Overwhelmed by the available chemistry resources? Looking for new chemistry teaching ideas? Elementary Articles is the place for chemistry, education, and everything else.

Elementary Articles is the official blog for the RSC's Learn Chemistry – your home for chemistry education resources and activities.

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Have you ever wondered who makes the ingredients that go into a sun cream? Alice Miles did, and her curiosity led her to a career in sun cream formulation, the focus of our latest Faces of Chemistry videos. 

The newest addition to the ever-growing Faces of Chemistry collection sees Alice Miles and Dr. Robert Sayer from Croda show us how sun creams are made and how they help protect us from the sun
Alice Miles and Dr. Robert Sayer from Croda

The videos take us on an R&D journey from developing the metal oxide UV filters  through to making and testing the final sun cream formulations.

These videos are excellent examples of some of the real-life applications of chemistry topics taught in the classroom, such as emulsions, metal oxides and UV radiation, whilst providing insight in the sheer diversity of careers available to chemists.

Watch our sun cream Faces of Chemistry videos.

More from Croda and the RSC

Keep your eyes peeled for a brand new resource called Chemistry in your Bathroom – a set of five interactive PDFs filled with videos, animations, and quizzes which allow you to explore the different areas of chemistry taking place in your bathroom.
What is Faces of Chemistry?
For those of you who aren’t already in the know, Faces of Chemistry is an exciting series of videos from the RSC, aimed at students aged 11-19. The videos give insight into real-life applications of chemistry and highlight the latest cutting-edge research involved in making new products and technologies. Produced in collaboration with leading chemical companies and academic institutes, Faces of Chemistry also showcases the diversity of professional careers available to students of chemistry. Other videos include packaging gases (BOC), organic solar cells (BASF) and hair colourants (Procter & Gamble).
Posted by Richard Grandison on Nov 8, 2012 11:38 AM GMT
This week sees the addition of our first podcasts to Learn Chemistry! Taken from the Anecdotes for Chemistry Teachers, the 10 stories told by two RSC staff members share topics as diverse as the life of Fritz Haber to the discovery of nylon via the discovery of the electron by father and son duo, the Thomsons and making aircraft from seaweed!

Lasting between 3 and 7.5 minutes, these can be used in class as an introduction to a topic, or at home for more interested students. These podcasts cover such a range of topics on subjects that students may not even realise are chemistry related!

Let us know how you are using them with your students on Talk Chemistry.

The full lists of podcasts is:
Fritz Haber – the life and career of the creator of the Haber process;
In the Limelight - background and chemistry of burning calcium with hydrogen and oxygen to make 'limelight';
Linus Pauling – the life, work and campaigning of this award winning chemist;
Mad as a Hatter – mercury poisoning and the origins of the phrase 'mad as a hatter';
Making Aircraft from Seaweed – creating a balsa wood substitute from calcium alginate for World War 2 aircraft production;
Matches – the history and chemistry of matches;
The Discovery of Buckminsterfullerene – the discovery of buckminsterfullerene, the third allotrope of carbon;
The Discovery of Nylon – the background to the discovery, naming and production of Nylon;
The Nobel Prize – the history and background of the Nobel prizes; and
The Thomsons – Father and Son Discoverers of the Electron - the discovery of the electron and the diffraction of an electron beam.
Posted by Alexandra Kersting on Nov 6, 2012 3:04 PM GMT
On Monday 22nd October the official opening of University of Liverpool’s £23 million central teaching laboratory took place.  Everyone raised a glass as it was opened by Nobel Prize winner and current President of Royal Society Sir Paul Nurse, Executive Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Steve Holloway, and Vice Chancellor Professor Sir Howard Newby. 
The Central Teaching Laboratories (CTL) facility aims to lead the way in changing scientific teaching provision across UK universities.  They plan to do this by housing undergraduate labs for chemistry, physics, earth and environmental sciences and archaeology undergraduate labs under one roof.  
After the official opening tours around the impressive building were carried out by physics outreach undergraduates, who started studying in this building a few weeks ago and who are already feeling the benefits with access to brand new, state of the art scientific equipment.  As well as new labs which can accommodate up to 1,000 students, the building provides a flexible teaching space suitable for workshops and a computing centre. 

