Archive for the ‘Chemistry’ Category

Welcome back!

Posted: September 27, 2012 by Mr Pimentao in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Uncategorized
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Loreto Science is back , and welcomes everybody to a new year of discovery.
A year of exciting activities is just beginning, so we’d like to invite you to join Miss Gilleece on a journey through the world of Mad science every Thursday at 12:45 in SC5.

This week saw year 7 and 8 students getting to grips with lighting effects. The group enjoyed using prisms and filters to come up with some spectacular images (and stories!) for their light shows – with some trying to act out an X-Factor audition!

The club will hopefully see students gaining a Crest award by the end of the year; some of the topics we will touch on will include rockets and medical physics, alongside a project the girls will design for their Crest award.

So if you haven’t already come, don’t worry!! You can drop in any Thursday, but I’d love to see you there every week! 🙂

See you all next Thursday!

Miss Gilleece

On 7th February 48 students from Year 11, (accompanied by Mr Bilton, Miss Vine, Mr Pimentao and Miss Gilleece) travelled to Essex to visit the npower-operated Tilbury Power Station. The students study the generation of electricity as part of their course, so this was an excellent opportunity to see where it all happens. The Tilbury site was originally a coal-fired power station, but this year it switched to using biomass as the fuel source, as part of a programme to be ‘greener’ and depend on renewable sources.

Tilbury Power Station

The biomass used at Tilbury is wood pellets, produced from the sawdust and waste of the Canadian lumber industry, so it’s a good use of a material that would otherwise just be wasted. It also has less impact in terms of CO2 production than coal, because it’s not burning carbon that’s been locked away for millions of years.

Properly kitted out in hard-hats, ear defenders and high-visibility jackets the students were taken on a tour of the power station, at one point standing inside a 65m furnace which reaches temperatures of 1500ºC (luckily for the students it wasn’t on at the time…). The scale of the facility is hard to imagine, but it gives you an appreciation of engineering behind the process.

Safety first - hard-hats and ear defenders!

The process of electrical generation is actually remarkable simple. When the biomass arrives it is crushed and then blasted into the furnace where it burns. The furnace is lined with pipes that contain ultra-pure water. As this water heats up it turns to steam. This high-pressure steam is used to turn turbines (converting heat energy into kinetic energy), and the turbines rotate an electro-magnet within a coil of wire. The movement of a magnet within a coil of wire creates the electrical current (thanks Faraday!) and that’s all there is to it.

Generating electricity - what's happening inside?

The students were also able to study some of the chemistry and biology surrounding the issue of power generation. Using conductivity meters the students recorded how many dissolved ions and minerals were in drinking and filtered water. They then compared it to water that had been through an ion-exchamge resin and were surprised to see that there were no ions left at all. This super-pure water (which actually tasted a little bland) has to be used in the power station to prevent damage to the pipes (picture the inside of your kettle..). The students then had a look at the local water quality by pond-dipping and looking for indicator species; species that tell you how clean the water is by their presence or absence. Having found a variety of insects including Common Backswimmers, Damselfy nymphs and Diving Beetles (and even some fish) everyone was surprised to conclude the water so near a power station was actually good quality and supported a diverse community.

Damselfly nymph - this larval form indicates good water quality

Common Backswimmer - this insect swims upside down

The students had a really good time and certainly learned lots about where their electricity comes from and how best to manage our energy resources so that we can live in a sustainable and ecologically-sensitive way. Many thanks too to the staff at the power station for giving us such an enjoyable day!

If you were to ask people to name a famous scientist you are likely to hear answers such as Newton or Einstein.  If you were to ask me I would reply Mendeleev.  So why I do I think Mendeleev should be as famous as those other two guys? What did he do that was so important, I hear you cry? Well I will tell you, Mendeleev devised the Periodic Table, the most incredible document in the world of chemistry!

Mendeleev was a chemistry genius, not only did he manage to arrange the 80 or so  known elements of his time into the first ever Periodic Table, he left gaps in his table for elements he knew were yet to be discovered. Even more impressive, he correctly predicted the properties of the still to be discovered elements. If that was not brilliant enough, this was all happening in the days before we knew about atomic structure yet Mendeleev still managed to arrange the elements in order of their atomic number before atomic number even existed…that’s just totally WICKED, some would say INCREDIBLE.

If you look at the Periodic Table below it does not look very much like our modern day version but there are loads of similarities if you know where to look. The pink coloured elements are ones discovered after the death of Mendeleev but he had left the pink gaps to be filled in later. He was a very clever man.

Mendeleev's Early Periodic Table

What’s the link between zebras, climate change and giant lasers?

The answer is they’re just a few of the topics discussed by some of the country’s top scientists at the GCSE Science Live! Event on the 25th November. Mr Bilton and Mrs Camm took 32 members of 11 Sci 1 to the talks held at the Dominion Theatre, London.

The event attracted around 1600 GCSE students from across the country, who had gathered to listen to five scientists discuss a range of fascinating topics.

Prof. Steve Jones, a geneticist, talked about the relative merits of the nature vs nurture argument. Prof. Sir David King, who was once the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government, spoke about Climate Change and the problems that will need to be tackled in the future. The infamous Prof. Richard Dawkins posed the question ‘Is Evolution Predictable’ and Dr Kate Lancaster explored the use of high-powered lasers to trigger nuclear fusion reactions – a source of incredible energy. The talk was concluded by chemist Prof. Andrea Sella, who looked at the connection between chemical reactions and the patterns found in the skins and fur of animals.

The talks were delivered in a thoroughly engaging manner by scientists that conveyed their passion and love of the subject. The students really enjoyed themselves and were still discussing the lectures several days later.

The 5 scientists who spoke at GCSE Science Live!