• University of Leeds

Discovering Science: Chemical Products

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

13,718 enrolled on this course

Discovering Science: Chemical Products

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.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 9 seconds Chemistry 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 seconds Explore 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.


  • Week 1

    From biomaterials to bio-inspired materials

    • Welcome

      Welcome to Discovering Science: Chemical Products. This course explores the role that chemistry plays in everyday chemical products.

    • Historical perspectives

      This activity demonstrates how knowledge of natural materials influences the development of man-made fibres. You explore how developments in the molecular structure of wool and silk have shaped the development of synthetic fibres.

    • Science in action

      In this activity, you’ll explore a case study about the development of self-assembling peptides which are fit for use in the human body.

    • Future perspectives

      In this activity, you look to the future of bio-materials. You’ll explore how these materials have the potential to make significant impacts on our everyday lives.

    • Revision

      This revision activity provides further opportunity to explore the topics covered this week. It is recommended that you join this activity if you have signed up for the program and are working towards academic credit.

    • Summary

      To close this week of the course you have the opportunity to reflect on the week and explore the glossary.

  • Week 2

    Consumer products

    • About Week 2

      This week you will explore the topic of consumer products and the science surrounding everyday household products.

    • Historical perspectives

      This activity looks at the chemistry behind everyday household cleaning products. Professor Chris Rayner explains the history of chemical products and how they have evolved.

    • Science in action

      In this activity, you will hear from Dr Bob Hefford, a Chemical Cosmetic Specialist. Bob looks at the science of hair colouring products.

    • Future perspectives

      In this activity, you’ll look at the environmental effects of consumer products, and the use of parabens as preservatives.

    • Revision

      This revision activity provides further opportunity to explore the topics covered this week. It is recommended that you join this activity if you have signed up for the program and are working towards academic credit.

    • Summary

      Paul reflects on the week through a summary of discussions, questions and comments. There is also an opportunity for you to test your understanding and find out more about the other courses in the program.

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?

Start straight away and learn at your own pace. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • 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 collection of online courses, 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 West Yorkshire. I'm a Professor at the University of Leeds & Dean : Student Education. I 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.

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