Virtual Chemistry and Simulations

Two students working on an tablet


Chemistry moves from the lab and the classroom to the computer, as working in a virtual chemistry laboratory and viewing simulations provide additional ways of learning chemistry.

  • PhET Interactive Simulations
    PhET, based at the University of Colorado at Boulder, offers a wide range of interactive simulations in all sciences, with over three dozen chemistry-based simulations. The site states the simulations are extensively tested and evaluated.
  • MERLOT Simulation Collection
    The Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT) at the California State University has collected descriptions and links to a huge number of simulations, with peer review ratings and comments, and information on their appropriateness for various levels.
  • Molecular Workbench
    The Molecular Workbench offers simulations in multiple sciences, along with the tools for both teachers and students to create their own simulations.
  • Chemistry Experiment Simulations and Conceptual Computer Animations
    Iowa State University’s Professor Tom Greenbowe shares many simulations and animations in ten major areas of chemistry, such as gas laws, stoichiometry, kinetics, and more.
  • Virtual Chemistry Experiments
    Professor David N. Blauch from Davidson College presents several interactive experiment simulations on topics such as equilibrium, kinetics, crystal structure, phase changes, gases, and more.
  • ChemCollective: Simulations
    Two of the simulations on the ChemCollective site, Periodic Table and Stoichiometry Applet, are labeled as appropriate for the high school level.
  • Electrolyte Solution Simulation
    A version of an electrolyte solution simulation from John Wiley and Sons is available at the General Chemistry Online! page. It allows the user to select different cations and anions. Data can be logged and downloaded as an Excel spreadsheet.
  • ChemCollective: Virtual Labs
    The ChemCollective site contains many virtual labs, separated into seven categories: stoichiometry, thermochemistry, equilibrium, acid-base chemistry, solubility, redox/electrochemistry, and analytical chemistry/lab techniques. Each lab has an associated problem for students to solve in the virtual laboratory, described on a downloadable assignment sheet.
  • Mixed Reception
    This ChemCollective activity might be described as a murder mystery for chemistry students. Students can “interview” suspects by viewing videos, investigate the crime scene using images, and analyze evidence from the crime lab.
  • ChemVLab+: Evaluating a Virtual Lab Tutor for High School Chemistry
    A 2012 article describes a study evaluating some of the virtual lab activities offered by the ChemCollective.
  • Simulations for Chemistry
    Professor Gary L. Bertrand’s (University of Missouri–Rolla) page offers many simulated experiments, such as “The Case of the Five Droppers,” a virtual presentation of five reagents being mixed in different ways to produce various precipitates and gas bubbles, and a coffee cup calorimeter activity.
  • Virtual Laboratory: Ideal Gas Law
    A virtual lab from the University of Oregon allows one to perform three experiments. The user controls the action of a piston in a pressure chamber filled with an ideal gas, illustrating relationships between temperature, volume, pressure, and molecular weight.
  • Virtual Labs in a Chemistry Classroom
    The ChemCollective virtual labs (linked above) and Virtual ChemLab (a commercially-sold virtual lab product) are reviewed.

(all sites accessed Dec 2012)