Cross Stitching a Chemistry A-Z

I’ve been dabbling in various creative projects during UK lockdown to pass the time. This little project was inspired by embroidery Science A-Zs created by Lauren/@stitching_hew and Breann Abernathy/@biochemist.b on Instagram.

Fiona holding up her finished A-Z cross stitch on an A5 panel of material

Every morning (roughly!) in May, I asked my Instagram followers to suggest words related to chemistry beginning with a particular letter. In the evening, I’d tally up the words and the four most popular were reshared for people to vote on.

I’d then stitch the most popular the following day while suggestions for the next letter came in. It was a really nice way to pass nearly a month of lockdown and I loved feeling more engaged with the online community who follow my account.

Here’s a breakdown of what each image represents…

A: Atom – the particles that make up everything

B: Benzene – C6H6, a particularly stable arrangement of carbon and hydrogen in a hexagonal ring with a special “aromatic” bonding character. This ring system is really important in organic chemistry.

C: Crystals – A type of solid structure where atoms and molecules line up in a uniform fashion.

D: DNA – Deoxyribose nucleic acid, a biomolecule that stores the genetic instructions needed by cells to make proteins and enzymes.

E: Enzyme – A biological catalyst, a biomolecule that speeds up a reaction.

F: Fullerene – C60, for example, a spherical form of carbon atoms, of interest in a field of chemistry called nanochemistry.

G: Glucose – C6H12O6, a type of sugar.

H: Hydrogen bonds – A specific type of force that can occur between certain combinations of atoms due to the unequal way they share electrons. Hydrogen bonds partially explain why water has particularly unusual properties.

I: Isomerism – When two molecules have the same chemical formula but the atoms are arranged differently. There are different types of isomerism, some more subtle than others.

J: J-J coupling – A measure used in NMR analysis to quantify the gap between doublet/triplet/other multiplet peaks in spectra. The value of this number relates to what types of atoms are next to each other.

K: Ketone – R-C=O-R, a particular arrangement of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen atoms.

L: Ligand – Ligand has two slightly different meanings. It can relate to a molecule that interacts with a protein in chemical biology, or relate to an atom or molecule that coordinates around a metal in a structure known as a metal complex.

M: Mole – Not the animal! Chemists use the word “mole” to refer to a specific large number of atoms/molecules/ions, a bit like the word “dozen”.

N: Neutron – A neutrally charged subatomic particle that is found in the central nucleus of an atom. It contributes to an element’s molecular weight.

O: Orbital – Regions around an atom’s nucleus where the probability of finding an electron are high.

P: Piperazine – C4H10N2, a particular arrangement of carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen.

Q: Quartz – A mineral, made up of silicate (SiO4) units.

R: Rotary Evaporator – A type of lab ware that helps to remove liquids from reactions at lower than normal temperatures by boiling the reaction mixture under low air pressure.

S: Suzuki-Miyaura coupling – A Nobel Prize-winning reaction that uses a palladium catalyst to form carbon-carbon bonds. It’s a very important reaction in medicinal chemistry.

T: Titration – An analytical method that accurately measures the volume required for a particular change to occur when mixing two solutions.

U: Universal indicator – A green liquid that changes to any of a variety of colours depending on the acidity (pH) of a solution.

V: Van der Waals forces – Momentary interactions that can occur between molecules when electrons are randomly distributed around a molecule.

W: Water – H2O, a common liquid and solvent.

X: X-ray crystallography – A technique used to view molecules in 3D by firing X-rays at crystalline samples.

Y: Ylide – A zwitterionic molecule that is a key reagent in the Wittig reaction used to change carbonyls bonds (C=O) into alkenes (C=C).

Z: Zwitterion – An ionic compound that has two charges e.g. at particular pH levels, an amino acid would be both positively and negatively charged.

The chemistry A-Z in a silver frame

If you suggested a word or voted on your favourite, thank you for taking part in my cross stitch chemistry A-Z! Now to find my next project….

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