Help Your Students Understand the Structure of Living Systems

Our integrated solution helps students collect accurate data, visualize trends and relationships, and explore different hypotheses for both conventional and innovative experiments.


For years, colleges and universities have relied on our durable hardware to help instructors teach key concepts.


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No matter what concepts you need to teach, Vernier technology can provide your students with practical, relevant data-collection and analysis experience.

Biochemistry Product Categories

Example Data

Isolating and characterizing protein and sugar from milk with the Go Direct® Polarimeter and Vernier Instrumental Analysis

Quinine Sulfate spectra at varying concentrations. Absorbance (left) and Fluorescence with excitation at 375 nm (right).

Examining the absorbance and fluorescence spectra of quinine sulfate at varying concentrations with the Vernier Fluorescence/UV-VIS Spectrophotometer and Vernier Spectral Analysis®

This is only the beginning of what’s possible. See the recommendations below to get started with biochemistry.

Free Experiment Downloads

Essential instructor information and word-processing files of student instructions are available to download for the following experiments.

Synthesis of Methyl Orange and Its Application to Textiles

The practice of using dyes is perhaps the most ancient art of chemistry. Dyeing substances from plant, animal, or mineral sources has been known before written history. The accidental discovery of the purple dye, mauve, by W.H. Perkin in 1856 is generally considered to be the birth of the modern chemical industry. Several other synthetic dyes followed. One important group is known as the azo dyes, which are named after their unusual N=N, azo, functional group.

In this experiment, you will synthesize methyl orange from sulfanilic acid and N,N-dimethylaniline using a diazonium coupling reaction, a common reaction for treating an aliphatic amine to yield a carbocation. The reaction between a primary aliphatic amine and nitrous acid gives an unstable diazonium salt that loses N2 to give a carbocation. The carbocation may then either (1) lose a proton to give an alkene, (2) react with a nucleophile, or (3) rearrange, followed by (1) or (2). The nucleophile we are using here is dimethylaniline. Attack is in the para position due to steric hindrance at the ortho position by the bulky dimethylamine substituent. Because you are synthesizing an azo dye, your product purity will easily be determined using a Spectrophotometer.

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Analysis of Natural Products

Natural products are compounds produced by living organisms. A great deal of exploration has been done involving the use of natural products in pharmaceutical drug discovery and drug design. Identification and analysis of natural products from organisms is an important part of modern organic chemistry.

Many natural products have chiral centers making them optically active. Determination of the optical activity of a compound using polarimetry allows the user to determine various characteristics, including the identity, of the specific chemical compound being investigated. A compound will consistently have the same specific rotation under identical experimental conditions. To determine the specific rotation of the sample, use Biot’s law:

α = [α] ℓ c

where α is the observed optical rotation in units of degrees, [α] is the specific rotation in units of degrees (the formal unit for specific rotation is degrees dm-1 mL g-1, but scientific literature uses just degrees), ℓ is the length of the cell in units of dm, and c is the sample concentration in units of grams per milliliter.

This experiment allows you to investigate various natural products and their reactions using polarimetry.

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Photosynthesis and Respiration (CO2)

Plants make sugar, storing the energy of the sun into chemical energy, by the process of photosynthesis. When they require energy, they can tap the stored energy in sugar by a process called cellular respiration.

The process of photosynthesis involves the use of light energy to convert carbon dioxide and water into sugar, oxygen, and other organic compounds. This process is often summarized by the following reaction:

{\text{6 }}{{\text{H}}_{\text{2}}}{\text{O + 6 C}}{{\text{O}}_{\text{2}}}{\text{ + light energy}} \to {{\text{C}}_{\text{6}}}{{\text{H}}_{{\text{12}}}}{{\text{O}}_{\text{6}}}{\text{ + 6 }}{{\text{O}}_{\text{2}}}

Cellular respiration refers to the process of converting the chemical energy of organic molecules into a form immediately usable by organisms. Glucose may be oxidized completely if sufficient oxygen is available by the following equation:

{{\text{C}}_{\text{6}}}{{\text{H}}_{{\text{12}}}}{{\text{O}}_{\text{6}}}{\text{ + 6 }}{{\text{O}}_{\text{2}}} \to {\text{6 }}{{\text{H}}_{\text{2}}}{\text{O + 6 C}}{{\text{O}}_{\text{2}}}{\text{ + energy}}

All organisms, including plants and animals, oxidize glucose for energy. Often, this energy is used to convert ADP and phosphate into ATP.

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Evolution of Cellobiase in Fungi

The kingdom Fungi contains the Basidiomycota or club fungi, a group that includes what we call mushrooms. Mushrooms are decomposers that have evolved to grow in diverse environments. The button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus), also known under various names including: common mushroom, table mushroom, and champignon mushroom, is native to grasslands. The oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) is typically found on trees and wood. Other mushrooms are mycorhizal, which means that they have evolved symbiotic relationships with the roots of specific trees. The matsutake (Tricholoma magnivelare) and chanterelles (Cantharellus sp.) are examples of mycorhizal mushrooms. Morels, false morels, and truffles are also decomposers, but they are not true mushrooms, they are classified as cup fungi and belong to the group Ascomycota.

In this investigation, you will be studying the cellobiase activity found in different types of club and/or cup fungi. Cellobiase is involved in the last step of the process of breaking down cellulose, a molecule made up of bundled long chains of glucose that are found in plant cell walls, to glucose. This is a natural process that is used by fungi to produce glucose as a food source.

The natural substrate for the enzyme cellobiase is cellobiose. This is a disaccharide composed of two beta glucose molecules. However, when scientists study enzyme function, it is best if there is an easy way to detect either the amount of substrate that is used up or the amount of product that is formed. Solutions of cellobiose (substrate) and glucose (product) are colorless, and there are not many simple methods to detect these molecules quantitatively.

To make this reaction easier to follow, an artificial substrate, p-nitrophenyl glucopyranoside, will be used. This artificial substrate can also bind to the enzyme and be broken down in a manner similar to the natural substrate cellobiose. When the artificial substrate, p-nitrophenyl glucopyranoside, is broken down by cellobiase, it produces glucose and p-nitrophenol. When p-nitrophenol is mixed with a basic solution referred to as the stop solution, it will stop the reaction and turn the solution yellow. The amount of yellow color is proportional to the amount of p-nitrophenol present. For every molecule of p-nitrophenol present, one molecule of p-nitrophenyl glucopyranoside is broken apart. For the cellobiase reactions being run, another advantage of using a basic solution to develop the color of the p-nitrophenol is that the basic pH will also denature the enzyme and stop the reaction.

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