University of Southampton Chemistry Twilight Trip

On Friday 26 January Mrs Barrett took 10 of our Year 12 chemistry students to the University of Southampton for a Chemistry Twilight session.

    This was a Chemistry master class aimed to give students the opportunity to try some techniques that they would otherwise not get the opportunity to try and to give them an insight into what a degree and career in the field of chemistry could look like. Thanks to funding and a really good outreach programme this was free to the Year 12 students.

    As part of the trip the students were tasked with extracting the active ingredient, Trimyristin, from nutmeg. This was a multistep synthesis in which our students got to display their natural ability in the laboratory, setting up and carrying out techniques they had not seen before, including rotary evaporation and using electric water baths and magnetic stirrers. They were all very impressive in the way they conducted themselves and by the purification steps, they had all isolated a lovely product.

    After extracting the Trimyristin students had to carry out a number of steps to purify their product, one of these was recrystallisation of their product. Recrystallisation involves dissolving your product and impurities in the minimum amount of solution. The product is then ‘knocked out’ of solution by adding another solvent whilst leaving the impurities dissolved in solution. This is a formidable opponent in the chemistry world as it is incredibly common to lose a significant portion of your product in the solution you are using to initially dissolve your compound. It was a nervous wait to see how much of our pure white compound we would get back from solution.
    Students then had to use another technique not used in school called vacuum filtration, this involves attaching a pump to a special piece of apparatus called a Buchner flask to draw the air out and the solvent through leaving the product behind on filter paper. It is an efficient process and helps to draw water and solvent out of the compound and helps to dry it.

    It was now time to weigh and check the purity of our product. The maximum yield of Trimyristin possible to obtain from nutmeg is 20-22%. First to step up to the plate was our very own Daniel and Patrick, at 11% yield we had already beaten every team from the previous session. Having thrown down the gauntlet the next team composed of Kai and Harry matched their earlier fighting talk to smash out an impressive 12% yield. The more quietly confident team of Ellie and Katharine matched this and then Mark and Nicky stormed through with an amazing 16% yield! Mrs Barrett was not surprised by their accomplishment however they seemed to be and the organiser and PhD demonstrators started hopping up and down with excitement at how brilliant their yield was!  There was small despair in the Highcliffe camp as Connor and Benedict our remaining team isolated a yellow compound. Mrs Barrett told them to repeat their previous step again and all was well. They too achieved a great yield.

    Students from Highcliffe were then anxiously clutching their white powder awaiting a chance to analyse the purity of their compound. This was done through a series of chemical tests such as melting point and thin layer chromatography as well as analysing their sample using an infrared spectrometer. Daniel and Patrick went first and the organiser exclaimed his delight at how pure their sample was: no water, no starting material and only a faint whiff of nutmeg oil. Success! The others followed suit with Kai and Harry getting a “near perfect sample”.

    In addition to the many valuable skills students gained from the course, students were also able to ask the organiser, an admissions tutor at the University of Southampton what they were looking for in applicants and also got the chance to talk to students who were currently doing postgraduate study at the University of Southampton for their opinion on the University and courses there.

    This was an incredible experience for our students and Mrs Barrett is incredibly proud of the Chemists for their hard work on the day and for coming into school on their day off, this showed incredible dedication to their learning. Thank you to the parents for bringing their children in on INSET day and collecting them and to the University of Southampton for a wonderful opportunity.


    Owned by: RBT | Last Published: 30/01/2018 10:56:48 | Next Update: N/A


University of Southampton Chemistry Twilight Trip


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