Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

Think green for Saint Patrick's Day, green chemistry, that is. In recent years there has been a real movement for more environmentally friendly, or 'green chemistry'. This means the development of processes that are more efficient, use more bio-friendly materials (like water as a solvent instead of something like chloroform), and produce less waste. Janet Scott, who focuses on green chemistry at Monash University in Australia has developed a series of reactions she calls moelcular LEGO, because she synthesizes molecules with activated 'male' and 'female' groups that click together like the studs and tubes of LEGO bricks. She can then connect these pieces in various ways to make much larger molecules.

I should note that she is not the first person to use LEGO as an analogy for chemical transformations. A quick search of, which is the site for those chemical journals published by the American Chemical Society, turns up over 200 hits on the word 'LEGO'. Some of these are from the Journal of Chemical Education, where actual LEGO bricks were being used for demonstrations to teach chemistry to kids, but others are research articles. There are surely similar instances in other scientific disciplines. I'm sure I'll feature many such articles here on SciBricks in the weeks and months to come.

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