The two chemistry labs are based on the top floor with the synthesis lab containing 67 fume cupboards and a large space for demonstrators to mark and go through work with the students.  There was a separate area with 28 balances, multiple FTIR spectrometers and a small computer suite.  Their NMR machine is still based in the main chemistry department but this shouldn’t affect students too greatly as they don’t use NMR until their 3rd year of undergraduate. 
The labs will also be used for Outreach purposes for local schools and colleges.  The University already offers events for school groups in laboratories and supported activities in local schools to inspire school children and enhance their education.  Due to multiple disciplines being housed in the same building it will hopefully encourage inter-disciplinary interaction of these physical sciences.
The event was well attended and welcomed university staff past and present including the ex-Vice Chancellor Professor Philip Love, who retired from the role after 10 years in August this year.  Other attendees included the Lord Mayor, High Sheriff and the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Executive Director of Science and Education, Professor Jim Iley, to witness the opening of this first rate building meeting the needs of the current and future generation of scientists in this country.


Kat Presland is RSC Regional Coordinator for North West England and works with the education team. Contact her at katayune.presland@manchester.ac.uk
Posted by Katayune Presland on Nov 1, 2012 11:55 AM GMT
Learn Chemistry has a new video all about graphene: future applications!

Made in conjunction with the Banks Group from Manchester Metropolitan University, the video is just under 10 minutes long and covers different types of carbon, making graphite, the properties of graphite, the uses of graphite, and making a solar cell. There is a contents page at the start with the timings for each section in case teachers want to just use smaller chunks of it.

From the introduction of a burnt sausage(!), the idea that carbon looks very different depending on the bonding between the atoms is explained. The star of our video, Dale, goes on to demonstrate how students themselves can try to make graphene. After listing the properties, Dale talks about how these properties can be applied to novel uses. The end of the video shows how it is possible to make your own solar cell - expanding on one of the possible uses for graphene.

There are related materials linked to the video including a Gridlocks game on allotropes of carbon and the anecdote on the discovery of buckminsterfullerene.

I hope it will show where a discovery awarded a Nobel prize a only a couple of years ago can be used in everyday life.

Posted by Alexandra Kersting on Oct 25, 2012 1:49 PM BST
Today is Mole Day! Celebrated by chemists from 6.02 am to 6.02 pm on October 23rd, Mole Day commemorates Avogadro’s number (6.022 x 1023), which is the number of atoms in exactly 12 grams of carbon-12 (one mole). This was founded by the National Mole Day Foundation on 15th May 1991.

Mole Day is what happened On This Day in Chemistry. We have a selection of resources about moles, including a quiz on our Wiki as well as an Assessment for Learning activity to on calculations, a Gridlocks game and an experiment on how to calculate the volume of one mole of hydrogen at room temperature and pressure. There is also a resource pack for teaching Gifted and Talented students about Avogadro's number and other astounding numbers.

What do you do to help students understand what a mole is?

Posted by Alexandra Kersting on Oct 23, 2012 12:11 PM BST

Ice on windscreen
If you’ve ever tried (and failed!) to melt the ice on your car windshield using hot water instead of cold water or thrown a cup of hot water into the air on a freezing day and watched it fall to the ground as snow, then you’ve seen the Mpemba effect in action.

In June this year the RSC and Hermes 2012 launched a competition asking the public to answer this age-old question of why hot water sometimes freezes faster than cold water, and over 22 000 people put forward their ideas. From academic papers and poems about penguins to animations and comic-book strips, and even setting the answer to music, the variety of submissions is astounding. 

Although not everyone can be a winner, the competition organisers wanted to showcase as many of the entries as possible and have been working hard selecting some of the most interesting and creative submissions for your enjoyment – go along to the site and check out the latest featured entry!

Today’s star is 23 year old art student Alison Boult (at right), who experiments with stop-motion animation to explain how convection currents contribute to hot water freezing faster than cold water. Look out for tomorrow’s submission from Zachary Smith: one of our youngest entrants.

If you want to have your say in who wins the £1000 prize, get involved by voting on the competition entries. The public voting site is based on a genetic algorithm: when you go to the site you'll be presented with two entries and asked to say which you prefer.

