29 Jun 2010

Molecular Origami: Precision Scale Models from Paper, by Robert M. Hanson


Submitted by Randall Hicks, Wheaton College

This book called to me given my fascination with both origami and molecular model kits. While not a textbook in the true sense, the content of the book is pertinent to topics of molecular structure and symmetry and is therefore potentially valuable in both general and inorganic chemistry courses. In addition to the plans for constructing all the models (~125), there is a small amount of background information. Granted, many of these models could more easily be made using traditional model kits, but I had fun building them from paper. The first section has simple shapes and ideas, while latter sections of the book build up to more complex shapes and larger models. Essentially, all the VSEPR shapes are represented and some larger solid state structures can be built from these smaller units. In fact, I folded 12 octahedra and a tetrahedron to construct a model of a Keggin ion to illustrate SiW12O404-, which we were synthesizing in the lab at the time. Building the models could take some time to master, but the author has included some basic origami instrcutions to help you along.  

I have not used this book formally in the classroom, but rather I have folded some of the models and used them in class. Having students do this in class would not be the best use of class time, but I could envision handing out copies and having students fold "molecules" on their own time and bring them back to class to share. The book contains some extra copies of the models and the pages are perforated for ease in removing and copying. In fact, it's better to copy the pages onto a lighter stock paper for easier folding.

The bottom line: A useful book to someone interested in building models to exemplify molecular shapes. 

Creative Commons License: 
Creative Commons Licence


Randy, this looks really neat.  Could you attach a file or post a LO that has some pictures of the models you made?  I've having a hard time visualizing them.  neat!


Thanks, Randy. It was great fun writing this book, and in fact I have used it several times at the first-year level both in our interim Chemistry 123 course and in Chemistry 121, both first-year courses. The basis of this work can be found in an article Sarah Bergman and I wrote,  Data-Driven Chemistry: Building Models of Molecular Structure (Literally) from Electron Diffraction Data.A website with most of these models is also available: Cool Molecules, and there is also more general information at http://www.stolaf.edu/depts/chemistry/mo. Enjoy!


Bob Hanson Professor of Chemistry St. Olaf College

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