Green Chemistry Laboratory

BCGC has been developing new labs for the introductory chemistry course at Cal. Our goal is to incorporate the principles of Green Chemistry into new laboratory experiments that explore the big technological challenges facing society.

The technological challenges that face society are complex and multidisciplinary. Our curriculum captures this reality by evaluating these issues with multiple chemistry techniques.

In our initial set of laboratory exercises, we explore biofuels and the effects of acids in the environment. The biofuels module has students assess the toxicity of four potential biofuels, synthesize biodiesel, and then measure the heat of combustion for various biofuels. By the end of these labs students will be able to compare various biofuel options and make informed assessments of biofuel alternates in a short paper.

The second set of labs helps students explore the effects of air pollutants on aquatic ecosystems. CO2, SOx, and NOx are all biproducts of fossil fuel consumption and can also undergo transformation in aquatic environments. The first lab in the series helps students visualize Henry’s Law. Students make CO2 in a syringe. Then they expose the gas to the surface of indicator solutions which change color as the CO2 dissolves to create carbonic acid and lowers the pH.

The next two labs then introduce titration techniques that can be used to both quantify and identify the acids in aquatic environments. Students report their findings both in a formal lab report and also a short paper describing the effect of air pollution on aquatic environments. While the labs provide the necessary skills and an introduction to quantitative methods, the paper and associated reading help student explore broader implications of this chemistry.

Currently, we are working on labs that relate to chemical products in our daily lives. Initial ideas include a lab looking at the chemistry of food dyes and their natural alternatives, a lab exploring the chemistry of surfactants, and a lab that introduces octanol/water partitioning in the context of bioaccumulation.

Learn more:

Curricular Material 

The BCGC is interested in continuing the tradition of open source curriculum development. We have included drafts of our new green introductory chemistry curriculum below. Please let us know if you are interested in using this curriculum so we can send the latest revisions and share our experience teaching these labs this fall. We have also included links to other online educational resources and communities.


Laboratory Experiments



For more information about these labs, or to obtain a current drafts of the curriculum contact Michelle Douskey.