Crystals and Polymers

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Crystals and Polymers
Science Course
Course CodeCPOL
Year Opened2004
Sites OfferedALE, CGV, LOS
Previously OfferedBRI, EST, LAJ, SRF
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Course Description

From the CTY Course Catalog (2004):

Have you ever wondered why cows can digest grass but humans can't? Why some plastic containers melt in a microwave oven but others don't? Why salt crystals are cubic shaped but ice crystals are hexagonal? Chemical structure provides the key for answering these questions. Of the 90 naturally occurring elements, only four carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen comprise most of the thousands of materials we find in our daily lives. All that is different is the way these elements connect into tiny building blocks, and how those building blocks are arranged.

In this course, students examine the structural features of crystals and polymers to better understand their properties and behavior. Students begin by learning about metals, ionic solids, and composite materials such as orthodontic memory metal, discovering their features by building models of simple cubic unit cells. Students then investigate synthetic polymers and use models to help distinguish between addition polymers such as Teflon®, Styrofoam®, and Saran Wrap®, and condensation polymers such as nylon and polyester. The course culminates with a study of biomolecules, also known as natural polymers. They examine the structural differences between saturated and unsaturated fats, starch and cellulose carbohydrates, and hair and wool proteins. Geometric principles and spatial reasoning play an important role in this course.