Chemistry is Going Organic!
Matt Nicholas, Exeter-Milligan Science Instructor
As the year starts to wind
down, the students of EMHS are eager to get outside and play. They are excited
to compete in many spring outdoor activities including golf, track, and trap.
If you are like me, just thinking about getting outside makes your brain swirl
with the memories of flowers, fresh cut grass, and gunpowder. We can barely
remember these smells after the long winter, but with spring upon us the smells
return. Also, if you are like me you know that the warm weather brings some
smells we would rather live without. A nice warm breeze passing over a feed
lot, a musty pond full of decomposing plant material, or a skunk that wandered
too close to the road to name a few. What do all of these smells have in
Many of the aforementioned
smells are the result of organic molecules called esters. Esters are one of the
many classes of organic compounds that we are studying in this unit. We are
also studying alcohols, ketones, and hydrocarbons. Many of these simple organic
molecules are ever-present in our daily lives. Ethanol is an alcohol that
contains 2 atoms of carbon. We have been naming, drawing, and building similar
substances for several weeks now. Ella, Trystan, and Katie are shown analyzing
butane, a hydrocarbon commonly found in everyday lighters. When a simple
hydrocarbon has a certain group of atoms called a hydroxyl group added to it,
it becomes an alcohol. So, the butane that the students are viewing would
become a butanol.
These simple hydrocarbons
pale in comparison to the size and range of use that large polymers, chains of
thousands of carbons, have. These include any type of plastic you can think of
and most synthetic fibers. Rayon, polyester, PVC, and Kevlar are some of the
better-known examples. Learning about these and other modern materials and
processes will better prepare our students for the tech jobs of the future as
well as hands-on jobs. If you have ever wondered what makes a grill work or why
most clothes aren't made of cotton, just ask your local E-M organic chemist.