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Molecular Music: the sound of chemistry

Each year, one of the Royal Society Partnership Grants schools is selected to exhibit alongside the UK's best research scientists at the Summer Science Exhibition

At the 2019 Exhibition, the selected school was Ilkley Grammar School and their project ‘Molecular Music – the sound of chemistry’.

Sixth form students from the chemistry and music departments have been working with researchers from the University of Bradford to explore vibrations in the bonds of molecules such as water, caffeine and less well known substances like Cinnamic acid and 4-bromoaniline.

By using infrared radiation to measure the vibrations in the molecules via an IR spectrometer, the students used simple mathematics to convert the short wavelengths of the light energy into longer wavelengths of sound energy. This allows them to represent the vibrations in the molecules as musical notes.

Working alongside their music department, the Ilkley chemistry students have been able to produce a range of musical pieces to represent their molecules. They hope that by exploring molecules in this multi-disciplinary way, they will be able to find out something new about the molecules around them.

Ilkley Grammar School is a secondary school based in West Yorkshire, and teachers Neil and Aaron supported the project. They worked with two researchers, Dr Nicolas Barry and Dr William Martin, from the University of Bradford. 

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