Breaking Good? A-Level Chemists Extract Concentrated Caffeine at the University of Bristol
Fifteen Chemistry students from Year 12 spent a day at Bristol University’s superb undergraduate teaching laboratories. The laboratories are amongst the very best in the world and gave our students a chance to experience world class facilities.
Having donned the obligatory lab coats, safety glasses and blue gloves, the practical task was to extract caffeine from tea leaves. Each group was presented with a beaker containing ten tea bags in hot water. They used solvents and equipment not normally available at school. The equipment included Buchner funnels, heating mantles, separation funnels and vacuum distillation apparatus. After two hours of intense laboratory work, each group was left with a small amount of solid caffeine which had a familiar aroma. They then tested its composition using an infra-red spectrometer, and its purity using melting point apparatus.
In the afternoon there were two lectures. The first looked at amazing research into the creation of anti-cancer drugs starting with simple sugars. The second was a demonstration lecture about the gases in the air. There was liquid nitrogen, exploding balloons, dry ice and Harry Potter-style Chemistry to amuse and educate.
Many thanks to the Chemistry Department at the University for laying on a fantastic day. Following a successful ‘Futures Week’, the day whetted the Chemists’ appetite for the many opportunities that lie ahead.