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5 Ways to Make Aromatic Compound Nomenclature More Approachable to Students

Usama Attiq
Teaching with Labster
October 27, 2022

Introduction: Aromatic compound nomenclature

Aromatic compounds belong to organic chemistry and are also called arenes. Aromatic compounds are those hydrocarbons that contain a benzene ring or other structures related to the ring. In other terms, aromatic compounds have conjugated planar ring systems with delocalized pi-electrons. The main examples of aromatic compounds are benzene and toluene.

Aromatic compounds can be divided into two types; benzenoids and non-benzenoids. Benzenoids are those aromatic compounds that contain a benzene ring in them. Examples of benzenoids are aniline, acetophenone, and phenol. Non-benzenoids are those compounds that contain rings other than benzene rings. For example, furan is an example of a non-benzenoids.

In aromatic compounds, benzene acts as a parent molecule which consists of six hydrogen atoms. These hydrogen bonds give an unsaturation nature to benzene compounds. The carbon atoms are alternatively attached with a single bond and a double bond. There is no true bond present between the atoms of the benzene compound. The compound has hybrid single and double bonds in it. The pi electrons of the benzene compound have the ability to move freely around the ring. These are also delocalized electrons that can move without making a confined bond between two atoms. The benzene ring is the least reactive and more stable compound than the straight-chain compounds. There are several benzene derivatives such as xylene, toluene, and styrene.

Several aspects of aromatic compound nomenclature can be difficult for students to learn. At Labster, we compiled all the complexities students experience while learning about aromatic compound nomenclature. Then, we provide five different methods to make this topic more accessible for students to understand. In the end, we will convince you why a virtual lab simulation effectively explains the aromatic compound nomenclature to the students. 

Why aromatic compound nomenclature can be tricky to learn

Aromatic compound nomenclature is a complex topic, so some reasons make this topic difficult to learn.

1. It feels abstract

In aromatic compound nomenclature, students need to learn about several abstract concepts. The molecules of aromatic compounds are so small that you cannot see them with the naked eye. The structures of benzene and derivatives of benzene are also abstract concepts. It is hard for students to remember the nomenclature of aromatic compounds without seeing the original structures.

2. It's complicated

The nomenclature of aromatic compounds is classified into three categories; monosubstituted, disubstituted, and trisubstituted. In disubstituted, there are several prefixes according to the position of the second substituent. These are ortho, meta, and para. The formation of structures of derivatives of benzene is also difficult for students to remember. Students do not like learning about aromatic compound nomenclature because it is a complicated and time-consuming topic.

3. It’s content-heavy

You cannot memorize the aromatic compound nomenclature because of the heavy content. You need to remember Huckle’s rule and also know how to apply Huckle’s rule in the aromatic compound nomenclature. It is mainly used for the estimation of planar ring shape molecules of aromatic compounds. Therefore, it is tough for many students to understand and remember the aromatic compound nomenclature.

5 ways to make aromatic compound nomenclature a more approachable topic to understand

Since you are familiar with the reasons that make aromatic compound nomenclature difficult to learn. There are five ways that can make this topic more interesting and easier for students to understand.

1. Talk about the people behind that science

August Kekule

August Kekule was a German organic chemist who was the founder of the theory of chemical structure and the structure of benzene. His work on the structure of benzene gained popularity. In 1865, He published a paper in French related to the benzene ring. In this paper, he explained the ring structure of benzene with the alternative single and double bonds. He also published a paper related to the structure of benzene in German. Before that, there was very little study available about aromatic compounds. Much evidence related to aromatic isomers was available in 1865. He introduced the structure of benzene by using the number of isomers for the derivatives of the benzene. He explained the structures of derivatives of benzene by one, two, and three C-C bonds.

2. Basic knowledge of the properties of aromatic compounds

It is important for students to know about the properties of aromatic compounds before learning the nomenclature. The aromatic compounds are called aromatic because of the perfumed smell of these compounds. These compounds are made of carbon hydrogen bonds that are fundamental elements on the earth. The properties of aromatic compounds are the following:

  • Petroleum and coal: The main property of aromatic compounds is that they are found in petroleum and coal. They have great chemical and physical properties. For instance, polyaromatic compounds have more than one benzene ring in the compound.

