Ruby is a crystalline form of Aluminium Oxide

A crystal or crystalline solid is a solid material whose constituent particles (such as atoms, molecules, or ions) are arranged in a highly ordered structure

How do you know when a substance is crystalline?
Metal Crystals

Bismuth Crystals.

Metals will form  crystalline structures because their atoms can bond together in a highly organised fashion

​Crystals can form when a molten solid cools and solidifies. They can also form when a saturated solution is cooled. This happens because the solubility of most solid solutes  decreases as the temperature is lowered. 

The solute can no longer stay in solution and therefore forms a solid precipitate. The precipitate can be crystalline.

Crystallisation can therefore be used to separate a solid solute from its solvent.

Pure crystal 

Task 1
Watch  the video and answer the following:
  1. When recrystallising in order to purify a solid, how much solvent is used
  2. There is a mistake in the apparatus set up at the beginning of the video. Describe the mistake and explain why it would be dangerous to heat the apparatus as shown.
  3. Explain why the filter funnel is heated by a hot water jacket?
  4. Why do crystals then form in the filtrate?
  5. How are these crystals then separated?

The crystals obtained this way can then be dissolved and recrystallised to improve the purity further.​

Crystallisation close up 

Task 2

This video helps you to visualise how molecules ( or atoms) can stick together to form an orderly arrangement and therefore form crystals.

  1. What shape is used in the video to represent the sugar molecules ?
  2. The four images below show four different ways of "modelling" the arrangement of atoms or molecules forming a crystalline structure. Consider each model in turn. For each model try to say what is good about it and what might be "inaccurate" about it. This could be presented as a table of strengths and weaknesses.
  3. It is often said that crystallising something slowly will produce lager and more regular crystals. Can you explain this?
Spheres can be used to model the way atoms and molecules might stack together.

In this video you see how scientist use bubbles in a soap solution to model the behaviour of particles in a crystal. 

Fractional distillation in the laboratory

A fractionating column can be added to a simple distillation apparatus. The column is used to achieve a good separation of one liquid from another. 

The column is often packed with glass beads which cause repeated condensation and evaporation. This can give a much purer condensate ( product) than when using simple distillation.

By controlling the temperature carefully the different fractions ( components) in the mixture of liquids can be separated from each other.

The most volatile components of the mixture will be the first to be extracted.

Industrial fractional distillation

Fractional distillation is used to separate crude oil into its different fractions. The most volatile fractions rise to the top of the column.

Task 1. Simple or fractional?

Use the information on this post and the one called "simple distillation" to explain the differences between Simple and Fractional distillation.

Task 2. From thin air

Watch the first  2 minutes 25 seconds of this video.

Answer  the following questions:

  • ​what are the main components of air?
  • what is the percentage of each component - illustrate this with an appropriate chart
  • what are the main processes required for the separation of the components in air?
  • explain what liquefaction is. How is it achieved?
  • how is liquid air separated into its different fractions?
  • explain why this process works . Use the following words: volatile, boiling point , separate, evaporate. 
Water cycle - Distillation on a global scale

Distillation: the action of purifying a liquid by a process of heating and cooling

The water cycle.. 

Distillation on a very large scale...

You will be very familiar with the ideas illustrated in this graphic explaining the water cycle. The continual evaporation of water ( the solvent) from the sea ( the solution) - followed by cooling and condensation of the water vapour - means that the water that falls on the land is "distilled" and free from the salt 

Task 1

Explain in no more than 50 words why the water cycle makes the sea salty.

words to use:

dissolve, soluble, volatile, evaporate, condense

Task 2:

Find out about the salt content of the Dead Sea. Write down your findings and explain them.

Simple distillation in the laboratory

This video shows how the water cycle can be simulated in the laboratory.  In this example you can see pure water being distilled from salty water. Watch the video closely.

Task 3: 

  • The word "retort" is used several times. Explain in your own words what a retort is .
  • Explain why the water condenser has cold water fed in at the bottom and not the top.
  • Distillation is one way of making drinking water from seawater. This is often an unfeasibly expensive way of producing drinking water. Explain why.
Simple laboratory distillation

That's the spirit.. 

Alcoholic spirits are prepared by distillation

Fermentation can be used to produce a dilute solution such as beer or wine. These solutions can be further distilled to produce a spirit which contains much more alcohol and is consequently much more intoxicating.

