Tony Tooth looks at some websites that may be of interest to chemistry teachers.

The solar spark

Solar panels

Source: Diyana Dimitrova/Shutterstock

The solar spark is a content-rich website run by a group of UK academics who all focus on researching solar cells. The website is stuffed with engagingly-written content, much of it aimed directly at teachers. 

Highlights include the experiments section, which is superb in its originality. Bored of the work-a-day demos which are the same year after year? Instead, why not make solar cells from drinking straws and raspberries (which contain an excitonic dye molecule)? This nifty experiment is detailed amongst the pages. 

The website thoughtfully details sources (mostly online stores) from which the few pieces of specialist equipment needed can be bought cheaply. The time or resource strapped teacher can also find inspiration here in the shape of the non-practical, but equally engaging lesson ideas in the activities section. These effectively explore some of the power supply challenges facing the globe today. 

Not content with all this, the website also plays host to videos, experiments to do at home, animations and links to national news developments which could help place the topic into context for students.  

It is also a source of reams of written information on real-life research into the chemistry of solar cells. This could make a good mini-project for students to research for homework or as an extension for gifted pupils. 

Visualising molecules 

It's not always easy for students to visualise the three-dimensional structures of molecules - let alone how they vibrate in space. Making molecular models usually helps, but there are several useful places online which offer visual aids too.

Take a look at Nigel Young's molecular disco. Nigel is an academic based in Hull and his page uses animations of various molecules bending and stretching and sets them to everyone's favourite cheesy tunes (Hot Chocolate and The Bee Gees included) - a great way to introduce the topic of how molecular bonds vibrate in infrared spectroscopy. 

In a similar vein, but for those wishing to put some much more academic flesh on the bones, Kevin Cowtan's webpages have some fun pictorial demonstrations of how Fourier transform works in spectroscopy. Pictures of cats and ducks get Fourier transformed into weird patterns in an effort to provide a visual representation of how this complex mathematics works. 

If you know of any websites that should be reviewed in Education in Chemistry, then email the title and URL to

Related Links

 The Solar Spark 

Information and experiments on solar energy

 Nigel Young's Molecular Disco 

Visualisations of molecular vibrations

 Kevin Cowtan's Webpages 

2D Fourier transforms and more