Carbon chemistry – pupil resources

This collection of classroom resources features all the pupil activities from our Developing expertise in teaching carbon chemistry course for teachers. This collection is most valuable to those who have attended this course and wish to put into practice with their students some of the ideas and activities presented as part of that event.


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The fractional distillation of crude oil

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This experiment simulates the industrial fractional distillation of crude oil in the laboratory.

Experimental setup for cracking hydrocarbons in liquid paraffin

Cracking hydrocarbons in liquid paraffin with a catalyst

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Model the industrial process of cracking larger hydrocarbons to produce smaller alkanes that can be converted into petrol. 

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Cracking hydrocarbons on a microscale

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A microscale experiment, cracking the hydrocarbons in paraffin to form shorter alkanes and alkenes.

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Hydrocarbons factpack

In association with

An introduction to hydrocarbons. Learn how unreactive alkanes can be made into reactive alkenes.

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Cracking Chemistry!

Work your way through these fun chemistry practicals developed by National Science & Engineering Week.

Nylon thread

Making nylon: the ‘nylon rope trick’

Perform this ‘trick’ with a solution of decanedioyl dichloride in cyclohexane floated on an aqueous solution of 1,6-diaminohexane. As nylon forms at the interface, it can be pulled out as fast as it is produced forming a long thread: the ‘nylon rope’.

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Making esters from alcohols and acids

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Investigate the reactions between a range of alcohols and acids on a test-tube scale, by producing small quantities of a variety of esters quickly.

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A microscale oxidation of alcohols

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In this experiment you will be testing various alcohols to see whether they can be oxidised by a solution of acidified potassium dichromate.

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The properties of alcohols

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Ethanol and propan-1-ol are tested for pH, reaction with sodium, combustion and oxidation with acidified dichromate(VI) solution.

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The acidic reactions of ethanoic acid

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Acids are an important group of chemicals. Organic acids are characterised by the presence of a -COOH group attached to a carbon atom. In this experiment, some typical properties of a weak organic acid are observed.

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Experiments with hydrogels – hair gel and disposable nappies

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In these activities students investigate hydrogels – polymeric smart materials. They are found in many products, including disposable nappies and hair gel. The practical is fun to do and the results dramatic.

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Polymer puzzles

This activity is designed to develop the students’ higher order thinking – particularly critical thinking skills – in the context of problem solving. It should help students to recall the facts about some common polymers.

Candle in jar

Identifying the products of combustion (simple set-up)

Capture and test the products of combustion of hydrocarbons

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Unsaturation in fats and oils

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Food labels and advertisements often refer to unsaturated fats and oils. A comparison of the amounts of unsaturated fats and oils present in different foodstuffs can be made by titrating solutions of samples with aqueous bromine (bromine water), which reacts with the carbon - carbon double bonds present in such fats and oils.

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Experiments with hydrogels – plant water storage crystals

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In this activity students investigate plant water storage crystals, a product that contains hydrogels – polymeric smart materials. The practical work is fun, and the results easy to see.

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Cross-linking polymers – alginate worms

Sodium alginate is a polymer which can be extracted from brown seaweed and kelps. It is one of the structural polymers that help to build the cell walls of these plants. It has some unusual properties and a wide variety of uses.

Potassium dichromate (VI) crystals

The 'breathalyser' reaction

In association with

Recreate an early ‘breathalyser’ test by passing ethanol vapour through a U-tube packed with potassium dichromate crystals and moistened with dilute sulfuric acid to and watch as it changes from orange of chromium(VI) through brown to green of chromium(III).

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PVA polymer slime

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A solution of polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) can be made into a slime by adding borax solution, which creates cross-links between polymer chains. In this activity, some interesting properties of the slime are investigated. Students are guaranteed to enjoy the activities involved.

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The ‘whoosh’ bottle demonstration

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A mixture of alcohol and air in a large polycarbonate bottle is ignited. The resulting rapid combustion reaction, often accompanied by a dramatic ‘whoosh’ sound and flames, demonstrates the large amount of energy released in the combustion of alcohols.

Old five pound note

Money to burn

In association with

Surprise your students by soaking a piece of paper (or an old £5 or £10 note) in a mixture of ethanol and water and igniting it. Watch as the ethanol burns… but the paper does not.

Graphene sheet

Graphene: future applications

A video that explores different types of carbon, looking in particular at graphene and its uses. Also, learn how to make your own solar cell,  answer questions from the allotropes of carbon gridlock game, and read an anecdote about the discovery of buckminsterfullerene.

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Faces of Chemistry – Crop protection

Discover how crop protection products from Syngenta help to increase yield and produce healthier crops.

Biosensor

Faces of Chemistry – Biosensors

Find out how scientists at the material science laboratory, QMUL, develop biosensors to enhance sport performance.

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Faces of Chemistry – Hair colourant

Learn about the chemistry of hair dyes from Procter and Gamble scientists.

Catalytic converter

Faces of Chemistry – Catalysts

Find out from scientists at Johnson Matthey how catalytic converters reduce harmful emissions produced by vehicles.

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Faces of Chemistry – Women in Chemistry

Follow the adventures of eight leading women in chemistry and celebrate the common element that catalysed their journeys: a life-changing, chance-taking, thrill-seeking love of science.

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Faces of Chemistry – Sun lotion

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Learn from scientists at Croda about how the chemistry behind sun lotions helps protect our skin from damaging ultraviolet radiation.

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Faces of Chemistry – Packaging gases

Discover how scientists from BOC remove gases from the air and use them in food packaging and processing.

Smart Forvision car

Faces of Chemistry – Organic solar cells

Explore the chemistry of organic photovoltaics (organic solar cells) as a scientist from BASF explains the technology used in the Smart Forvision car.