water conservation awardThe University of California, San Diego's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry was presented with a water conservation award by the county of San Diego recently.Images courtesy of Heidolph North America

“It’s hard to believe how much water is used with conventional condensers. The continuous flow of water needed for the many reflux reactions performed by synthetic chemists on a daily basis, adds up to incredible amounts. Thanks to Findenser this water is now being conserved.”

In 2013, and into early 2014 the California drought returned and intensified, expanding into much of the western US. The drought resulted in restrictions on domestic household water usage and became of increasing concern to chemistry laboratories as well.

During that year Radleys, a UK-based laboratory equipment manufacturer, collaborated with a leading pharmaceutical company to develop a product that would alleviate overnight lab floodings; caused by traditional reflux methods. The hand made Findenser is comprised of a vigreux glass condenser with a water slurry permanently sealed between two layers of aluminum fins. The aluminum jacket acts as a radiator resulting in high performance air cooling. This new product replaces traditional condensers that require a constant water flow to cool the condenser. Despite the natural hesitation to adopt a new technology, the Findenser proved that it could show an improved recovery rate, when compared to a conventional water condenser, without the use of any external water source.

Heidolph North America, a US based laboratory equipment manufacturer, who partners with Radleys, markets the Findenser. Prof. Seth Cohen, former chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego discovered the Findenser at an exposition and became interested in adopting the technology throughout his department. The advantage of reducing water use, but still being able to perform critical chemical reactions was an attractive combination. After a few trials in the laboratory the Findenser proved itself.

Today the University of California, San Diego has been able to save an estimated 5.7 million liters of water amounting to >1200 liters per day. The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego is running more efficiently and is an innovator for laboratory sustainability. There are now over 280 Findensers in their fume hoods across campus thanks to the combined efforts of Professor Seth Cohen, Doug Harvey (chemical hygiene officer), and Dr. Stephen George (dept. safety officer). Indeed, the county of San Diego even recognized this team effort at an awards ceremony in the summer of 2016, where Prof. Cohen was made aware that the water savings with Findensers was among the highest amount of water saved of all the projects that were recognized by the county of San Diego during its Earth Day celebrations. 

Thank you to Prof. Seth Cohen and his team for being a driving force in laboratory sustainability and water conservation. We hope that the Findenser can be adapted in research facilities across the world, to save a vital resource for our planet.