Author Archives: The Concord Consortium

Video: Under the Hood of Molecular Workbench

It takes a lot of computation to model the atomic and molecular world! Fortunately, modern Web browsers have 10 times the computational capacity and speed compared with just 18 months ago. (That’s even faster than Moore’s Law!) We’re now taking advantage of HTML5 plus JavaScript to rebuild Molecular Workbench models to run on anything with a modern Web browser, including tablets and smartphones.

Director of Technology Stephen Bannasch describes the complex algorithms that he’s been programming behind the scenes to get virtual atoms to behave like real atoms, forming gases, liquids and solids while you manipulate temperature and the attractive forces between atoms. See salt crystallize and explore how the intermolecular attractions affect melting and boiling points. Imagine what chemistry class would have been like (or could be like today) if the foundation of your chemical knowledge started here.

Technology and Curriculum Developer Dan Damelin goes on to describe how open source programming opens up possibilities. For instance, Jmol is a Java-based 3D viewer for chemical structures that we were able to incorporate into Molecular Workbench to allow people to easily build activities around manipulation of large and small molecules, and to make connections between static 3D representations and the dynamic models of how molecules interact. We’re planning to build a chemical structure viewer that won’t require Java and will extend another open source project based on JavaScript and WebGL to visualize molecules in a browser.

Interested in this innovative programming? Great! We’re looking for software developers.

Video: Three Views of Molecular Workbench

The Molecular Workbench has been downloaded over 800,000 times, making it Concord Consortium’s most popular single piece of software. We’re heading to a million and documenting in video both our history and our vision for the future.

Learn from Charles Xie, Senior Scientist and creator of the Molecular Workbench, about the computational engines that accurately simulate atomic motions, quantum waves, and atomic-scale interactions based on fundamental equations and laws in physics.

Amy Pallant, who researched student use of Molecular Workbench, describes the phone calls she made to students months after they’d used the software—and how impressed she was with their memory of the science of atoms and molecules.

Dan Damelin, Technology and Curriculum Developer, recalls his time as a classroom teacher and his frustration with trying to describe atoms and molecules to his students with words and pictures. He wanted more—and found it in Molecular Workbench!

Dan sums up the goal for Molecular Workbench: “It’s going to be just a given that this is a regular tool that will just be part of learning science.” We hope so.

We’re closing in on a million downloads and looking toward the next million.