Learning
Chemistry

Why Study Chemistry?

VCE Chemistry enables students to examine a range of chemical, biochemical and geophysical phenomena through the exploration of the nature of chemicals and chemical processes. In undertaking this study, students apply chemical principles to explain and quantify the behaviour of matter, as well as undertake practical activities that involve the analysis and synthesis of a variety of materials.

In VCE Chemistry students develop a range of inquiry skills involving practical experimentation and research specific to the knowledge of the discipline, analytical skills including critical and creative thinking, and communication skills. Students use scientific and cognitive skills and understanding to analyse contemporary chemistry-related issues, and communicate their views from an informed position.

VCE Chemistry provides for continuing study pathways within the discipline and leads to a range of careers. Branches of chemistry include organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, analytical chemistry, physical chemistry and biochemistry. In addition, chemistry is applied in many fields of endeavour including agriculture, bushfire research, dentistry, dietetics, education, engineering, environmental sciences, forensic science, forestry, horticulture, medicine, metallurgy, meteorology, pharmacy, sports science, toxicology, veterinary science and viticulture.

Structure

The study is made up of four units:

Unit 1: How can the diversity of materials be explained?

Unit 2: What makes water such a unique chemical?

Unit 3: How can chemical processes be designed to optimise efficiency?

Unit 4: How are organic compounds categorised, analysed and used?



Unit 1: How can the diversity of materials be explained?

The development and use of materials for specific purposes is an important human endeavour. In this unit students investigate the chemical properties of a range of materials from metals and salts to polymers and nanomaterials. Using their knowledge of elements and atomic structure students explore and explain the relationships between properties, structure and bonding forces within and between particles that vary in size from the visible, through nanoparticles, to molecules and atoms.

Students examine the modification of metals, assess the factors that affect the formation of ionic crystals and investigate a range of non-metallic substances from molecules to polymers and giant lattices and relate their structures to specific applications.

Students are introduced to quantitative concepts in chemistry including the mole concept. They apply their knowledge to determine the relative masses of elements and the composition of substances. Throughout the unit students use chemistry terminology including symbols, formulas, chemical nomenclature and equations to represent and explain observations and data from experiments, and to discuss chemical phenomena.

Area of Study 1

How can knowledge of elements explain the properties of matter?\

Outcome 1

On completion of this unit the student should be able to relate the position of elements in the periodic table to their properties, investigate the structures and properties of metals and ionic compounds, and calculate mole quantities.

Area of Study 2

How can the versatility of non-metals be explained?

Outcome 2

On completion of this unit the student should be able to investigate and explain the properties of carbon lattices and molecular substances with reference to their structures and bonding, use systematic nomenclature to name organic compounds, and explain how polymers can be designed for a purpose.

Area of Study 3

Research investigation

Outcome 3

On completion of this unit the student should be able to investigate a question related to the development, use and/or modification of a selected material or chemical and communicate a substantiated response to the question.

 

Unit 2: What makes water such a unique chemical?

Water is the most widely used solvent on Earth. In this unit students explore the physical and chemical properties of water, the reactions that occur in water and various methods of water analysis.

Students examine the polar nature of a water molecule and the intermolecular forces between water molecules. They explore the relationship between these bonding forces and the physical and chemical properties of water. In this context students investigate solubility, concentration, pH and reactions in water including precipitation, acid-base procedures, and apply these to determine concentrations of different species in water samples, including chemical contaminants. They use chemistry terminology including symbols, units, formulas and equations to represent and explain observations and data from experiments, and to discuss chemical phenomena. Students explore the solvent properties of water in a variety of contexts and analyse selected issues associated with substances dissolved in water.

Area of Study 1

How do substances interact with water?

Outcome 1

On completion of this unit the student should be able to relate the properties of water to its structure and bonding, and explain the importance of the properties and reactions of water in selected contexts.

Area of Study 2

How are substances in water measured and analysed?

Outcome 2

On completion of this unit the student should be able to measure amounts of dissolved substances in water and analyse water samples for salts, organic compounds and acids and bases.

Area of Study 3

Practical investigation

Outcome 3

On completion of this unit the student should be able to design and undertake a quantitative laboratory investigation related to water quality, and draw conclusions based on evidence from collected data.

