealed to the adapter to prevent any leakage. Look for any cracks or chips in the sealant, and if found, replace it.

Adapter Size and Fit: The adapter should fit snugly onto the flask without any wobbling or play. If there’s too much give, the adapter may slip off during operation.

Vapor Pressure Control: Check that the pressure control knob is set at the correct pressure for the flask size and the evaporation rate desired.

Heater Function: Heat the flask to a temperature well above the boiling point of the solvent you’re using.

Ventilation: Rotary evaporators often have a venting mechanism to release pressure as the flask’s contents boil off. Make sure this vent is open and freely operating.

Speed Control: Check that the speed control is working properly and that you can vary the speed of rotation easily.

Temperature Control: Many modern rotary evaporators have digital temperature controls, but they should still be checked for correct operation.

Power Supply: Confirm that the rotary evaporator is receiving the correct voltage and frequency from the power supply.

Warning Labels and Instructions: Read all warning labels and operating instructions carefully before use. Some rotary evaporators have specific safety features or operation procedures that need to be followed.

Cleaning and Maintenance: Finally, it’s always a good idea to clean the evaporator before each use, particularly if it’s been sitting idle for a while. Check for any buildup of lint, dirt, or rust, and clean as necessary.

Remember to always use safety glasses when using laboratory equipment and to follow any specific safety guidelines provided with your equipment. Rotary evaporators can be temperamental pieces of equipment, but with some knowledge and care, they can be a valuable asset in your laboratory arsenal!




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