2906, 2014
  • The Chemistry of Gemstone Colours 2016

What Causes the Colour of Gemstones?

June 29th, 2014|

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There are a wide range of gemstones used in jewellery, with each having its own characteristic colour – or, in some cases, a range of colours. The origin of these colours has a chemical basis, and the precise colour can vary depending on the chemical composition of the gemstone. Interestingly, many minerals are actually colourless in their pure form, and it is the inclusion of impurities in their structure which leads to their colouration.


2206, 2014
  • Kevlar Chemistry

The Myriad Uses of Stronger Than Steel Kevlar

June 22nd, 2014|

You’ve probably read of the recent death of Stephanie Kwolek, the American chemist who discovered Kevlar. Most people have almost certainly heard of Kevlar, in the context of bullet-proof vests, but fewer are probably aware of the vast range of applications it has, or the chemical reasons behind its strength.


2006, 2014
  • Hay Fever & Hay Fever Medications 2016

The Chemistry of Hay Fever – How Do Hay Fever Medications Work?

June 20th, 2014|

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With the arrival of summer comes a rather less welcome arrival – that of seasonal allergic rhinitis, more commonly known as hay fever. In the UK, an estimated 10-15% of the population are affected, a figure that is also on the rise. Despite the pollens of trees, grasses and weeds being the origin of hay fever, it’s a chemical produced in our bodies that’s actually to blame for the symptoms – and we’ve got the chemicals in medications for hay fever to thank for relief from these symptoms.


1606, 2014
  • Aroma Chemistry - The Aroma of New Cars

The Chemicals Behind the ‘New Car Smell’

June 16th, 2014|

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This graphic comes off the back of a number of requests for it to be added to the ‘Aroma Chemistry’ series. The characteristic ‘new car smell’, as with the majority of entries in this series, can’t be pinned down to just one compound – rather, it’s a complex mixture of chemicals that, combined, give the recognisable smell. Here’s a look at some of the major compounds, and where they come from.


1206, 2014
  • The Chemistry of the World Cup Ball Brazuca

The Chemistry of the World Cup Football

June 12th, 2014|

A number of chemical materials are used in the manufacture of the Brazuca, the World Cup football. The majority of these materials are polymers; these are very long molecules built up from many smaller component molecules. A simple, everyday example is polyethene, used to make some plastic bags. Different classes of polymers are used to achieve particular properties for the ball.


806, 2014
  • The Chemistry of Cats and Catnip

The Chemical Behind Catnip’s Effect on Cats

June 8th, 2014|

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Everyone knows cats go crazy for catnip. It’s an effect that’s been noted in scientific literature as far back as the 18th Century, when scientists observed that cats seemed to be attracted to catnip when the plant was withered or bruised. Since then, research has managed to amass a little more detail on exactly why catnip affects cats in the way it does. […]