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Chemists do reactions and make things. Our laboratory classes introduce students to practical chemistry in a modern, well-equipped university laboratory environment. Students carry out chemical synthesis and investigations, or can use the department's cutting edge analytical technology such as IR, NMR spectroscopy and gas chromatography.


Laboratory classes: Years 7-13

Schools LabA number of experiments are available, some syllabus linked, but all designed to interest and encourage students in their chemistry studies.

Sessions we run:

  • Preparation of paracetamol (Y12 and 13)
  • Preparation of aspirin (Y10 - 13)
  • Isolation of eugenol from cloves (Y10 - 13)
  • Isolation of trimyristin from nutmeg (Y10 - 13)
  • Who murdered Mrs Smith? (Y7 - 9)
  • Bath Bombs and Polymer Slime (Primary-Y7)

Preparation of paracetamol
Paracetamol is a very widely used medicine. It is a mild painkiller and reduces the temperature of patients with fever. In this practical workshop you will have the opportunity to prepare paracetamol via a two-part synthesis and to purify the product using vacuum filtration and recrystallisation techniques. The mechanisms of reduction, nitration and acylation will be covered with the option of the determination of structure using IR and MS techniques.

Preparation of aspirin
The organic synthesis of aspirin (2-ethanoylbenzenecarboxylic acid) will involve an esterification reaction by a reflux synthesis using quick fit apparatus and purification methods. Aspirin will be prepared by heating ethanoic anhydride with 2-hydroxybenzoic acid, separation using vacuum filtration and recrystallisation as a purification technique.

Isolation of eugenol - In this practical workshop students will be able to enhance their practical lab skills and learn the techniques used to isolate a natural product which is used in the synthesis of perfumes and flavourings. Students will learn how to use a rotary evaporator, selectively extract a substance from a solid mixture using a solvent and use distillation as a common technique for obtaining aromatic compounds from plants to avoid decomposition of the material. The Chemistry Smells activity can also be included in the session.

Isolation of trimyristin from nutmeg
Students will be able to enhance their practical lab skills and learn the techniques used to isolate a natural product which is used in the synthesis of cosmetics, toiletries and soaps. The practical will involve filtration, evaporation and recrystallisation as a method to purify the crude product.

Who murdered Mrs Smith?
There's been a murder! Mrs. Smith, a wealthy local lady, died recently under very suspicious circumstances. You are the chief chemist who has to solve this mysterious case. Using flame tests and forensic chemistry techniques you will eliminate the suspects one by one and identify the poison.

Bath bombs and slime
These popular workshops can be adapted to different age groups and abilities to allow students to produce a product and experience a range of demonstrations involving indicators and dry ice. The content can involve chemical reactions, irreversible changes and polymer properties.

Please note:

  • Staff from the Department of Chemistry supervise, demonstrate and teach each experiment but we require two members of staff from the school (per group) to ensure adequate safety cover
  • All safety apparatus will be provided on the day
Spectroscopy workshops: A Level students

NMRTo help students understand spectroscopic analytical techniques better, the Department of Chemistry runs a half day spectroscopic workshop for schools and colleges.

These visits take place on Wednesday afternoons and run throughout the academic year. Students can be set the task of identifying three "unknown" compounds, or analysis of your own samples can be done using:

  • Nuclear Magnetic Resonance
  • Mass-spectrometry
  • Infra-red spectroscopy

Starting with an overview of the various techniques, students are split into groups and move round, running their unknown sample whilst being taught about each spectroscopic technique by a specialist.

Primary school workshops: Years 2-6

We have a selection of fun chemistry workshops that can be delivered at your Primary School. All of these are free, and we bring everything we need including lab coats, glasses and chemicals for all of the children. The experiments currently on offer are Bath Bombs and Preparing Polymer Slime.

Polymer Slime

Bath bomb

Spectroscopy in a Suitcase

The Spectroscopy in a Suitcase initiative allows students to learn about spectroscopy and get hands-on experience in their own classroom. The activities cover the principles of spectroscopic techniques and help show real-life applications, and is ideal for GCSE and A Level students.

The project was created by the Royal Society of Chemistry as part of their programme to promote chemistry in further education. The suitcase includes a UV-Vis spectrometer and an IR spectrometer, and comes with a full teachers resource pack including instructions, spectra and samples for both techniques and also includes some mass-spectrometer data to provide a comprehensive spectroscopic experience.

Too book the suitcase, visit our booking page: 


Teachers may be interested in the SpectraSchool website. It contains many online spectra which could be used to assist Spectroscopy in a Suitcase sessions, as well as independently aid teaching, learning and revision. There is also an 'Identify' quiz function which gives some spectroscopic data for an "unknown" compound, and asks the user to work out which compound the spectra represent.

SpectraSchool at the Royal Society of Chemistry

Find out more about Spectroscopy in a Suitcase