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    1914 research outputs found

    A case study in Green chemistry: Developing replacements for CFCs

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    Chlorofluorocarbons, CFCs, were developed in the late 1920s for use as safe refrigerant alternatives to sulphur dioxide and ammonia. They were welcomed by industry because of their low toxicity, chemical stability, low flammability, low cost and ease of synthesis. They found wide application as refrigerants, blowing agents, propellants and cleaning agents. Over more than 40 years, applications of CFCs expanded into a wide variety of areas, and grew into a multibillion-dollar industry. Unfortunately, CFCs are not ecologically benign. It became increasingly clear that CFCs were responsible for ozone depletion. In the early 1970s the leading manufacturers of CFCs met to discuss the possible environmental impact of their products.This case study uses a problem based learning approach to take students through the development of replacements for CFCs from the 1970s to today. They investigate the background to the CFC problem and consider data that leads to the decision to investigate possible replacements. They must select and design replacement molecules (HFCs), devise syntheses and then consider the challenge to develop the replacements in a socio-economic and political framework. They also consider the problems posed by existing CFCs, the ‘fridge mountain’ and possible disposal and containment alternatives.The case study brings the story up to date with an investigation of the problems now being associated with HFCs and the search for new alternatives. This activity successfully teaches applied and ‘green’ chemistry via a real life context. The chemistry encountered is of an applied/industrial nature and is set in a socioeconomic context. The influence of political pressures is also brought in when appropriate. Because the activity adopts a problem based approach it is also successful in developing a range of transferable skills, particularly problem solving, teamwork plus verbal and written communication

    From projects to problems

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    Projects are a familiar feature of physics curricula and many courses include one or more group projects as a way of developing group work skills, if not for teaching physics. Problem-based learning on the other hand, which is designed primarily to teach physics while enhancing group work skills, is not so familiar. In this article we shall show how project work can be developed rather simply into problem-based learning by contextualising the project in terms of a problem and a viewpoint. The examples given will be based on developments of first and second year courses at Leicester to integrate practical, computational and theoretical work within the programme of specialist options. The benefits to staff and students will be discussed

    Using a VLE to enhance a Foundation Chemistry laboratory module

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    For the past few years, we have been experimenting with an e-learning approach to our introductory laboratory classes for first year students. Our overall objective was to maximise students’ useful time in the laboratory. We considered that time spent with students gathered around a desk watching a demonstration is not an efficient use of staff or students’ time.It is well recognised that students’ performance in the laboratory can be enhanced if they are familiar with the background of the experiments which will be conducted, hence the use of ‘pre-labs’. We have been delivering our ‘pre-labs’ electronically by requiring students to work through a package before coming to the laboratory. As well as covering the theory and background to the experiment, short video clips have been included so that students will also have seen the experiment being performed. They should at least recognise the apparatus! The package concludes with a short assessment quiz which must be completed.The packages were mounted on the University network using WebCT and meant that students could undertake the exercises at a time (and place) of their choosing rather than being confined to set laboratory hours.This communication will describe the packages and our experiences as well as an initial evaluation of our approach. Although largely anecdotal, staff felt that they spent less time on more mundane aspects of laboratory work and more time discussing chemistry.Students also felt that they were better prepared for the experiments before they came to the laboratory. Some of the pitfalls and technical problems that had to be overcome willalso be described

    Outreach activities: A summary for UK university science departments

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    The dictionary definition refers to surpassing, outwitting or the act of ‘reaching out’. The Funding Councils see it as “widening access and improving participation in higher education…… to equip people to operate productively within the global knowledge economy. It also offers social benefits, including better health, lower crime and a more tolerant and inclusive society”.Here in the Physical Sciences, whilst reaching out to widen access is an important part of our agenda, we see Outreach activities as primarily being targeted at improving the recruitment and retention of students. Many Physical Science departments are struggling to attract sufficient numbers of students and virtually all of us are also unhappy that the more able students are not choosing science for their higher and further education. This has led to the complete closure of a number of departments; a merger with cognate disciplines for some, or relegation to a ‘service teaching’ role for others. Since 1996, 28 universities have stopped offering chemistry degrees and almost a third of university physics departments have closed in the same period. Despite this dramatic fall in capacity, there is still a shortfall that is a major cause of concern for all but a handful of institutions.There is a great deal of confusion within Universities as to how and why this situation has arisen and in this article I will attempt to collect and summarise items that have a direct bearing on these issues.The first part will include the results of surveys into student preferences, public attitudes to science and scientists and lecturers’ own opinions on the subject. The second part will summarise the recommendations from a number of sources who have given much thought to alleviating the situation and the final section will look at a selected number of institutions that are actively generating materials and methods that could be more widely adopted in order to improve the current climate


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