Invisibility Cloaks and Hot Reactions: Applying Infrared Thermography in the Chemistry Education Laboratory

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Copyright © 2020 American Chemical Society and Division of Chemical Education, Inc. Infrared (IR) thermography renders invisible infrared radiation with intuitive coloration in images and videos taken of objects, reactions, and processes. Educators can take advantage of this technology to extend students' sensory perception of chemical reactions or processes that absorb or release heat in rich detail. In theory, IR thermography can be applied essentially universally for such analysis given that any change in thermal energy must result in, or from, the change of potential energy due to the interactions among atoms, molecules, and photons. Through the use of IR thermography, students can visualize otherwise invisible evidence of what is occurring on the molecular level in a variety of chemical process such as evaporative cooling, phase change, dissolution, titration, and enzymatic reactions. While not new, IR cameras are rapidly becoming affordable with models that connect easily with smartphones and tablets. The price decrease has opened the door for large-scale implementation in the chemistry education laboratory. We report here several laboratory activities and best practices that will facilitate the exploration of specific chemistry concepts through the use of infrared thermography, as well as integration of this technique into existing general chemistry laboratory courses.

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Journal of Chemical Education

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