Vote for your favourite Mpemba Effect explanation

The entries that get voted for frequently make it through to the next round, while those that don't eventually drop out of the pool. Vote as many times as you like – the more the better! – and be a part of the public peer review process.

Posted by Isolde Radford on Oct 18, 2012 3:10 PM BST
This week sees the addition of 15 more quizzes to the Learn Chemistry Wiki. Taken from the RSC Alchemy website, these questions are based on industrial processes ranging from aluminium extraction to sulphuric acid production, via computational chemistry and making medicines.

Learning about industrial processes is an important way for students to understand where the ideas taught in a classroom are applicable to ‘real life’. Each quiz has 10 multiple choice questions to help solidify their knowledge on each on each of the topics.

The alchemy website is slowly being absorbed into Learn Chemistry and the first step was to put the questions where they can be searched for and found more easily. The accompanying information is still available on the main website and this can help to find the correct answers to the quiz questions.

The next step will be to transfer the videos onto the RSC YouTube channel, wwwRSCorg. I'll let you know when it's done...

Posted by Alexandra Kersting on Oct 16, 2012 3:51 PM BST
Today sees the launch of the RSC Visual Elements Periodic Table phase 2. This latest incarnation of the RSC periodic table now has an additional 5 tabs to explore! It covers the history of the periodic table, the alchemy that was practised in the Middle Ages, Chemistry World podcasts, videos, and trends of the periodic table.

The history tab explains the development of the periodic table as well as the scientists that discovered the elements. I love the slide bar that shows the elements that had been discovered by any particular year!

The alchemy tab explains about the dark art of alchemy, the aims of which were three-fold:
  • To find the Stone of Knowledge;
  • To discover the medium of Eternal Youth and Health, and
  • To discover the transmutation of metals – that is turning things to gold.
The podcasts by Chemistry World discuss the nature of each element, where they are found, what they are used for….more than you could ever need to know about the elements!

The videos come courtesy of The University of Nottingham’s very popular chemist, Professor Martyn Poliakoff, and Brady Haran. These now famous videos have had hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube and we can’t wait to share them with you here.

Last, but by no means least, is the trends tab. This shows visually, the trends of density, atomic radius and electronegativity across the periodic table (shown below).

At the RSC we enjoy both a celebration of each others' hard work, and cake, so what better way to celebrate the new additions to the periodic table than having cupcakes made for every element, coloured to match the visual elements periodic table and flavoured to match the blocks!

Posted by Annette Hutchinson on Oct 5, 2012 3:43 PM BST
Which famous chemist was born on your birthday? How long have doctors been using anaesthetic? When was the first manmade diamond produced? What happened today?

You can find the answers to these questions and 363 more by visiting our brand new interactive chemistry calendar: On This Day in Chemistry.

The calendar contains hundreds of facts about historical chemistry that can be used for impressing your friends, researching projects, or just for a bit of interesting reading.

By clicking on a date in the spiral calendar you can find a brief account of the day’s event and links to further information, including relevant articles and even podcasts about the topic. You can also make additional searches using keywords, meaning that new articles or resources are constantly available.

These resources show Learn Chemistry and the RSC is a great place to find out more about chemistry, with links to chemistry games, tutorials, presentations, and much more.

Visit the website, pick a day and discover something about the history of chemistry!

Posted by Ruth Neale on Oct 4, 2012 9:41 AM BST
Location, Location, Location.
     Learn Chemistry

It may be Kirsty and Phil's mantra for property, but it's also key to making sure the RSC supports chemistry education in the UK and around the world. Our resources should be where teachers and students are likely to find and use them.

To that end, we've launched our first little offshoot of Learn Chemistry on the vast TES resources website.
Alessio Bernadelli, TES Resources Science Adviser, has helped us launch a mini RSC Learn Chemistry resource collection, here: http://www.tes.co.uk/mypublicprofile.aspx?uc=2537328. You can also search for "Learn Chemistry" on the site. (UPDATE: we have a shortcut to the Learn Chemistry area on TES - www.tes.co.uk/learnchemistry)

If you've a TES account, then log on, explore our resources, and rate and review them whilst you're there. If you're in the USA or India, watch this space for Learn Chemistry on TES near you...
Posted by Duncan McMillan on Sep 18, 2012 12:19 PM BST
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