11 Apr 2019

It's a ball! It's methane!! It's supramolecular chemistry!!!

Submitted by Shirley Lin, United States Naval Academy

This BITeS post is dedicated to Prof. Julius Rebek Jr. on the occasion of his 75th birthday.

It's April and spring is here at last. For many faculty, the change of season brings the welcome close to a busy academic year. Our thoughts turn to warm weather activities such as working in the lab, writing up new learning objects for VIPEr (hint, hint), and gardening. To most people this latter activity may bring to mind putting plants into the ground; for those of us who lack a green thumb and/or serve on curriculum committees, our thoughts may turn instead to sowing the seeds of curricular change.

For example, while preparing for our ACS periodic review last spring, my department spent some time discussing the ACS Committee on Professional Training guidelines on incorporating macromolecular, supramolecular, and nanoscale (MSN) systems (found here) into our undergraduate curriculum. Not surprisingly, VIPEr already has resources to help with teaching these topics: check out our recently updated collection on nanomaterials and several LOs related to polymer chemistry. Joining these riches are two new LOs on supramolecular chemistry involving research from the Rebek group, experts on host-guest systems that self-assemble through intermolecular forces. The first is a literature discussion of two journal articles about the "tennis ball" host system, able to encapsulate small molecule guests such as methane, ethylene, and dichloromethane (in a single bound!). The second is a web resource LO about the Rebek Laboratory homepage. The webpage provides narrated videos and interactive JSmol files of several of the group's most well-known host systems, including the aforementioned "tennis ball." For those looking to incorporate a hand-on experience with supramolecular chemistry into their major, check out Rebek's J. Chem. Educ. article on an advanced laboratory experiment highlighting (you guessed it) the "tennis ball."

While these new LOs are organic chemistry examples of supramolecular chemistry, the ACS guidelines also provide multiple examples on how to incorporate MSN concepts related to inorganic chemistry. This list is shown below. Friends of VIPEr, if you are an expert and/or have been teaching in any of these areas, please consider creating new LOs on these topics this summer. That would be!

Inorganic Chemistry MSN Topics

  • Coordination – catalyst formation, metalloenzyme structure, structure of metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), control of porosity and framework size, control of gas adsorption properties
  • Ziegler-Natta, metallocene catalysts for olefin polymerization – impact on industrial/materials development
  • Structure/bonding/property relationships in silicon or phosphorous based polymers and semiconductors, including backbone flexibility, conductivity, and molecular orbital and band theory compared to C based analogs
  • Utilization of X-ray and calorimetry to determine percent crystallinity
  • Polymer/inorganic natural systems such as chitin/calcium carbonate composites
  • Absorption properties of metal nanoparticles (e.g., colloidal gold used to color stained glass windows)
  • Quantum dots – effect of size on optical properties, electrical properties, effect of core-shell structures



Perhaps remove electronic spectra (microstates, terms, allowed/forbidden transitions, Orgel Tanabe-Sugano, etc.) to allow for discussions of some of these MSN systems in upper level inorganic?

Claude, thanks for the suggestions in your comment. It is definitely a challenge to include more topics in inorganic chemistry and the hard question is always what to swap out.