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Spectroscopy in a suitcase

Spectroscopy in a suitcase
Dr Corey Evans and Ms Tracy McGhie from the University of Leicester.
Wednesday 26th August 2015 by C. Freeman

Students took part in a CSI-style forensic investigation where they had to analyse chemical solutions using a portable spectrometer. The project gave them the opportunity to use high-tech equipment usually only found in universities and research laboratories. They were given a scenario where they had to identify ‘who-dunnit’ by analysing chemicals found at the scene of a murder. The project, which takes place at schools around the region, is funded by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Tracy McGhie and Dr Corey Evans, an admissions tutor from the University of Leicester, brought along the infra-red spectrometer and showed two groups of year 12 chemistry students how to use it.

Head of Science Mrs Hearne said: ‘The students have to identify some unknown chemicals using infra-red spectroscopy and mass spectroscopy and it is a chance for them to use skills they have been developing in class, see real life applications and obviously use equipment they would not normally be able to use, in addition to speaking to people from the University of Leicester about future projects.’

Ms McGhie said: ‘The students are working very well on the murder mystery and trying to identify who killed Mr Blue. They are analysing the chemicals he was working with in the lab and then we are going to look at some witness statements and further evidence to try and work out who the killer is. The students are very on task and have been very engaged throughout.’

Student Jarom Cheek said: ‘We have been testing different samples on plates and putting them through the spectrometer. It gives us an infra red spectrum of all the different bonds and then we cross reference those with a list of known bonds. By a process of elimination we have a good idea of what the chemical is. It does take quite a lot of attention to detail, particularly as there are quite a lot of bonds that have similar signatures so it takes fine detail to differentiate between two similar ones. To get practical experience with a spectrometer has been very valuable.’

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