I don’t remember what it was that triggered my curiosity and love for chemistry. The reason I don’t remember is because it was not as if there was one reaction, then a series of propagation steps (like a free radical reaction), and then finally I just stuck with the subject. No, it was not like that. From the little things in middle school, to the big things in current research, there have been countless moments that I share with chemistry, that leave me intrigued and yet blissful.
There are numerous stunning reactions, and then there are the breathtaking results. In chemistry results are not only seen or measured, they are heard or even smelt. In the true sense of the word these results are not just an “eye-opener”, they open more senses than one. A deeper sense that is often overlooked is the sense of intuition. When I grew up enough to fully understand this word, I realised the extent to which my study of chemistry had sharpened this sense for me. For instance if I consider a time when I had no training whatsoever in cookery, I had to make a dish containing a vegetable, chilli powder, salt and turmeric. There seemed to be a sense of proportion that came into play while making this, which might have had its roots in my early classes of stoichiometry. Especially while adding the turmeric, the degree of “yellowness” of the dish was an easy task to estimate, though it was my first attempt. The keen eye for colour intensity or the ability to distinguish between shades of the same colour is developed by carefully observing the colour of universal indicator over a range of pH.
Mastering the colours
My toughest test of colour to master was during a redox titration: iodometry. This involves the estimation of iodine in potassium iodide solution (brown coloured) by reducing it to iodide (colourless) by the use of sodium thiosulphate solution of known concentration. The equation for the reduction of iodine by thiosulphate is as follows:
The author is a chemistry teacher with an M.S in Chemical Sciences from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research. Her research specialisation is in Nanoscience, which she worked on at the Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai. She can be reached at [email protected].