CHEM10040 The Molecular World

Academic Year 2024/2025

This is an optional module intended for students with a background in Chemistry at Leaving Certificate or equivalent. The purposes of the module are to reinforce key basic concepts, and to introduce students to the central role that molecular science now plays in understanding our environment, technology, life processes, and in the design of new materials and medicines.

The first section of the course consists of a series of case studies of important drugs, including aspirin, the beta-lactam antibiotics and cimetidine. The case studies are used to revise fundamental concepts of structure and reactivity of organic compounds, and to illustrate the development of medicinal chemistry and the key role that it plays in alleviating human suffering.

The second section of the course covers several case studies which pinpoint how chemistry is applied in society, technology and how it can be employed in alleviating significant global challenges as derived from the UN sustainable development goals. Alongside with the case studies fundamental principles are covered relevant to the synthesis of natural/synthetic polymers and structure-property correlations which contribute to the current plastic crisis. The main principles of electrochemistry (galvanic cell and thermodynamics involved), energy storage in batteries, water electrolysis for H2 evolution, and fuel cells will be also covered. Finally, the basic natural/artificial photosynthetic concepts which allow for ‘green’ H2 evolution and conversion of CO2 and waste (e. g., plastics) to useful ‘green’ fuels/chemicals will be also discussed.

There will be five experimental sessions associated with the module and each of these will involve student preparation (using an online assessment), carrying out experiments and a laboratory report.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module students should be able to:
Draw the chemical structures of common polymers (synthetic and natural).
Describe the main synthetic approaches to produce polymers.
Explain how the macromolecular structure affects the properties and applications of polymers.
Define how the macromolecular structure of common polymers contributes to environmental pollution (plastic crisis).
Explain the basic principles of electrochemistry.
Discuss how energy can be stored in batteries.
Explain how electrolytic and fuel cells work.
Explain how natural photosynthesis works.
Recognize how the principles of natural photosynthesis can be applied in artificial photosynthetic systems to tackle persistent environmental problems, and produce ‘green’ fuels.
Predict the geometries and polarities of molecules and illustrate their importance in determining molecular function and intermolecular interactions.
Discuss the beneficial impact of medicinal chemistry on human health.
Discuss the importance of chemistry in understanding the natural environment.
Carry out some basic experimental procedures safely and efficiently.

Indicative Module Content:

Structures and Shapes of Molecules (VSEPR); Chirality.
Drawing organic structures, identification of functional groups.
Structure and reactivity of aromatic compounds; basic reactions of carboxylic acids and derivatives; aromaticity, strain and resonance.
Simple calculations using the mole concept (%yield, concentration etc.).
Reaction Energy profiles. Effects of temperature, concentration and catalysts on reaction rates.
Amino acids and introduction to proteins.
Electronegativity and polarity. Bronsted Acids/Bases; equilibria, equilibrium constants; pKa.
History, development and mode of action of aspirin, penicillin and cimetidine.
Introduction to drug design: structure-activity relationships, lead compounds.
History of synthetic polymers, crucial discoveries which resulted in Nobel prizes in Chemistry, and shaped the materials world in the way we know it today.
Polymers; definitions, advantages, and main functional groups.
Methods for polymer synthesis (condensation and addition polymerization).
Chemical structures of common polymers and their main applications.
Effect of the chemical structure in the properties of polymers.
Basic polymer principles; molecular weight, degree of polymerization, repeating unit.
Effect of molecular weight, chemical structure/composition and architecture in the properties of macromolecules.
Intermolecular interactions in polymers and their effects in polymer properties.
Thermal transitions in polymers and application in 3D printing.
Natural Polymers; proteins and polypeptides - synthetic approaches, effect of chemistry on the biological activity, protein denaturation, nucleic acids and polysaccharides.
Properties of common synthetic polymers which contribute to environmental issues and plastic crisis.
Strategies to overcome these problems; recycling and synthesis of bioplastics/biodegradable polymers.
Energy storage and electrochemical energy storage devices.
Basics principles of electrochemistry: electric charge, potential difference, current, resistance, the role of the electrolyte and conductivity.
Redox reactions and the Galvanic cell: cell diagram, standard hydrogen electrode, standard reduction potential, cell potential, thermodynamics of electrochemical cells and Nernst equation.
Batteries: Primary cells, alkaline and researchable batteries.
Fuel cells and electrolytic cells for H2 production.
Natural Photosynthesis and application of the main principles in artificial photosynthetic systems for ‘green’ H2 production.
Waste Utilization (e. g., plastic and biomass) for production of ‘green’ fuels and chemicals.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours






Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Lectures, Laboratory work including some problem-based learning, case-based learning, tutorials and problem-based learning; in-lecture activities. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations
Learning Requirements:

Grade H5 or above in Leaving Certificate Higher Level Chemistry, or O1 in Leaving Certificate Ordinary Level Chemistry, or equivalent.
Students who have already passed CHEM10050 may not register to this module in 2020/21 academic year.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
BIOC00010 - Chemistry-Biochemistry, CHEM00010 - Introductory Chemistry, CHEM10030 - Chemistry for Engineers

Additional Information:
In 2020/21 academic year, students may not take this module if they have already passed CHEM10050.

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered

Not yet recorded.

Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring Yes - 2 Hour
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment
• Online automated feedback

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Feedback will be given on Lab reports by return of the report with annotations and laboratory demonstrators will give oral feedback to groups and/or individuals. Feedback will be given on homework assignments by tutors by return of the assignments with written annotations and tutors will give oral feedback to groups during tutorials. Feedback on pre-lab tests may be given through automated online means.

Organic Chemistry by McMurry
Chemistry3 by Burrows, Holman, Parsons, Pilling, and Price.
Chemistry by Mahaffy, Bucat, Tasker, Kotz, Treichel, Weaver and McMurry

Background Reading
D. Jeffreys, “Aspirin: The Story of a Wonder Drug”, Bloomsbury, 2004.
John Mann, “Life Saving Drugs”, RSC, 2004. [ebook online]
Eric Lax, “The Mold in Dr Florey’s Coat”, Owl Books, 2005.
Name Role
Dr Demetra Achilleos Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Elaine O'Reilly Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Ghadeer Almohammadi Tutor
Ruairi Bannon Tutor
Ms Amber Barry Tutor
Miss Vanessa Becker Tutor
Ms Arlene Bonner Tutor
Ronán Brennan Tutor
Miss Aisling Byrne Tutor
Mr Eoghan Courtney Tutor
Guohui Huang Tutor
Rachel Lynch Tutor
Ms Ines Martinez Chauvin Tutor
Mrs Sarah Smoni Varghese Tutor
Mr Jordan Smyth Tutor
Mr Aizuddin Sultan Tutor