A vintage Industrial scale distillation.

​Task 4.

Study this engraving of the distillation of ethanol. Make a copy of the drawing and label it with the same labels as the other simple distillation diagram.

Learn the terms: 

pure water can be extracted from water based inks by using distillation

Task 5. 

Study the video carefully. Two students are using distillation to extract pure water from some water soluble ink.

The students have made at least three deliberate mistakes.

Describe the mistakes and explain what they should have done instead in order to complete the task safely and correctly.

A colourful Chromatogram.

Chromatography is another important separation technique.  Several different types of chromatography exist. 

All chromatography relies upon the idea that different solutes have different solubilities. This fact is used in chromatography to separate and identify the separate components in a mixture. 

Here we will consider the simplest Chromatogaphic method - paper chromatography.

Chromatography gets its name ( Chroma="colour" in Greek) from the fact that mixtures which initially look like one uniform colour can be separated to produce many different colours.
Not all chromatograms are coloured.

In the Lab

All chromatography involves a mobile phase and a stationary phase.  The mobile phase moves through the static phase. The solutes which are more soluble (in the mobile phase) will travel faster through it than other less soluble solutes.

Task 1. Watch this video carefully and write answers to the questions:

  1. In paper chromatography what is the stationary phase? 
  2. In the video what is the name of the mobile phase
  3. Name the four substances which are separated from the spinach leaf extract. List them in order of their solubility in the mobile phase. ( put the most soluble first)
Butterfly or ink blobs?

​A slightly different chromatographic method.

A paper filter

Filter first  

Filtration is any of various mechanical, physical or biological operations that separate solids from fluids (liquids or gases) by adding a medium ( a filter) through which only the fluid can pass. The fluid that passes through is called the filtrate.

Filtration is a simple technique used  to separate insoluble solids from a solutionSometimes it is the filtrate that we want to isolate ( as in the making of a cup of coffee), on other occasions it is the residue that is left behind in the filter  that is of value.

In the laboratory 

suction filtration

​In the laboratory suction filtration can speed up the process and help to dry the insoluble residue on the filter paper.

Task 1

Make a copy of the suction filtration diagram. Add labels to the diagram to help explain why a vacuum pump is used.

What's the connection?

figure 1
figure 2
figure 3
figure 4

Task 2. Compare the four images above. What is the connection between all four? Which one is the odd one out  and why ?

(Hint: There is more than one acceptable answer - so long as you can justify it..)

Three of the Noble gases

Elements - close up

Here we look at the elements and some compounds - close up. 

Some elements (non-metal) have atoms which join up with one another to form small molecules. Some other non- metal elements have atoms which join up to form giant covalent lattices.

A monatomic gas

The particles which make up the the Noble Gases are single atoms; they do not join up with one another. They are monatomic. 

These atoms are very unreactive and do not easily form compounds

Simple molecular elements. They are often gases at room temperature but can be liquid or easily melted solids.

A solid element with small molecules
A gaseous element with small molecules

 Giant lattices. These elements form giant lattices have high melting points and form crystalline structures

A giant covalent lattice
A metallic element

 Compounds - close up

A compound containing small molecules
A compound which forms a giant covalent lattice
A compound which is made of a giant ionic lattice
A compound made of long chain molecules

Sun and air

​Study the seaside image for a few seconds . Try to describe it:

You might say that the image shows : A calm sea,  clear blue sky, bright sunshine and a perfectly smooth beach.

You could describe it in terms of the states of matter visible:

​SOLID ​Sand

But as a chemist you might be asked to classify each of these four components as either mixtures, compounds or elements

You might then go further and identify the atoms which are make up each of those components .

This section will help you to do that.

Mixed or bonded?

A mixture
A mixture

MIXTURE : A mixture is made up of two or more components which although mixed together can be separated by physical means. The components are not chemically combined. 

A compound
Pure salt is a compound

​COMPOUND : A compound is always made up of two or more different elements in definite proportions joined by chemical bonds. The elements cannot be separated by physical means

The Dead Sea is below sea level, this means that it does not drain so that although the water evaporates, the salt will stay, this means that the dead sea is a saturated solution

You can see this because salt crystals appear around the shore line.

The oceans become salty for the same reason - soluble salts are washed in to the oceans by rivers. Water from the oceans evaporates - leaving behind the less volatile salts. 

