Press Release for ChemTube3D - Interactive 3D animations and structures

May 2015 - 797,000 unique visits, 213 countries in year to 1 May 2015, up 50% from previous year

ChemTube3D is a freely available web site based at the University of Liverpool aimed at students, lecturers and practising chemists. It contains interactive 3D animations and structures, with supporting information for some of the most important topics covered during an undergraduate chemistry degree. The five major sections cover Organic Mechanisms, Organic Structure and Bonding, Inorganic Chemistry, Polymers and A level topics. It was created by Nick Greeves, one of the authors of the textbook “Organic Chemistry” OUP with Jonathan Clayden and Stuart Warren, as a companion resource. It was built by Liverpool undergraduates for undergraduates worldwide with expert input from other Liverpool staff.

Following the success of the custom URL linking from textbook page to related web page and the reverse from web page to textbook using the thumbnail image of the cover, the same approach was used to support the publication of Inorganic Chemistry 6th edition by Weller et al. (OUP) and Chemistry3 2nd edition by Burrows et al. (OUP). This illustrates successful connection of an online OER to traditional textbooks which enhnaces both resources for the benefit of students.

Each organic mechanism page contains some information about the reaction, and an intuitive interactive reaction scheme that controls the display. 3D curly arrows indicate the reaction mechanism and the entire sequence from starting materials via transition state to products is displayed with animated bond-breaking and forming and animated charges and lone pairs. The entire process is under the user’s control in 3D and can be viewed from any angle, unlike those that show a single view. The new resizable window button produces a larger window with a range of control options, which is ideal for projection in lectures, and any desired view can be exported as an image for reuse.

At present there are hundreds of different animated reaction sequences ranging from simple nucleophilic substitutions (SN2) to rearrangements, fragmentations and palladium catalysed catalytic cycles with supporting pages devoted to atomic and molecular orbitals, electrostatic surfaces and vibrations. January 2014 saw the release of two large sections devoted to Inorganic Chemistry including structure, bonding and symmetry and a gallery of rotatable structures.

ChemTube3D uses the open source viewer JSmol to display the animations so users can interact with the animated 3D structures using the pop-up menu or console using only a web browser. It is ideal for personalised learning and open-ended investigation is possible.

As a result of the JISC supported iChem3D project we have developed a selection of learning designs intended to lead the reader through the opportunities created by the 3D animations. Once this way of working has been learned it can be applied to all the other animations on the site. The entire site was part of the UK Physical Sciences centre Open Educational Resources (OER) project Skills for Scientists.

ChemTube3D had more than 797,000 visitors from 213 countries in the last year. There is a facebook page and personality to raise queries about the chemistry or the site and contributions are welcome.

We will continue to expand and refine the site in the future.

ChemTube3D was developed at the University of Liverpool by the ChemTube3D team which has benefited from the hard work and invention of 27 undergraduates over seven years.

We gratefully acknowledge support from the Higher Education Academy UK Physical Sciences centre , EPSRC and JISC and EPSRC Complex Materials Discovery Portfolio Partnership, HEA National Teaching Fellowship, and the University of Liverpool.