Tools of the trade: understanding chemical structures
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University of York online course,
Exploring Everyday Chemistry
Get involvedIsomers are molecules that have the same molecular formula, but have a different arrangement of atoms in space. More specifically, structural isomers differ in the way that some or all of the constituent atoms are joined together. For example, propan-1-ol (CH3CH2CH2OH), propan-2-ol (CH3CH(OH)CH3) and methoxyethane (CH3OCH2CH3) are structural isomers with the formula C3H8O.Let’s consider structural isomers that have the formula C5H10O2. There are around 900 compounds with this formula, so how many can we identify? First, take a look at our open Padlet to see what compounds learners have posted. (To get the ball rolling we added ethyl propanoate, CH3CH2CO2CH2CH3.) Then pick a compound with the formula C5H10O2, ideally one which has not been posted on Padlet. Draw a skeletal structure of your isomer (making sure you show the approximate shape of the compound) and take a photo of it. Finally, post your photo together with the compound name, any interesting facts about the compound, and your name, on Padlet. You are welcome to post more than one entry.If you need any guidance on using the Padlet, then further information is available – we would very much like for everyone to feel part of the learning community, so look forward to seeing your contributions.
Have you noticed how many skeletal structures crop up in company logos? Take for example Mercedes-Benz who use a 2-methylpropane in the middle of a circle, or the cyclopropane used by le coq sportif, the cyclohexane used by both Hexagon Composites and Corex Honeycomb or the cyclooctane used by the MG Car Company. Also, the Volkswagen logo has a similarity to 3,3-dimethylpentane, CH3CH2C(CH3)2CH2CH3 (try drawing the skeletal structure, showing the zig-zag shape). Do you know any better examples? In our everyday lives, to chemists, perhaps those zig-zag lines on furnishings, clothes (anyone remember Charlie Brown’s teeshirt?) or road markings are reminiscent of long chains of carbon atoms bonded together in alkanes. (Star Wars fans may also spot the relationship between bicyclo[1.1.1]pentane and an Imperial Shuttle!)
If you would like to learn more about drawing organic structures you may find this YouTube clip of use.
This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.
Exploring Everyday Chemistry
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