The oceans are not saturated solutions because they are so vast.

The Dead Sea is relatively very small and land locked. 

Evaporation  causes large deposits of solid salt to form around the shore or the Dead Sea 

.The Dead Sea Location


carboxylic acids

Crude oil is a mixture of hydrocarbons
  • Crude oil is an extremely valuable and increasingly scarce fossil fuel.
  • It is a complex mixture of hydrocarbons.
  • The composition of crude oil varies depending upon where in the world it comes from.
  • Crude oil is the principal raw material for the huge petrochemical industry which produces fuels, polymers, pharmaceuticals and many other products.

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5 b) Crude oil

Students will be assessed on their ability to:

5.6 understand that crude oil is a mixture of hydrocarbons
5.7 describe and explain how the industrial process of fractional distillation separates crude oil into fractions
5.8 recall the names and uses of the main fractions obtained from crude oil: refinery gases, gasoline, kerosene, diesel, fuel oil and bitumen
5.9 describe the trend in boiling point and viscosity of the main fractions
5.10 understand that incomplete combustion of fuels may produce carbon monoxide and explain that carbon monoxide is poisonous because it reduces the capacity of the blood to carry oxygen
5.11 understand that, in car engines, the temperature reached is high enough to allow nitrogen and oxygen from air to react, forming nitrogen oxides
5.12 understand that nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide are pollutant gases which contribute to acid rain, and describe the problems caused by acid rain
5.13 understand that fractional distillation of crude oil produces more long-chain hydrocarbons than can be used directly and fewer short-chain hydrocarbons than required and explain why this makes cracking necessary
5.14 describe how long-chain alkanes are converted to alkenes and shorter-chain alkanes by catalytic cracking, using silica or alumina as the catalyst and a temperature in the range of 600–700o

A question of balance

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 Many chemical reactions can be reversed.  

When this happens we can describe a forward reaction and a back reaction.

Sometimes the forward and back reaction take place at equal rates. When this happens an Equilibrium is established

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Rocket fuel needs to react quickly in order to achieve lift off.

What is RATE? 

How fast a chemical reaction happens is a very important consideration.

If paint dries too quickly it will become impossible to apply.

If the fuel in a rocket burns too slowly - the rocket will not get off the ground

 Task 1. Consider the word RATE.

  • ​When we look at applying for a job we will normally want to know about the rate of pay.
  • When we save or borrow money we will want to know about the interest rate which applies.
  • When looking at using chemical reactions we will want to know about the rate of reaction.

Try to write a definition of each of the three rates mentioned above​. What quantity is involved in all three?

 Experiment 1

 Experiment 2

Task 3 

Compare the rate of reaction in each experiment.

What can you say about the relationship between rate and concentration ?

Rates in the lab 

The video shows a classic reaction being performed.

Task 2. Watch the first video closely.

Two colourless solutions are mixed in a beaker. After a while the solutions react together to produce a cloudy suspension.  The cross at the bottom of the beaker can no longer be seen.

The two solutions used are sodium thiosulfate and dilute hydrochloric acid

  • Try to work out and write down what elements are present in the two solutions. Look up the names if necessary.
  • the cloudy suspension is actually fine particles of one of these elements. Which element do you think it is?
  • What single measurement could you make with this reaction which would give you an idea of the rate of the reaction? 

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An Exothermic reaction. Acetylene (Ethyne) releases a lot of energy when it burns.

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​Every chemical reaction has an accompanying change in energy.

Some reactions release energy to the surroundings and are known as Exothermic.

Reactions which take in energy from their surroundings are known as Endothermic

When a chemical reaction releases energy  in a useful form substance involved can be used as a fuel

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  • ​This shows a range of chemical changes - all of which release energy .
  • In some cases the energy release is rather sudden.
  • Listen carefully and try to note down the names of the chemicals involved.
  • For each reaction try to write a word equation.
  • Write a symbol equation for each reaction.
  • What is unusual about the last reaction ?

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In this video you can see how a chemical reaction can be used to power a solid fuel rocket.

In this reaction, the chemical reaction releases energy. This is an example of a very exothermic  reaction. 

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Ethanol is the "alcohol" in alcoholic drinks

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 Ethanol is an organic molecule which has a variety of uses. 

