Chemistry in your world

Curious about what recent Chem/Biochem graduates are doing?

Do you know how often you encounter chemistry in your every day life?

Can you describe how chemistry is involved in the following real world products?

  • Transition lenses
  • Vehicle airbags
  • Biodegradable plastics
  • Antibiotics

Transition lenses

Photochromic lenses contain an organic dye that has the ability to darken when exposed to ultraviolet light from the sun as a result of a change in chemical structure. This structural change is completely reversible, which allows the lenses to return to their clear state when indoors.

transition lenses

Vehicle airbags

Airbag inflation occurs as a result of a chemical reaction. Sodium azide (NaN3) will decompose to produce large quantities of nitrogen gas (N2) which will inflate the air bag to protect you during a car accident.

vehicle air bag

Biodegradable plastics

Plastics are a polymer material that we use every day. The chemical structures of several plastics have been re-designed to create bioplastics, which are made of PLA and PHA (and other variations). These new plastic materials are much more environmentally friendly as they can be made from renewable resources (not fossil fuels), and will biodegrade in much less time than traditional plastic materials.

biodegradable plastics


Vancomycin is a potent antibiotic, often prescribed as the “last-resort” treatment for infections that do not respond to other antibiotics. It has a complex chemical structure composed of peptide and glycoside fragments. Vancomycin was first isolated in 1953, and is currently synthesized by medicinal chemists for therapeutic use.


Explore Careers in Chemistry

The American Chemical Society and the Royal Society of Chemistry have very good websites that explore various careers in chemistry. Please visit these sites to see the many career options that chemists can pursue.