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Organic Chemistry Help: Learn new chemistry almost anywhere

Did you know that there are 37 ingredients in a Twinkie?  Here is photographic proof of it.  Twinkie ingredients.  Now that you are a budding organic chemist, if you saw the list, how many do you think you would be able to identify?

Ok here is a quick hint and a fun way to study chemistry almost anywhere.

There us chemistry all around us. A good way to learn it is to take the products you use everyday and look at the ingredients list. Figure out which compounds you already know and try to visualize the structures in your head or determine why they are in there. Find a chemical compound that you have never heard of and go look it up later. You'll not only reinforce compounds that you already know but learn some new organic chemistry at the same time. On what products can you do this? Just about anything. You can learn in the shower from soap, shampoo or shaving cream. You can learn while in the kitchen from just about anything you might eat. (Ironically the hardest food to use this technique on are organic foods since there are so few byproducts in them) For more organic chemistry help, please go to organic chemistry.

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Beware of the bad acid trip: Know your strong acids

A problem we see students constantly running into is that they do not readily recognize strong acids.  This is a terrible mistake and should never happen.  You will need to quickly recognize strong acids and which atom they will be protonating.  As far as strong acids go, you should immediately recognize the Magnificent Seven:

 

STRONG ACIDS: HI, HCl, HBr, HNO3, H2SO4, HClO3, H3PO4

 

Just think that that it’s the three hydrogen halides and the four acids that have N, S, Cl, and P as central atoms.  Many students remember the other four acids with the mnemonic, something you would never say to a girlfriend: “Never Say ‘Please Clean’ ”. 

Once you have recognized that you have a strong acid present in your reaction, it is necessary to determine what it is protonating.  Remember that H+ is electron-deficient (Lewis acidic) and will look for an electron-rich (Lewis basic) atom to protonate.  This could be a nitrogen atom, such as an amine, or an oxygen atom in a carbonyl or an alcohol.  Most often, the atom being protonated will have a lone pair somewhere.

 

Take Home Message: Know the strong acids, the mnemonic Never Say ‘Please Clean’ might help

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