SC 2018 Semilab: Preparative Chemistry: Dyes, Flavors, Medications, and Beyond.


by Mark Lukin

Although the word "chemistry" is frequently associated with the word "poison", one can do a real chemistry without dealing with poisonous substances. That is exactly what we plan to do during our semilab. We will learn how to prepare, analyze, and characterize some interesting organic compounds (for example, the substances with fruit aroma, dyes, soap, or medications), and how to separate active compounds from natural sources. We will master basic methods (distillation, extraction, sublimation, chromatography etc.) that chemists used (and are currently using) for isolation of individual compounds from complex mixtures, and for the characterization of the substances obtained. Our newcomers may be interested to try to separate caffeine from coffee, or vanilin from vanilla, whereas our experienced campers may try more formidable tasks: preparation of indicator dyes, natural and artificial fragrances. The most experienced students may try to synthesize a short fragment of DNA.

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