 

Unit 3: How can chemical processes be designed to optimise efficiency?

The global demand for energy and materials is increasing with world population growth. In this unit students explore energy options and the chemical production of materials with reference to efficiencies, renewability and the minimisation of their impact on the environment.

Students compare and evaluate different chemical energy resources, including fossil fuels, biofuels, galvanic cells and fuel cells. They investigate the combustion of fuels, including the energy transformations involved, the use of stoichiometry to calculate the amounts of reactants and products involved in the reactions, and calculations of the amounts of energy released and their representations. Students consider the purpose, design and operating principles of galvanic cells, fuel cells and electrolytic cells. In this context they use the electrochemical series to predict and write half and overall redox equations, and apply Faraday’s laws to calculate quantities in electrolytic reactions.

Students analyse manufacturing processes with reference to factors that influence their reaction rates and extent. They investigate and apply the equilibrium law and Le Chatelier’s principle to different reaction systems, including to predict and explain the conditions that will improve the efficiency and percentage yield of chemical processes. They use the language and conventions of chemistry including symbols, units, chemical formulas and equations to represent and explain observations and data collected from experiments, and to discuss chemical phenomena

Area of Study 1

What are the options for energy production?

Outcome 1

On completion of this unit the student should be able to compare fuels quantitatively with reference to combustion products and energy outputs, apply knowledge of the electrochemical series to design, construct and test galvanic cells, and evaluate energy resources based on energy efficiency, renewability and environmental impact.

Area of Study 2

How can the yield of a chemical product be optimised?

Outcome 2

On completion of this unit the student should be able to apply rate and equilibrium principles to predict how the rate and extent of reactions can be optimised, and explain how electrolysis is involved in the production of chemicals and in the recharging of batteries.

 

Unit 4: How are organic compounds categorised, analysed and used?

The carbon atom has unique characteristics that explain the diversity and number of organic compounds that not only constitute living tissues but are also found in the fuels, foods, medicines and many of the materials we use in everyday life. In this unit students investigate the structural features, bonding, typical reactions and uses of the major families of organic compounds including those found in food.

Students study the ways in which organic structures are represented and named. They process data from instrumental analyses of organic compounds to confirm or deduce organic structures, and perform volumetric analyses to determine the concentrations of organic chemicals in mixtures. Students consider the nature of the reactions involved to predict the products of reaction pathways and to design pathways to produce particular compounds from given starting materials.

Students investigate key food molecules through an exploration of their chemical structures, the hydrolytic reactions in which they are broken down and the condensation reactions in which they are rebuilt to form new molecules. In this context the role of enzymes and coenzymes in facilitating chemical reactions is explored. Students use calorimetry as an investigative tool to determine the energy released in the combustion of foods.

Area of Study 1

How can the diversity of carbon compounds be explained and categorised?

Outcome 1

On completion of this unit the student should be able to compare the general structures and reactions of the major organic families of compounds, deduce structures of organic compounds using instrumental analysis data, and design reaction pathways for the synthesis of organic molecules.

Area of Study 2

What is the chemistry of food?

Outcome 2

On completion of this unit the student should be able to distinguish between the chemical structures of key food molecules, analyse the chemical reactions involved in the metabolism of the major components of food including the role of enzymes, and calculate the energy content of food using calorimetry.

Area of Study 3

Practical investigation

Outcome 3

On the completion of this unit the student should be able to design and undertake a practical investigation related to energy and/or food, and present methodologies, findings and conclusions in a scientific poster.

Assessment

Satisfactory completion

The award of satisfactory completion for a unit is based on a decision that the student has demonstrated achievement of the set of outcomes specified for the unit. This decision will be based on the teacher’s assessment of the student’s performance on assessment tasks designated for the unit.

Levels of achievement

Units 1 and 2

School based Assessment Tasks and Exams. 

Units 3 and 4

The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority supervises the assessment of all students undertaking Units 3 and 4.

Percentage contributions to the study score in VCE Chemistry are as follows:

Unit 3 School-assessed Coursework  16%
Unit 4 School-assessed Coursework 24%
End-of-year examination 60%