On Tuesday 26th March our A level chemists travelled to London for a Spectroscopy Day at UCL. The event gave them the opportunity to see the machines and equipment used for organic chemical analysis, a vital part of the A level Chemistry syllabus. With each machine costing six-figure sums, they are not something many A level pupils get to actually see in action, let alone use!
The event started with a talk by Dr Robert G. Palgrave on the theory and interpretation of mass spectra (MS), infra-red spectra (IR) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). Teacher of Chemistry, James Vickerman, was particularly delighted that Dr Palgrave’s explanations were more or less identical to those he has used in his Year 13 lessons!
The pupils then put this theory into practice as they sought to identify several organic molecules, given MS, IR and NMR data. They did an outstanding job, successfully identifying hexane-2-one, and getting very close indeed to correctly identifying phenyl methanamide!
After lunch (Wok to Walk was the eatery of choice!) pupils were then taken on a tour of the analytical facilities, getting to see an NMR and an x-ray diffraction machine up close, before actually analysing their own organic samples in the IR spectrometer.
The day was rounded off by a fascinating talk by Professor Andrea Sella (one of the most world-renowned chemists, thanks to his work on TV and radio) on mercury, especially his love/hate relationship with this most mysterious but hazardous of chemical elements.
The pupils thoroughly enjoyed the day and very much felt that they learnt a lot that they will be able to put into practice.