December 18, 2012

Advent Chemistry: Cubane

This is cubane, so named because it’s an alkane and, well, it’s cubic. It doesn’t actually occur in nature. It’s a purely synthetic molecule, and if I were to guess I’d say that it was invented, not because of its possible uses, but because it’s...

December 17, 2012

Advent Chemistry: Hydrogen Fluoride

Speaking of things that are very good at what they do, let’s take a gander at hydrogen fluoride. This one doesn’t need a picture, because it’s just H-F, one hydrogen and one fluorine. (I have a terrible habit of spelling it flourine, but it is...

December 16, 2012

Advent Chemistry: Superglue

Superglue is marvellous. It sticks a lot of things to a lot of things. It’s not the best adhesive there is – it’s possible to drive four hundred miles with an engine held together by Araldite, for instance, which I doubt is possible with superglue...

December 15, 2012

Advent Chemistry: Teflon

Well, we’ve done a couple of entries on medicines, so let’s go back to some more fundamental chemistry and look at a polymer. This here is a section of polytetrafluoroethylene, or Teflon as it’s better known. It’s a fairly ordinary polymer in chemical terms, except...

December 14, 2012

Advent Chemistry: Sumatriptan

Sticking with the medical theme, this is sumatriptan: It’s a migraine cure, and it’s marvellous. It works. When I have a migraine attack, I spray twenty milligrams of this up my nose, and the pain goes away. It’s not perfect – in particular, it doesn’t...

December 13, 2012

Advent Chemistry: Penicillin

We’re halfway through the month, and today is the day for looking at medical breakthoughs. There’s no actual reason for this, it just seems like a good idea. This is penicillin: Penicillin is, famously, produced by some kinds of mould as a form of self-protection,...

December 12, 2012

Advent Chemistry: Cyanide

The cyanide ion consists of one carbon, triple-bonded to one nitrogen, with a negative charge on the carbon. And it is, as I’m sure you’re aware, a deadly poison. The thing is, though, that it’s only the cyanide ion that’s poisonous. The functional group of...

December 11, 2012

Advent Chemistry: Carvone

Today, I think we’ll give the bonding issue a rest, and look at something new: isomerism. “Isomers” are molecules that have the same structure, almost. That is, if you add up the numbers of each kind of atom, you get the same totals. But if...

December 10, 2012

Advent Chemistry: Capsaicin

Capsaicin is a wonderful compound. It appeals to the evil part of me, because a strong solution of capsaicin is essentially liquid pain. Hey, I never said my evil side was nice. Capsaicin is the active compound in chilli peppers – the bit that makes...

December 9, 2012

Advent Chemistry: Water

That up there is a water molecule. Now, I know you think water isn’t very interesting, but bear with me. There’s a reason I like water, and it’s not just because it makes me live. It’s a really interesting and unusual chemical. Water is extremely...

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