General Chemistry

25 Jul 2019

1FLO: One Figure Learning Objects

Submitted by Chip Nataro, Lafayette College
27 Jun 2019

Porphyrin-Based Metal-Organic Frameworks

Submitted by Amanda Bowman, Colorado College
Evaluation Methods: 

Students completed this activity in small groups, then turned in individual worksheets. Student learning and performance were assessed through 1) in-class group discussion after they had worked on the activity in small groups, and 2) grading the individual worksheets. Participation was most important in the small-group portion.

Evaluation Results: 

In general, students really enjoyed this exercise and felt that it was helpful for visualizing metal-organic frameworks (particularly the extended 3D structure). They also generally felt that it was helpful in visualizing the bonding sites of metal vertices, particularly for thinking about how that influences potential reactivity. We used Mercury as a visualization software for this discussion, and the majority of students felt very comfortable using Mercury and looking at cifs on their own after this activity.


The biggest challenge for students seemed to be in relating the 3D structure in the cif to the images and chemicals formulas in the article. They also tended to need some hints about question 5 – to think about what information Mössbauer can provide about oxidation state of the metal, or that you can tell whether or not there are two distinct iron environments. In our class, we do brief units on X-ray crystallography including how to use and interpret cifs, and Mössbauer spectroscopy before this literature discussion. If those topics are not already addressed in a particular class it might be helpful to add them in or directly address those topics for the students as an introduction to the literature discussion.


This literature discussion explores the physical structures, electronic structures, and spectroscopic characterization of several porphyrin-based metal-organic frameworks through discussion of “Iron and Porphyrin Metal−Organic Frameworks: Insight into Structural Diversity, Stability, and Porosity,” Fateeva et al. Cryst. Growth Des. 2015, 15, 1819-1826, The activity gives students experience visualizing and interpreting MOF structures, and gives students exposure to some of the methods used to characterize MOFs.

Course Level: 
Learning Goals: 

Students will be able to:

  • Interpret and describe the bonding and structural characteristics of MOFs
  • Apply knowledge of ligand field strength to electronic structure of MOFs
  • Analyze X-ray crystallographic data to gain information about structural characteristics of MOFs
  • Interpret Mössbauer spectra to gain information about electronic structure of MOFs
Implementation Notes: 

This literature discussion was designed for use in an advanced (upper-level) inorganic chemistry course, but could be used in a foundational inorganic course if students have already been introduced to d-splitting diagrams and are given some coverage of Mössbauer spectroscopy and X-ray crystallography. When covering MOFs in class, students frequently expressed that visualizing and understanding the bonding sites and extended 3D structures was very challenging. So, this literature discussion was developed specifically to address that. Students completed this activity in small groups. It is very helpful to advise students ahead of time to bring laptops (or instructor should have some available) and to have the cifs from the paper downloaded and ready to go. We used Mercury as a visualization software for this activity. This activity can easily be completed in one class period. It is also helpful if students have been provided with the article ahead of time and encouraged to look it over – otherwise the most time-consuming part of this activity was allowing time for students to examine the MOF structure images in the paper before being able to discuss and answer the questions with their groups.

Note on visualization of MOFs using Mercury: To answer the discussion questions, we used the ‘stick’ or the ‘ball and stick’ style. We also used the default packing scheme (0.4x0.4x0.4) and the 1x1x1 packing scheme. The packing scheme can be changed by selecting Packing/Slicing… in the Calculate menu. I also had students view the 3x3x3 packing scheme – while this is not necessary to answer the discussion questions, it was interesting for students to be able to visualize the extended structure of the MOFs.


9 Jun 2019

1FLO: PCET and Pourbaix

Submitted by Anne Bentley, Lewis & Clark College
Evaluation Methods: 

I graded each student’s problems as I would any other homework assignment, and they averaged about 80% on that part of the assignment. The other half of the total points for the assignment came from in-class participation.

Evaluation Results: 

We had a rich conversation about this article in class; it was probably one of the most interesting literature discussion conversations I’ve had. Although this was the only introduction to Pourbaix diagrams in the course, 12 of 15 students correctly interpreted a “standard” Pourbaix diagram on a course assessment.



This set of questions is based on a single figure from Rountree et al. Inorg. Chem. 2019, 58, 6647. In this article (“Decoding Proton-Coupled Electron Transfer with Potential-pKa Diagrams”), Jillian Dempsey’s group from the University of North Carolina examined the mechanism by which a nickel-containing catalyst brings about the reduction of H+ to form H2 in non-aqueous solvent. Figure 3 in the article presents an excellent introduction to the use of Pourbaix diagrams and cyclic voltammetry to determine the mechanism of a proton-coupled electron transfer reaction central to the production of hydrogen by a nickel-containing catalyst.

Course Level: 
Learning Goals: 

Students should be able to:

-  identify atoms in a multidentate ligand that can coordinate to a metal as a Lewis base

-  outline the difference between hydride addition to a metal and protonation of a ligand in terms of changes to the overall charge of the complex

-  analyze a Pourbaix diagram to predict the redox potential and pKa of a species

Implementation Notes: 

I have discussed the challenge of integrating literature discussions into my inorganic course in a BITeS post and the VIPEr forums. Each spring I try something a little different. This year I used three articles from the literature to frame our review of course material at the end of the semester, with each literature discussion occupying a one-hour class meeting.

In each case, the students completed problems before coming to class. While these problems were based on the journal articles, they did not require the students to read / consult the journal articles in order to complete the assignment. The students brought an electronic or paper copy of the article to class. I usually put students in groups (approximately 3 per group) and gave each group new questions to work on, which did draw from the article. After some time working in groups, each group presented their material to the rest of the class.

In implementing this particular literature discussion, I didn’t have any further questions for them.  I walked through some of the other figures from the article (especially Figure 1).  We discussed the authors’ use of color in creating Figure 3. We also reviewed the significance of horizontal vs vertical vs diagonal lines. Because I had not covered Pourbaix diagrams in the course, the activity was a good introduction to the concept.

Because these problems don’t require consultation with the article, they are suitable to use on an exam.

Time Required: 


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