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Images: Traditional and not-so-traditional chemistry lab work

Chemist Emma Teuten tries to strain and hold back large, grainy pieces of blubber while pouring her blended mixture into a beaker. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, WHOI Graphic Services)

A vacuum is used to suck fats (lipids) out of the pink, blended whale blubber (beaker at the top) through a filter and into a flask (filled with gold liquid). In the background, chopped chunks of blubber await their trip in the blender. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, WHOI Graphic Services)

Emma Teuten pours concentrated sulfuric acid into flask full of fat-filled whale extract, turning the mixture black. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, WHOI Graphic Services)

After concentrated sulfuric acid was mixed into the whale blubber fluids (producing a black, viscous mixture), Teuten added hexane to help separate the needed halogenated compounds from the mix of fat and acid. In the photo, the golden liquid in the top flask is the hexane-halogen mixture, while the blackened mix of lipids and acid filter through a seperatory funnel (middle) into a beaker on the bottom. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, WHOI Graphic Services)

Teuten washes the hexane extract with water to remove the remaining acid (foreground), then passes it through a silica gel (white mixture in column) to further purify the sample down to the chemicals that she needs to study. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, WHOI Graphic Services)

Teuten uses a rotary evaporator to remove excess solvent from her sample. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, WHOI Graphic Services)

The whale extract is passed through silica gel (grey-white fluid in the column near the top of the photo) to separate the last of the lipids out of the sample. The black material near the top is lipid, while the clear fluid in the bottom flask is the extract of methoxy and halogenated compounds that Teuten was working to isolate. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, WHOI Graphic Services)

Teuten (left) and Li Xu examine preliminary results from the gas chromatograph in the National Ocean Sciences Accelerator Mass Spectrometer facility. Modern equipment allows them to isolate and collect data on the individual chemical compounds in a sample. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, WHOI Graphic Services)