Chemistry: Chemistry and the Environment

chemistry image1Chemistry impinges on modern society in more ways than anyone including a chemist can imagine. Most of the things which improve the quality of our lives are made of chemicals which are made in chemichemistry image2cal plants such as Eastman Chemical Company in Kingsport, Tennessee. Many of these same things unfortunately also often have led indirectly to environmental degradation including water pollution, acid rain, smog, ozone depletion, and global warming, to name a few. Although people in the past weren’t aware of humanity’s profound impact on the earth, or didn’t care, we know better today and can do better today. We have in our power to eliminate or significantly reduce our numerous environmental problems. Chemists are in the forefront in solving these problems.

In the lectures and hands-on laboratory experiments we will examine together the chemistry of thechemistry image3 environment, i.e. the chemistry of the earth in the absence of people, environmental chemistry, which is concerned with the effect that chemicals used in our civilization have had on the planet, and green chemistry, a new field devoted to finding and developing methods to carry out chemistry in an environmentally friendly manner.

Some high school chemistry is recommended for students choosing this course.

3 thoughts on “Chemistry: Chemistry and the Environment

  1. From popping popcorn and writing lab reports to making Biodiesel, the Chemistry students have been having a great time! Last week we conducted our first lab exploring the Vapor Induced Puffing of the very popular snack – Popcorn! Students compared the kernel mass to the flake mass and volume to find a correlation between the data and graph their results. Their first lab report was due Friday. Yesterday the students attended a lecture by renown forensic anthropologist Bill Bass discussing his work with the Body Farm here in Knoxville. The chemistry students are currently in the middle of a lab where they are making Biodiesel from Olive Oil, Canola Oil, or Sesame Oil. We are looking forward to see how it turns out!

  2. The chemistry students were back in the lab today extracting fat from three different types of potato chips using petroleum ether. Students were collecting fat from Regulat Lays, Baked Lays and SunChips. The students compiled their data and will be making conclusions about the percent composition by mass of fat in each type of chips. The verdict will be revealed Friday when they turn in the lab reports! Later this week the students will be making, purifying, and determining the melting point of Asprin. Students will be able to compare the melting point of their Asprin to the real thing to see how successful they are at synthesizing a pharmaceutical and how pure their substance is. It’s turning out to be another busy and educational week in chemistry class!

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