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Why Learn Chemistry?. Chemistry is Hard! I don’t want to be a chemist. Why Learn Chemistry?. Chemistry helps you to better understand the world we live in and the way the world works. It is also a required course for graduation. Why Learn Chemistry?.

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Why learn chemistry

Why Learn Chemistry?

Chemistry is Hard!

I don’t want to be a chemist.

Why learn chemistry1

Why Learn Chemistry?

Chemistry helps you to better understand the world we live in and the way the world works.

It is also a required course for graduation.

Why learn chemistry2
Why Learn Chemistry?

Many occupations require some knowledge of chemistry, including:





Landscape Architect





Food preparation


Why learn chemistry3
Why Learn Chemistry?

Chemistry will make you a more informed citizen. Many of the choices you will face in the future will be better made if you understand chemistry.

Chemistry will make other sciences easier to understand.

Chemistry is everywhere and has been for hundreds of years!

Why learn chemistry4
Why Learn Chemistry?

  • Chemistry was important to the early settlers of the Housatonic Valley.

    • Part of this region was settled to take advantage of the iron deposits.

    • The Housatonic Valley supplied 80% of the cannons for the American Revolution.

    • The process required an oxidation-reduction reaction.

      • Relax, we will go over this later in the year.

Beckley furnace

Beckley furnace3
Beckley Furnace

  • In order to produce “Pig” iron specific quantities of material were needed.

    • The exact number of bushels of charcoal, known as “coke.”

    • The correct mix of limestone, “flux”, and iron ore.

    • Oxygen was needed to feed the furnace.

    • Water was required to keep the furnace from overheating

The reactions

  • Charcoal combined with oxygen

    • 2C + O2  2CO

  • The carbon monoxide reduced the iron ore

    • 3Fe2O3 + CO  2Fe3O4 + CO2

      • This is an intermediate step. The next reaction was

    • Fe3O4 + CO  3FeO + CO2

      • Another intermediate, but finally

    • FeO + CO  Fe + CO2

The rest of the reaction
The Rest of the Reaction

  • Iron ore was reduced to iron and the dense liquid was released onto the floor to make pigs.

    • Density, another important concept!

  • The limestone, CaCO3, was converted to lime, CaO.

    • Lime changed the properties of the waste products, slag.

    • The slag remained a liquid that was less dense than the iron and easily removed!

The amazing part
The Amazing Part

Antoine Lavoisier, the father of modern chemistry, had only recently (~1778) done work that showed oxygen and other gases were separate molecules.

John Dalton had just published (1802) his atomic theory that proposed atoms were individual, indestructible units.

Why learn chemistry5
Why Learn Chemistry?

  • Oxidation-reduction (redox) is commonly used today.

    • InterPrint uses this process to make their waste products non-toxic.

    • Hexavalent chromium, Cr+6, is reduced to trivalent chromium, Cr+3.

      • Cr+6 is soluble and a carcinogen

      • Cr+3 is insoluble and easily removed from the waste H2O

    • 2H2CrO4 + 3NaHSO3 + H2SO4  Cr2(SO4)3 + 5H2O + 3NaHSO4

More history
More History

  • Zenas Crane founded his paper mill in Dalton in 1801

  • The process used rags to make paper and required a sophisticated (and proprietary) process to convert rags into paper and still does today.

  • This process was used to start making banknotes in 1842.

Crane paper
Crane Paper

  • Crane & Co. still uses rags to paper today.

  • Their proprietary process also involves flax, the same material used to make linen.

  • All of the raw materials used to make paper come from waste products.

  • Process waste includes NaHClO (bleach) and NaOH.

    • Crane & Co. developed their own waste processing facility in the early 1970s.

Waste and chemistry
Waste and Chemistry

  • Waste products were typically dumped in the rivers and surrounding areas in the early days of settlement.

  • Charcoal “pits” for the manufacturing of charcoal would leach arsenic, wood alcohol and other toxins into the ground and rivers

  • Soil and rivers were rendered lifeless.

