• University of Leeds

Discovering Science: Chemical Products

With chemistry providing us an endless amount of possibilities, what would you choose to develop?

Discovering Science: Chemical Products
This course is part of the Discovering Science program, which will enable you to learn about the extraordinary world of everyday chemistry, and earn 10 academic credits from the University of Leeds.

Why join the course?

For centuries natural materials have been used by people to meet their daily needs. Discover how scientists are using their knowledge of the molecular structure of naturally occurring compounds to develop new and exciting materials. From clothing to tooth enamel, the possibilities are endless. You’ll also consider the chemistry behind the development of everyday consumer, and consider the ethics behind the products you use.

Download video: standard or HD

Skip to 0 minutes and 9 secondsChemistry plays a vital role in the development of everyday consumer products. From cleaning agents to the material in our clothing, our lives are affected daily by the results of chemistry research. In week one, Dr. Bruce Turnbull helps you examine how the molecular structure of biomaterials, such as cotton and silk, has led to the development of bio-inspired manmade fibres. Explore how research has progressed over the past century, and find out about exciting biological developments which are inspiring the materials of the future. In week two, Professor Chris Raynor considers the science and ethics behind consumer chemical products, like toiletries and detergents.

Skip to 0 minutes and 57 secondsExplore how the future developments of consumer products offer scope for innovation, and discover the role that chemists play in assessing the risks and the benefits of developing these types of products. As part of the Discovering Science programme, this course will demonstrate how science is communicated and will further develop your science writing skills, helping you reach a wider audience. Sign up now for Discovering Science.

What topics will you cover?

  • Everyday biomaterials and their molecular properties.
  • The molecular structure of wool and silk and how this has developed over the last century.
  • The influence of natural materials on the development of man-made fibres.
  • The potential uses of self-assembling peptides within the human body.
  • The creation of hydrogels from self-assembling peptides.
  • The development of synthetic spider silk.
  • The future of bio-inspired materials.
  • The creation of composite biomaterials that combine organic and inorganic components.
  • Assignment: prepare a press release to communicate the science of ‘composite bio-inspired materials’.
  • The science and environmental impact of everyday household products.
  • The evolution of effective, safe and economical products.
  • The use of surfactants in household products.
  • The chemistry of hair dyes and how they are tested and regulated.
  • The significance of the chemical industry.
  • The complexity between scientific fact and public perception of consumer products.
  • Parabens and the controversy that surrounds their use as preservatives.
  • Construct a science writing text.
  • Assignment: prepare a newspaper article about the controversy around the use of parabens.

Who is this accredited by?

The CPD Certification Service
The CPD Certification Service:

This course has been accredited by the CPD Certification Service, which means it can be used to provide evidence of your continuing professional development.

When would you like to start?

Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts. Find out more

  • Available now

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Identify how an understanding of natural fibres has led to the development of synthetic fibres.
  • Explore how bio-inspired materials have the potential to make significant impacts on our everyday lives.
  • Investigate the chemistry behind everyday household products.
  • Explore the impacts of consumer products.

Who is the course for?

The course is suitable for anyone with a general interest in chemistry; no previous knowledge or experience is required.

If you are working in the field of science and would like to practice and improve your science writing skills, this course is designed to support you as a professional. By completing all aspects of the course you will have achieved 14 hours of CPD time.

If you intend to complete the Discovering Science program, it is recommended that you complete Discovering Science: Science Writing before starting this course, however this course can still be studied independently.

Who will you learn with?

I'm from Holmfirth in Yorkshire. I'm a Professor at the University of Leeds. I'm a Pro-Dean and research cancer & evolution https://physicalsciences.leeds.ac.uk/staff/210/professor-paul-taylor

I'm a research scientist/Teaching Fellow within the School of Chemistry at the University of Leeds, interested in the structure-based design of novel medicines for infectious diseases.

Who developed the course?

University of Leeds

As one of the UK’s largest research-based universities, the University of Leeds is a member of the prestigious Russell Group and a centre of excellence for teaching.

Join this course

Start this course for free, upgrade for extra benefits, or buy Unlimited to access this course and hundreds of other short courses for a year.


Join free and you will get:

  • Access to this course for 4 weeks


Upgrade this course and you will get:

  • Access to this course for as long as it’s on FutureLearn
  • Access to this course’s tests as well as a print and digital Certificate of Achievement once you’re eligible

Unlimited (New!)
$259.99 for one year

Buy Unlimited and you will get:

  • Access to this course, and hundreds of other FutureLearn short courses and tests for a year
  • A printable digital Certificate of Achievement on all short courses once you’re eligible
  • The freedom to keep access to any course you've achieved a digital Certificate of Achievement on, for as long as the course exists on FutureLearn
  • The flexibility to complete your choice of short courses in your own time within the year
Find out more about upgrades or Unlimited.