About Molecular Symmetry Online
Creating molecules from atoms, molecular behavior in a given physical and chemical environment, and chemical reactions are all phenomena based on the chemical bond. Understanding the chemical bond and the way molecules are created requires in-depth understanding of the electronic structure of atoms and molecules. Symmetry is an important tool in this field. The laws of symmetry enable us to determine why certain bonds are formed while others are not, why certain electronic transitions are allowed while others are forbidden and what chemical reactions may take place under given conditions.
The topic of symmetry is examined in various stages of chemistry studies and at varying degrees of complexity. At the Open University, the topic is studied in the courses Inorganic Chemistry and Symmetry. Symmetry in chemistry and group theory are discussed extensively in the course Quantum Theory II: The Chemical Bond.
To understand the laws of symmetry, one must first learn how to identify symmetry elements in molecular structures. This is not trivial since although in various textbooks molecules are presented as two-dimensional and static, they have dynamic and three-dimensional structures. Identifying symmetry elements becomes more complex as the number of atoms in the molecule increases and the structure becomes more ramified. The Molecular Symmetry Online website was designed to ease the process of acquiring this skill. The site is a virtual learning environment based on a set of tools that enable three-dimensional and interactive display of molecules and their symmetry elements.
An article describing the Molecular Symmetry Online website and a preliminary evaluation of the way students learn through the site was published in Chemistry Education Research and Practice. For details, click here.