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Ci Newsletter #16: How solar panels work & musical molecules

Andy @ Compound Interest
Andy @ Compound Interest
Welcome to another fortnightly edition of the Ci Newsletter! This month’s newsletter features a new infographic on how solar panels work, sobering statistics on racial inequalities in chemistry, music generated from molecular structures, and more!

How do solar panels generate electricity?
Click to view graphic on the C&EN site
Click to view graphic on the C&EN site
The current energy crisis has reenergised conversations around the switch to renewable resources. Solar panels are one of the options, so in this month’s edition of Periodic Graphics in C&EN, I took a look at how these panels generate electricity and some of the present and potential materials used in them.
National Bunsen burner day
Click to view and download this graphic on the Ci site
Click to view and download this graphic on the Ci site
It’s National Bunsen burner day tomorrow, so here’s a handy graphic looking at the design of the eponymous burner which remains a common feature in secondary school chemistry labs. Although Bunsen gets the credit for the invention of the burner named after him, it was actually produced by his colleague, Peter Desaga, who perfected an earlier design of Michael Faraday’s.
Missing Elements: Racial and ethnic inequalities in the chemical sciences
Click to read the RSC's report
Click to read the RSC's report
I was astounded to read, in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s recent report on racial and ethnic inequalities in the chemical sciences, that of the 575 chemistry professors working in the UK, only one is black: Prof Robert Mokaya, of the University of Nottingham. The report is full of other sobering statistics, showing that black and minoritised ethnic people face structural barriers in both academia and industry which lead to their exclusion and marginalisation – to the detriment of chemistry. The full report is well worth a read.
International guitar month
April is almost here, and you probably didn’t know it’s International Guitar Month. As a keen player myself, I put this graphic together a few years ago looking at exactly how electric guitars work, and some of the elements and polymers involved. Then I called it ‘the chemistry of an electric guitar’ to annoy physicists.
Weeds & food: a chemical link
Andy Brunning
Been removing plenty of this weed from the garden, which I’ve learned is a hairy bittercress – and which is edible! Tastes kind of like rocket, with the bitterness due to the presence of similar glucosinolate compounds #WeedAppreciationDay
A spell of uncharacteristically pleasant English weather got me out into the garden over the past week, where I found it overrun by these round-leaved weeds. In the pauses between the backbreaking work of removing them from the flowerbeds, I found myself wondering what they are and how they’ve managed to infest our garden so efficiently.
And there the wondering might have stopped, but in the age of apps for literally everything, I was able to use one of those wildlife identification apps to discover that this is a ‘hairy bittercress’ – and that it’s also edible.
This is probably a good point at which to point out that you probably shouldn’t trust an app on your phone to know what’s edible and what’s poisonous. But anyway, after some independent verification, I had a nibble. If you’re wondering, it’s a bit like cress crossed with rocket.
This is where the interesting chemistry comes in, because the bitterness that evokes rocket is actually due to the same family of compounds: glucosinolates. These break down when you chew the leaves to form bitter tasting isothiocyanate compounds.
So there you have it, chemistry is everywhere, even in mundane garden tasks!
Chemistry news and features
The secrets of the sulfur cycle
And finally, musical molecules:
Andrew S. Rosen
In all seriousness, I absolutely love this. Molecules to sheet music! Vincristine is a total bop.

From the @ChemRxiv pre-print "Molecular Sonification for Molecule to Music Information Transfer":
That’s it for another fortnight – keep an eye out for the next issue, which I might actually manage to publish on a Tuesday as originally intended. Until then, if you’ve got any questions, comments, or suggestions, do email me and let me know!
Thanks for reading,
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Andy @ Compound Interest
Andy @ Compound Interest @compoundchem

Topical chemistry graphics and other interesting chemistry-related nuggets from across the web. Sent fortnightly.

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