  • Nonpolar hydrocarbons: Some aromatic compounds are non-polar hydrocarbons because they are soluble in water. Examples of nonpolar hydrocarbons are nucleotides and amino acids. These compounds are stable so they are unreactive compounds.

  • High carbon-hydrogen bonds: In these compounds, the ratio of carbon-hydrogen bonds is high. This is the main reason that aromatic compounds give yellow flame.

  • Two main reactions: Aromatic compounds perform two kinds of reactions; nucleophilic aromatic substitution and electrophilic substitution.

  • Unsaturated compounds: Aromatic compounds have unsaturated properties like alkenes and alkynes. So, these compounds can make new products by addition reactions.  

  • Multiple resonance structures: Resonance structure is another ability of aromatic compounds. The resonance structure is the property of aromatic compounds that can arrange themselves in multiple ways. In this process, the delocalization of valence electrons occurs. It helps aromatic compounds to make a bond with other molecules and does not change their chemical composition. 

Aromatic Compound Nomenclature virtual lab

Figure: An image of the structure of benzene from Labster virtual laboratory of aromatic compound nomenclature

3. Relate to the real world

When students know the applications of aromatic compounds used in their daily lives, it enhances their interest in learning aromatic compound nomenclature. These compounds play a beneficial role in the synthetic and biological processes.

  1. Chlorophyll: Chlorophyll is a compound that gives green pigmentation to plants. It is interesting to know that chlorophyll is an aromatic compound. So, aromatic hydrocarbons are very important for producing food in plants.

  2. Methylbenzene: Methylbenzene is used as a solvent in model glues, an effective aromatic compound.

  3. Naphthalene: Naphthalene is another aromatic compound that is used for the production of mothballs.

  4. Phenanthrene: Phenanthrene is also an aromatic hydrocarbon used to manufacture dyes, explosives, and drugs. Additionally, it is an intermediate product of several synthetic processes.

  5. Biological processes: In the human body, many aromatic compounds are present in the amino acid and nucleic acid. Therefore, they play an important role in many biological processes.

  6. Toluene: The aromatic carbons act as the non-polar solvent, which can be used as additives in gasoline, lacquers, and paints. These compounds are also used as solvents because of their low reactivity. For instance, toluene is used as the solvent in the paint.

  7. Benzene: Benzene is an important aromatic hydrocarbon that is effectively used for the production of high-octane fuel and also the production of other kinds of chemicals.

4. Seeing is believing

When students learn about the aromatic compound nomenclature through color diagrams, it can be more effective for them to understand the topic. The diverse colors of the diagram can help the students to understand the structures present in the aromatic compounds. Visual representation also helps them develop visual thinking that can effectively understand the aromatic compound nomenclature. Using color diagrams is a great method to learn complex information because it can be the same in your memory.

The image presented below shows the Huckle value of Benzene, Cyclooctatetraene, and Naphthalene. It also explains the difference between the structures of Benzene, Cyclooctatetraene, and Naphthalene. It helps students appropriately understand the Huckle value and structures of organic compounds.  

Aromatic Compound Nomenclature virtual lab 2

Figure: An image shows the Huckle value and structures of Benzene, Cyclooctatetraene, and Naphthalene from Labster virtual laboratory of aromatic compound nomenclature

5. Use of virtual lab simulation

The virtual lab simulation is a great method for understanding the aromatic compound nomenclature. At Labster, we provide an advanced 3D simulation with gamification elements such as storytelling and a scoring system. It helps the teacher to convey difficult topics like aromatic compound nomenclature to their students.

Labster aromatic compound nomenclature explains the differentiation between aromatic compounds and non-aromatic compounds, IUPAC and nonsystematic nomenclature of benzene, and the classification of aromatic compounds and non-aromatic compounds by using Huckle’s rule. So, it is an effective way to learn about all the important concepts of aromatic compound nomenclature.

 Aromatic Compound Nomenclature virtual lab GIF

Check out the Labster aromatic compound nomenclature simulation here, or get in touch to find out how you can start using virtual lab simulation with your students.

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