The Quest to Find Ascorbic Acid

These days it seems like everyone is on an epic quest to find something. Harry Potter struggled through seven mammoth volumes to find and destroy Voldemort's horcruxes. King Arthur and his knights seek the Grail through thousands of myths and legends. Last week, our China team (John, Stuie, and Mike) embarked on their own epic quest ... to try to find pure ascorbic acid for our printer cartridges!

To give some background, in Australia it's pretty easy to get lab-grade ascorbic acid to use in our cartridges and for testing. That's not exactly the case in China. The China team purchased a batch of ascorbic acid that listed its contents as 100% pure. Unfortunately, this label was at best a tall tale -- the acid was only 50% pure. (Which raises the question “What else was in there?". Luckily, we never shipped cartridges with this mystery substance.)

We caught the faulty chemicals through rather meticulous titration testing.

And thus, the team set out on a quest to find a better source for ascorbic acid...

The China team tried another supplier and found one that looked rather promising. After a titration test, they determined that this ascorbic acid was 104% pure. Which should be impossible ... right? A least the results indicated we had located a much purer substance to work with.

Excellent titration results

The problem with this magical, impossibly good ascorbic acid is it only ships in tiny 25g bottles. And we need about 2.5kg to complete our latest batch of cartridges and tests. 

Here's the tricky thing about purchasing chemicals in China. While we might find larger bottles somewhere, there would be no more guarantee that the contents would be lab grade than for the bad order we were replacing. Switching suppliers and products would require another fully battery of tests, and the team was eager to get to testing inks...

And so the team found themselves at the end of their quest ordering 100 cute little bottles of the known supplier, with the testing protocols clearly in place. Not exactly efficient, but the safer bet. 

The good news: well, it's China, so the bottles are cheap enough that even with the annoyance of cracking the seal on so many bottles, the entire order still cost less than buying ascorbic acid in Australia of the same quality.

 Tada! The Cartesian team's Holy Ascorbic Grail!

Alex Della Santina
Alex Della Santina


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