Benzene is a hugely important compound in organic chemistry. It consists of six carbon atoms joined together in a ring, with a hydrogen atom bonded to each carbon; by replacing one or more of these hydrogens with a functional group, a large number of different compounds can be formed. This graphic looks at a selection of the most common simple derivatives which can be obtained in this manner.
Insect venoms are complicated. Really complicated. You could be forgiven for thinking that it must be a relatively simple company of chemicals that makes up the painful sensation of a bee or wasp sting, but in fact a hugely complex mixture of all sorts of compounds – proteins, peptides, enzymes, and other smaller molecules – go into a small amount of venom. The range of compounds is far too vast to detail every single one – but we can examine some of the major constituents in bee, wasp, hornet and ant venom.
Monosodium glutamate, or MSG for short, has long been the villain of the food supplement world. In the UK, Chinese takeaways proudly display ‘No MSG’ signs beside their counters, and many websites will purport to tell you ‘the truth about MSG’. Numerous studies have been carried out examining the effects of MSG, but with all the conflicting information, it can be hard for consumers to know who to believe. Read More
Honey is something of an oddity, in that, unlike most foods, it doesn’t spoil over time. In fact, the oldest known sample of honey, found in an Ancient Egyptian tomb and dated to approximately 3000 years ago, was still perfectly edible. What is it, then, that gives honey this unusual property?
Lipstick is one of the most commonly used cosmetic products – and a range of chemicals are required for its production. The choice of these ingredients is carefully considered to provide the desired colour, glossiness, and indelibility. A single stick of lipstick will contain several hundred different chemical compounds, but there are a few substances and compounds whose inclusion is essential.
With the new season of the Premier League kicking off this weekend, it seemed a good time to take a look at the chemicals that make up your average football shirt. Even if the start of a new football season isn’t the kind of event to fill you with excitement, it’s still intriguing from a chemistry perspective to examine the different chemical materials used and the properties that they lend the finished shirt.
The human fear of sharks is an age old one. Even though your odds of being killed by a shark are estimated to be approximately 1 in 3.7 million, versus a 1 in 218 chance of simply dying from a fall, the fear persists, and over the years many chemists have turned their attentions to trying to find an effective chemical shark repellent – with somewhat mixed results.
We’re all well versed in the dangers of spending too much time in the sun. A golden tan after a few weeks away in the sun is everyone’s aspiration, but no-one wants to come back from a holiday red as a cooked lobster, hence the need for sunscreen (which we looked at in a previous post). However, if you’re unlucky enough not to have the time for a couple of weeks on the beach, you might be tempted to resort to tanning lotions to achieve a tanned look. These can induce the appearance of a tan, through the action of the chemicals they contain.
Anyone who’s ever purchased an avocado will testify that, after taking several days to reach the point of perfect ripeness, they remain at that point for an incredibly short amount of time before morphing into a brown, sludgy mess. As if to confound this problem, if you do catch them at the optimum ripeness, they turn brown incredibly quickly after being cut open if not eaten straight away. As always, there are chemical processes at work that are to blame for this occurrence. Read More
We’ve already examined the functional groups that can be present in organic molecules in a previous post; here, we take a look one step further, at heterocycles. Heterocycles are hugely important in organic chemistry – they make up more than half of all known organic compounds. Caffeine is a prime example of an everyday chemical that is composed of heterocycles, as is nicotine, and there are plenty of others in pharmaceuticals and natural products we use on a natural basis. Parts of our DNA are even made up of compounds which contain heterocycles.