Hazardous Materials

Description of the Problem

A condensed matter experimentalist and his students were conducting experiments on thin films of common metals such as aluminum and tin. They realized that they could substantially enhance their work by switching the samples to the metal beryllium, which is highly toxic and can bring about irreversible poisoning. The procedures that they are employing with aluminum and tin would not be suitable for a toxic material such as beryllium.  


  • What responsibility does the PI have in considering the new, potentially dangerous material for the research?
  • What role should the students have in making this decision?
  • If there is a decision to go ahead with the work, what is the PI’s responsibility in terms of providing information and training?
  • How should he or she proceed with setting up these new experiments in a manner that might ensure the safety of his students?