Skip to main content
Skip to navigation

July 22, 2010 Volume 31, No. 4

Schweitzer Hall investigation is wrapped up

Exploring causes

Additional safety steps are recommended

MU officials have completed their investigation into the cause of a June 28 explosion at Schweitzer Hal.

The explosion occurred in the laboratory of Judy Wall, professor of biochemistry, during a routine setup of an anaerobic growth chamber. Wall and her team of researchers study anaerobic bacteria, or bacteria that cannot live in the presence of oxygen.

The bacteria are able to convert toxic metals, such as uranium and other heavy metals, to less toxic forms. Wall’s research helps agencies working to clean sites contaminated with radioactive materials.

Establishing the anaerobic environment calls for the use of nitrogen to fill the chamber. Then, small amounts of hydrogen are introduced into the chamber to remove any remaining oxygen by combining to form water. Prior to the explosion, hydrogen was prematurely introduced and reached an explosive level. Investigators concluded that the gas was ignited by a source inside the chamber.

Soon after the incident, incorrect information was circulated that a “2,000 pound hydrogen tank” exploded. The source of hydrogen was a standard compressed gas cylinder that contained about one pound of hydrogen. The tank, itself, did not explode.

To prevent such accidents in the future, investigators made a number of recommendations, such as additional training for lab workers and ensuring MU’s compressed gas procedures are in place.Enter your article here. Make sure to format using the drop down list above. ^