Waste and chemistry1
Waste and Chemistry

  • In the early 1900s charcoal distillation was moved indoors to capture the toxins.

    • This was not done for altruism.

  • The furnace owners discovered they could sell the chemical waste so they developed a chemical processing plant.

    • Making useful products from waste has had a long history thanks to chemistry!

    • Some waste products are, unfortunately, not recovered.


  • General Electric started using polychlorinated biphenyls for making transformers in 1930.

    • The first documented health issues were in 1937.

  • PCBs were important in the transformer industry because of their chemical properties.

    • Non-conducting

    • Non-flammable

    • Non-degrading

  • PCB contaminated wastes were used for land fills and dumped in the Housatonic River.


Each Z can represent a chlorine or a hydrogen


  • PCBs are still in the sediment of the Housatonic River

  • Any activity that stirs up the sediment will put PCB’s into the water and impact wildlife.

    • Tornado

    • Flood

    • Hurricane

    • Dredging?

Housatonic river
Housatonic River

  • Painted turtles have made a comeback

Housatonic river1
Housatonic River

  • Wood turtles are still endangered


  • Another issue confronting industry yesterday and today is energy.

  • All chemical reactions require energy.

    • Energy of activation is required to start reactions

    • Even if the reaction is exothermic (gives off energy)

  • Energy is an important field of study in chemistry

    • Thermodynamics

  • Energy also effects the rate of reaction

    • Kinetics


  • Today we think of energy in terms of

    • Electricity

    • Internal combustion engines

    • Heat for our homes

  • Energy also drives our industry

  • No matter how it is obtained, energy is an important concept we will study in chemistry


  • Early industry used water for energy

  • Potential energy (water stored behind a dam) was converted to kinetic energy when the water moved through a pipe.

  • This energy resulted in mechanical energy that turned wheels, saw blades and fed oxygen into a furnace by moving a bellows.


  • The dam at Beckley Furnace


  • The water was directed through a turbine.


  • Saw Mill Turbine, similar to the turbine that powered the furnace


  • Crane Paper used water power in 1801.

  • Today Crane uses ~$7 million worth of electricity each year.

  • Energy is a growing concern today.

  • Chemists have worked to find new, more efficient ways to obtain energy.


  • Wind power on Jiminy Peak


  • Solar power on local farms

Why learn chemistry6
Why Learn Chemistry?

  • Chemistry has resulted in industrial advances and improvements in agricultural yields.

  • Chemistry has also resulted in serious problems because of our neglect and unwillingness to look at the whole picture.

    • Global warming

    • Ozone depletion

    • Fish kills and loss of arable land

    • Increased number and strength of hurricanes?

Why learn chemistry7
Why Learn Chemistry?

  • Mississippi River dead zone from an excess of nutrients.

Why learn chemistry8
Why Learn Chemistry?

  • W. E. B. Du Bois said:

    I was born by a golden river and in the shadow of two great hills.(Dusk of Dawn, 1940)

  • The golden river was the Housatonic, golden in color because of pollution

Why learn chemistry9
Why Learn Chemistry?

  • Chemistry impacts our daily lives,whether it is in our history, our waste, or our efforts to find new ways to do our work

  • Chemistry is important to us all!

  • The more we know, the better we will be equipped to help ourselves.

Why learn chemistry10
Why Learn Chemistry?

Chemistry will make you a better problem solver. You will learn new ways to look at problems and find better solutions.

Chemistry is part of the path toward meeting our mission…

Pittsfield high school s mission statement
Pittsfield High School’s Mission Statement

“Our mission is to empower all students to become contributing members of the global community.”


MCLA Class, The Upper Housatonic Valley, July, 2007

Kirby, Ed. “Echoes of Iron In Connecticut’s Northwest Corner,” Sharon Historical Society, Sharon, CT, 1998

Furash, Mary. The State of One Small Family Business: Crane & Co., Goldhirsh Group, Inc., 1996