Light and Chemistry are more linked than you might think. There are lots of reactions which give out light as a product. We use chemistry and light in communication, electronics, medicine and entertainment. Photochemists are working for a brighter and cleaner future – essentially trying to harness the sunlight, converting it into useful energy and pollutants. Those are just some of possibilities which lie in the field of Chemistry and Light.
Students at St Mary’s Catholic School got the amazing opportunity of trying out a chemistry and light kit from Dr Václav Matoušek. The kit gives you the complete set of everything to learn about the science behind fluorescence. Provided with all of the chemicals needed, they got stuck into the experiments. They found it difficult to pick a favourite, they found the colours “really mesmerising” and it was “exciting and easy to understand”, they also ” hadn’t done an experiment like it in a long time”. One of their favourites, as Fin O’Connor writes was using UV light and tree bark. They also loved conducting the flame tests – watching the vivid array of all kinds of colours as they burnt elements such as copper and potassium.
Another hit with the students was an experiment oxidising Trimethyl borate to a chemical called boron trioxide. During the reaction an intermediate is formed in an excited state – when de-excitation happens a “vivid green colour” is emitted. The Trimethyl Borate comes diluted with methanol – this acts for two purposes, one of which is to maintain the green colour and the other is to be able to dilute the chemical without altering the reaction or amount of the product given off. The kit comes with detailed instructions on the experiment and scientifically what’s happening.
The kit highlights more and more links between chemistry and light – why things actually fluoresce, what fluorescence is and why things fluoresce in a way which links everything together, with the national curriculum.