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EXPLAINING THE CHEMICAL BASIS OF EVERYDAY PHENOMENA USING MOLECULAR MODELING

C. Rius-Alonso, Y. González Quezada

Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (MEXICO)
The topic described in the present work is part of a series of new teaching activities developed within our Department of Organic Chemistry, at the Faculty of Chemistry (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, UNAM) during the last years, to improve the competences of students in the understanding of everyday phenomena using Molecular Modeling.

In this course we highlight the fundamental role of chemical principles in governing our everyday experiences and observations as: Why ice cube is cloudy on the inside? How do fog machines create the artificial fog or smoke use in theatrical productions? Why old paintings change colors? How do hair color products “remove" gray in the hair? How do furniture polishes repel dust? Why is EDTA added to salad dressings? What causes an instant ice-pack to cool? All of these questions and more can be solved explaining the chemical basis of molecular transformations.

The use of computer programs to perform the Molecular Modeling and the simulations of molecule clusters provides students with new skills of how to use them to understand the important facts involved in the chemical transformations. Some of the programs used during the course are; Spartan and Odyssey. With the first program, calculations of the electrons density, spectroscopic, shape, reactivity, polarity etc. of the molecules, can be done with great accuracy. Odyssey can predict the macroscopic behavior of many molecules using molecular dynamics, boiling points, solubility, phase separations, crystallization, etc.

We have found that students have problems in understanding how the chemical reactions and interactions proceeded in everyday phenomena. This course is aimed at fostering the development of increasing the student's interest in Chemistry. Knowing how everyday process take place from the chemical point of view, nurture a sense of wonder among students about the natural world. One of the aims is to induce the curiosity about the common things while equipping them with tool to explore and learn them in a scientific way.

The use of molecular modeling is an extremely powerful tool to bring the key concepts to the students in a very simple way. Explaining the complex transformations in everyday phenomena.

This work was partially supported by a grant from Dirección General de Asuntos del Personal Académico (DGAPA) Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México PE205313 and the IOCD (International Organization for Chemical Science in Development).