It is a good solvent and it burns cleanly so can be used as a fuel.

Here we will consider two of the methods by which ethanol can be made and examine the advantages and disadvantages of each


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Ethene is the simplest of the Alkene molecules

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​The Alkenes are another Homologous series of Hydrocarbons. They differ from the Alkanes because they contain in their molecules at least one double bond between two of the carbon atoms.

Because of their double bonds, the alkenes are more reactive than the alkanes and thus they are useful for making new compounds.

Alkenes can be made into polymers - such as polyethene and polystyrene - synthetic materials which have a wide variety of uses

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With just one carbon atom in the molecule, methane is simplest Alkane.

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The Alkane series is a family of hydrocarbons

The technical name for family is a homologous series

The alkane molecules contain atoms of hydrogen and carbon only

The general formula for the alkanes is CnH2n+2

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Organic chemistry is concerned with the compounds of the element carbon. Carbon atoms can form four covalent bonds with a range of other elements

Carbon chains form longer molecules and branches create a greater complexity. 

Atoms of hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen will bond readily with carbon atoms and can ultimately form the molecules of life including amino acids and proteins.

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Analytical chemistry involves the identification of chemical substances using a variety of methods.

Although modern technology has enabled chemists to analyse and identify a huge range of substances very quickly and accurately some simple test tube reactions can still be quicker and cheaper to perform.

2.44 describe tests for these gases:
hydrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, ammonia, chlorine.
2.45 describe how to carry out a flame test
2.46 know the colours formed in flame tests for these cations:
Li+is red,Na+is yellow, K+ is lilac, Ca2+is orange-red, Cu2+is blue-green.
2.47 describe tests for these cations:
 NH4+ using sodium hydroxide solution and identifying the gas evolved, Cu2+, Fe2+and Fe3+using sodium hydroxide solution.
2.48 describe tests for these anions:
Cl, Brand Iusing acidified silver nitrate solution SO42– using acidified barium chloride solutionCO32–using hydrochloric acid and identifying the gas evolved.
2.49 describe a test for the presence of water using anhydrous copper(II) sulfate
2.50 describe a physical test to show whether a sample of water is pure

This video gives a good overview of the main trends in solubility of  the compounds which you will meet at GCSE. 

If you have not already done so you should learn the names and fomulae of the ions shown above and below: 

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The solubility table - you need to learn this.

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This table is important to learn  - so that you can use it to predict what will happen when two solutions are mixed. Some examples are 

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 A lot of everyday substances including some foods contain Acids.

You can find alkalis amongst a number of common cleaning products.

Acids are neutralised by alkalis to form salts and water.

Here we consider the ways in which these reactions can be used to make useful products.

2.34 know the general rules for predicting the solubility of ionic compounds in water: *see table below
2.35 understand acids and bases in terms of proton transfer
2.36 understand that an acid is a proton donor and a base is a proton acceptor
2.37 describe the reactions of hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid and nitric acid with metals,
bases and metal carbonates (excluding the reactions between nitric acid and metals)
to form salts
2.38 know that metal oxides, metal hydroxides and ammonia can act as bases, and that
alkalis are bases that are soluble in water
2.39 describe an experiment to prepare a pure, dry sample of a soluble salt, starting from
an insoluble reactant
2.40C describe an experiment to prepare a pure, dry sample of a soluble salt,
starting from an acid and alkali
2.41C describe an experiment to prepare a pure, dry sample of an insoluble salt,
starting from two soluble reactants
2.42 practical: prepare a sample of pure, dry hydrated copper(II) sulfate crystals starting
from copper(II) oxide
2.43C practical: prepare a sample of pure, dry lead(II) sulfate

This video gives a good overview of the main trends in solubility of  the compounds which you will meet at GCSE. 

If you have not already done so you should learn the names and fomulae of the ions shown above and below: 

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The solubility table - you need to learn this.

common sodium, potassium and ammonium compounds are soluble
all nitrates are soluble
common chlorides are soluble, except those of silver and lead(II)
common sulfates are soluble, except for those of barium, calcium and lead(II)
common carbonates are insoluble, except for those of sodium, potassium and
common hydroxides are insoluble except for those of sodium, potassium and
calcium (calcium hydroxide is slightly soluble).

This table is important to learn  - so that you can use it to predict what will happen when two solutions are mixed. Some examples are 

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