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LEARNING PHYSICAL PROPERTIES OF ORGANIC COMPOUNDS USING MOLECULAR MODELING

C. Rius-Alonso, Y. González Quezada

Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (MEXICO)
During our courses at the Faculty of Chemistry (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) to teach chemists the fundamentals of chemical engineering, we are faced with the problem of explaining the different variables involved in a process. For instance, one of the most important purification methods used in the petrochemical industry is distillation. If the students can comprehend how molecules interact between them and with other molecules, they can acquire the basic knowledge to understand the way of separating different compounds using a distillation tower.

Using a couple of Molecular Modeling programs, we have animated various interactions of several hydrocarbons with linear and branched structure, analyzing the electrostatic surface interaction of the molecules, a qualitative explanation of the different boiling point can be reasoned.

A second step includes the comparison between different types of compounds, alkenes, alcohols, ketone, aldehyde, amines, acid. New electronic factors as; hydrogen bond, dipole moment, partial charge interactions, are involved, and the use of Molecular Modeling allows the correct interpretation of them, in order to predict the compound's behavior.

These methods provide a learning tool for students to foster their knowledge of events taking place in purifying chemical compounds by distillation. The use of 3D helps understanding the details of the process. These tools are aimed to last-year student's courses at the Faculty of Chemistry, UNAM. With the visualization, students improve their learning skills dramatically.