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Spectroscopy in a suitcase!

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Staff and students from Anglia Ruskin University visited  A level Chemistry classes last week and brought sensitive spectroscopic instruments with them, actually in suitcases! This outreach work is sponsored by the Royal Society of Chemistry, and we are hoping that the visit will be the first of many.

Our students used the equipment to collect infrared (IR) spectra from a selection of organic compounds, then used their skills and knowledge to identify them. IR spectroscopy can identify different types of bonds in molecules, so is useful in drug synthesis but also in measuring the effects of climate change.

The students also measured the colours of light absorbed by different food colourings (visible spectroscopy). Things appear coloured if they absorb certain colours of light, but allow others (the complementary colours) to go through. For example, a blue solution absorbs mainly orange light. This technique can be useful in the identification of pigments used in painting, as well as testing for prohibited food colourings.

A level Chemistry students learn the theoretical aspects of these techniques: this gave them an excellent opportunity to put them into practice now, rather than waiting until they study chemistry at university.

Students commented that their understanding of the topics was much more detailed now that they had used the equipment.

We would like to thanks Dr Leesa Ferguson from Anglia Ruskin University and her colleagues.