Key Vocabulary

An organic compound composed of only carbon and hydrogen atoms. In an alkane each carbon-carbon bond is a single bond. This distinguishes them from alkenes, which contain at least one double bond, and from alkynes, which contain at least one triple bond.

Any organic (plant or animal) material which is available on a renewable basis, including agricultural crops, agricultural wastes, wood, wood wastes, animal wastes, municipal wastes, and aquatic plants. Biomass may provide a suitable starting material for the Fischer-Tropsch process, providing a renewable fuel source.

A substance that speeds up a chemical reaction, but is itself unchanged by the reaction.

The scientific study of matter, its properties, and its interactions with other matter and with energy.

A fossil fuel formed by the breakdown of vegetable material trapped underground without access to air. Coal is the primary starting material used in the Fischer-Tropsch process to synthesize diesel fuel.

Diesel Fuel
A transportation fuel which is usually obtained by distillation of oil. Diesel fuel can also be synthesized by the Fischer-Tropsch process. Diesel fuel and gasoline are two of the most important transportation fuels in use today.

A technique for separating different components of a mixture based on their boiling points. Distillation is important in the production of transportation fuels like diesel fuel and gasoline from crude oil, and for the purification of the products of the Fischer-Tropsch process.

Fischer-Tropsch Process
A process which uses a catalyst, heat, and pressure to synthesize alkanes from a carbon-rich starting material. The alkanes produced by this process can then be purified by distillation to make diesel fuel or . Both coal and biomass may be suitable starting materials for the Fischer-Tropsch process.

Fossil Fuel
Fuels (coal, oil, natural gas, etc.) that result from the compression of ancient plant and animal life formed over millions of years. Fossil fuels are important sources of energy, but their consumption releases carbon dioxide, a gas that contributes to global warming.

A mixture of alkanes with small quantities of additives, blended to form a fuel suitable for use in many automobiles.

A method for converting coal, petroleum, biomass, wastes, or other carbon-containing materials into a gas that can be burned to generate power or processed into chemicals and fuels. The product of gasification is called synthesis gas, or “syngas,” and is an important step in the Fischer-Tropsch process for producing diesel fuel.

Global Climate Change
Gradual changing of global climates due to buildup of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere. Carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuel has reached levels greater than what can be absorbed by green plants and the seas.

Metathesis (also called double replacement) is a reaction in which two reactants trade fragments: AB + CD = AC + BD. This type of reaction may be carried out on the alkane products of the Fischer-Tropsch process to help reduce waste.

Natural Gas
An odorless, colorless, tasteless, non-toxic clean-burning fossil fuel. It is usually found in fossil fuel deposits and used as a fuel. As with all fossil fuel, consumption of natural gas releases carbon dioxide, which contributes to global climate change.

The raw material that petroleum products are made from. A black liquid fossil fuel found deep in the Earth. Gasoline, diesel fuel, and most plastics are made from oil.

Phase (State) of Matter
One of the ways that matter can interact with itself to form a physically distinct state. The three familiar phases of matter are gas, liquid, and solid. Plasma is a fourth phase of matter.

Synthesis Gas (Syngas)
Synthetic gas made from coal or biomass. Synthesis gas is important for the production of diesel fuel by the Fischer-Tropsch process. Synthesis gas can also be burned directly to produce energy.


Science 360

Seasonal schedules

MPSC offers seasonal schedules of Science 360 shows to the public. Follow this link to see the current schedule of public shows at MPSC.

Please note that seasonal schedules change four times each year (spring, summer, fall and holiday), and some shows are not offered during every schedule.

School shows

In addition to its public shows, MPSC offers shows during the week especially for school classes and other field trip groups. These school shows do not appear on the seasonal schedule but do appear on MPSC's daily calendar.

If seats are available, the public may purchase tickets to school shows.

However, school groups with reserved seating have first priority on any remaining seats (for example, if extra chaperons attend), so MPSC cannot guarantee that public seats will be available for school shows.