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National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has joined forces with NBC Learn and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) to celebrate the International Year of Chemistry by creating "Chemistry Now"--a weekly, online video series that uncovers and explains the science of common, physical objects in our world and the changes they undergo every day. The series also looks at the lives and work of scientists on the frontiers of the 21st century... More.



This video explains and illustrates the molecular structure of sodium chloride (NaCl) crystals; the structure and symmetry of crystal lattices; and why one crystalline solid, salt, melts another, ice.

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Ice on frozen pipes

This video explains how the molecular structure of H2O changes as it reaches its freezing point, and turns from a liquid to a less dense, solid, crystal lattice.

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Candies wrapped in cellophane

A Swiss chemist tries to stain-proof tablecloths by coating them with a viscous cellulose-based liquid, but it peels off in clear sheets when it dries. That new material, when refined, revolutionizes the way food is packaged and sold.

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Illustration of two oxygen atoms and one carbon atom

This video explains and illustrates the molecular structure of CO2; how the bonding of the carbon and oxygen molecules illustrates the Octet Rule, or Rule of 8; carbon dioxide and carbonation; the role of CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere; and how changing levels of CO2 can affect the temperature on the Earth's surface, including the oceans.

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Bulletproof vest

Part of a series on "Chance Discoveries" in chemistry, this video tells the story of lab work done in 1965 by DuPont chemist Stephanie Kwolek that unexpectedly produced Kevlar, a lightweight fiber five times stronger than steel. Kevlar fibers can be spun into anti-ballistic, shrapnel-resistant material for protective body armor worn by police forces, military troops and those in combat zones.

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Frightened man and the word FEAR

Are you arachnophobic? Acrophobic? Ophidiophobic? This video explains how two hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, work to trigger a cascade of "fight or flight" fear responses when you're confronted by a spider, a great height or a snake.

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a group of plastic bottles

This video, part of a series on "Chance Discoveries" in chemistry, tells how three different chemists in two countries over more than 30 years happened to make a white, waxy substance during lab experiments that, once recognized as potentially useful and developed, became polyethylene -- the most common plastic in the world.

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Red leaves on a tree branch

Why do tree leaves turn gold, orange and scarlet in the fall? This video explains the role of pigment molecules, including chlorophyll, carotenoids, and anthocyanin, in the changing leaves of autumn.

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Buckyball structure of 60 carbon atoms

Buckminsterfullerene molecules--carbon allotropes along with diamonds and graphite--have a hollow spherical shape, like the geodesic spheres designed by American inventor and architect R. Buckminster Fuller.

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model of a single layer of graphene

A breakthrough small in size but potentially large in impact.

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Shattered auto windshield

A lab accident in 1903 led to the development of the first safety glass--just as the first automobiles were being produced.

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Dr. Ison with grad student in lab

In this 21st Century Chemist profile, North Carolina State University chemist Dr. Elon Ison explains his research on catalysts that could be used to make alternative fuels--for example, efficiently converting methane gas into methanol as an alternative to gasoline.

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Man at computer with model chain of molecules on his desk

21st Century chemist Kent Kirshenbaum of New York University engineers and folds synthetic peptoids in hopes of creating "hunter-killer" molecules that can target and destroy deadly bacteria like staph (MRSA).

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Facundo Fernandez in lab

In this 21st Century Chemist profile, Georgia Tech University chemist Facundo Fernandez explains his efforts to detect worthless or harmful counterfeit medications--eventually using a hand-held device, he hopes. Worldwide, an estimated 700,000 people a year die from counterfeit malaria and TB drugs.

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Woman looking at a vial of material

In this 21st Century Chemist profile, Purdue University analytical chemist Mary Wirth works with "nanomaterials" to improve the clarity and accuracy of tests for tiny "biomarker" proteins that indicate disease--specifically, levels of PSAs, or Prostate Specific Antigens, that signal prostate cancer.

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Hands with soap and water

"The Chemistry of Soap" explains how soaps and detergents--surfactants--work to break up grease and dirt on soiled surfaces, by breaking water's surface tension and suspending dirt and oil particles in water so everything can be wiped away.

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Plane dropping dispersant over oil spill

Responding to the months-long oil spill from a BP well in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, a team of polymer chemists in Mississippi set to inventing a non-toxic chemical dispersant that could break up oily deposits without harming marine or wetlands wildlife.

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Letters H2O over water and sky

It might just be the most universally known fact in chemistry: the chemical formula for water--H2O.

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An assortment of chocolate candies

The chemical reactions that make chocolate: heat, temperature, melting point.

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Top and bottom of hamburger bun with air in between

The chemistry of bread: gas and sugar reactions.

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Burger patty on top of a bun

The chemistry in cooking meat: protein reactions, Maillard reaction.

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Variety of cheeses on a platter

How chemistry transforms liquid milk into solid cheese: coagulation.

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Different types of tomatoes

How chemistry ripens and reddens tomatoes: ethylene, lycopene, gases, diffusion.

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Dill pickle with slices cut from the near end

The chemistry of preservatives: fermentation, acid and pH.

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Photo of containers of catsup, mustard and mayonaise

The chemistry of ketchup, mustard and mayo: suspensions, emulsions.

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Jars of spices labeled cloves, dill, ginger, nutmeg

Molecules profiled: eugenol, isoeugenol.

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Drawing of 2 molecules to show handedness

Links between molecule structure and physical properties. Molecule profiled: carvone

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Field of green clover

The chemistry of photosynthesis, pigments, visible light spectrum.

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Photo of flower from very close

The chemistry of petal pigments: chromoplasts, conjugated bonds.

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Diagram of a head with nose and brain

Smell that? Our sense of smell is a complex set of chemical reactions. In this 21st Century Chemist profile, California Institute of Technology chemist Nate Lewis explains his work developing an artificial, electronic "nose" that can read odor patterns to detect and distinguish odors.

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Spools and the word NYLON

The 1930s invention of nylon revolutionized the global textile and materials industry.

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Illustration of young London chemistry student William Henry Perkin holding up a dyed cloth

The unexpected discovery of mauveine, the first synthetic dye.

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Plastic bottle of Ammonia

The dirt on ammonia as a cleaning agent.

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Researcher holding small vial containing specimen

In this 21st Century Chemist profile, City University of New York chemist Mandë Holford explains her research on the toxins produced by venomous sea snails, and her work to synthesize these long-peptide toxins for eventual use in treating chronic pain in humans.

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Multiple pink, yellow and blue packets of sweeteners

This video, part of a series on "Chance Discoveries" in chemistry, tells the story of three artificial sweeteners--saccharin, cyclamate and aspartame--all discovered by lab researchers who failed to completely wash their hands.

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Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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