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Chemistry: further concepts and applications

Chemistry is fundamental in our lives and this module explores chemistry in the context of the natural world, from its role in the environment, in both aqueous and atmospheric systems, to that in plants and animals, in proteins and metabolism. This online module, which includes experimental work, builds on key concepts in inorganic, physical and organic chemistry, exploring the subtle interplay between molecular structure, chemical reactivity and their practical consequences. Application of this chemistry is considered, with topics ranging from materials, industrial and environmental catalysis and pollution control, to diagnostic and therapeutic medicine, as well as strategies for the synthesis and structural determination of organic molecules.

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Module code




  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.

Study level

Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.
Level of Study
3 10 6

Study method

Module cost

Entry requirements

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What you will study

Chemistry has a major and far-reaching impact on our daily lives. From its role in the natural world, in our bodies and in the environment, to its importance in the production of new materials and drugs, chemistry plays an integral part in our understanding of these processes and interactions.

This module is designed to stimulate your interest in chemistry, and to increase your knowledge and understanding of chemical principles through exploring the natural and ‘synthetic’ world. You will study important concepts in physical, inorganic, organic and biological chemistry and explore how these concepts shape our understanding of the world around us.

The module is delivered entirely online; audio, video and interactive activities are integrated throughout the module texts. The module is based on ten topics with a particular focus on the three main themes underlying the module: chemistry in the natural world, and chemical reactivity: molecular design and synthesis. An understanding of the chemical processes that take place in the natural world, the focus of the first theme, is vital for the development and production of modern materials, medicine, and so on, the focus of the second theme. Key to both is an understanding of the structure of molecules and materials, and so this is explored in a third theme, related to structural determination.

Theme 1: Chemistry in the natural world
Knowledge of the role that chemistry plays in living systems is vital, both in understanding life processes themselves and in the treatment of disease. Similarly, knowledge of how pH and pKa plays a role in the interactivity and reactivity of chemical species present in solution, is critical in our understanding of the natural environment. Furthermore, an appreciation of atmospheric chemistry is important to rationalise climate change and the development of materials for pollution control.

Through this theme you will explore:

  • how the structure of a protein influences the function that it plays in living systems
  • the influence of pH on the chemical species present in solution and its significance on solubility, metal complexation and speciation, both in the environment and the body
  • how metal ions are acquired by living systems from the environment, how they transported and ultimately how they are stored
  • the roles that metal ions play in processes in the body, from communication to metabolism and their importance in metalloproteins, a class of proteins containing metal ions within their structure, such as iron in haemoglobin
  • atmospheric chemistry, in particular how materials released into the air by human activities can alter the natural system.

Theme 2: Chemical reactivity: molecular design and synthesis
The guiding principles that govern whether, how and under what conditions substances will react with one another are of central importance in all areas of chemistry. They impact in many ways on modern life, from the production of vital everyday materials – drugs, fuels, plastics, fertilisers – to the control of pollution in our environment.

The principles derive from two of the most important cornerstones of physical chemistry: thermodynamics and chemical kinetics. A key aim of the module is to examine the practical consequences that arise as a direct result of the interplay between these two fundamental concepts.

Through this theme you will explore:

  • the steps involved in chemical reactions at the molecular level (the mechanism)
  • the processes involved in catalysis, particularly at solid surfaces where the world market for solid catalysts is immense, and in enzymes which elegantly catalyse reactions in the body
  • how drug molecules interact with molecular targets such as enzymes and other proteins, one of the key drivers behind much of the design and development of new drugs
  • the factors that are important in the design of molecules and materials for a range of applications, from organic molecules in drugs, metal complexes in medical diagnostics and therapy, to the ‘catalytic convertors’ used to control exhaust emissions
  • the wide range of reactions in use today for the synthesis of organic compounds with specified structures and stereochemistry, in chemical research and in industry; the choice of reaction, reactants and reaction conditions

Theme 3: Structural determination
The structure of a molecule, be it a protein or a drug, is integral to its function. Similarly, in an effort to optimise the performance of solid catalysts, the ability to characterise the surface and study the interactions of molecules with the surface is important.

Through this theme you will explore:

  • the methods used to determine the structure of a protein
  • the techniques which can be used to understand the chemistry taking place at metal centres within proteins
  • the theoretical basis and application of NMR spectroscopy, a key technique used to determine the structure of organic and inorganic molecules
  • the techniques used to examine the surface of solid materials and species adsorbed on the surface.

Scientific skills
In addition, at appropriate points in your studies you will undertake activities to develop your scientific skills through a mixture of onscreen practical investigations and scientific literacy activities. Use is made of online databases, both those available through the library to investigate the scientific literature, as well as external sites such as the RCSB Protein Data Bank and associated visualisation tools/software.

You will learn

The module aims to develop your knowledge and understanding of:

  • protein structure and function
  • how pH and pKa influences interactivity and reactivity of chemical species
  • the roles that metals and their complexes play in living systems and in medicinal applications
  • chemical reaction mechanisms, particularly in the context of atmospheric chemistry and catalysis
  • how molecules can be designed
  • the synthesis of organic molecules
  • characterisation techniques to determine the structure of proteins, organic and inorganic molecules and surfaces

In addition, scientific skills such as critical analysis, problem solving, scientific literacy and exploration of scientific databases will be developed.

Vocational relevance

By studying this module you will develop your understanding of chemistry over a broad range of topics, covering inorganic, organic, physical and biological chemistry. In addition you will develop key skills in numeracy, experimental investigation, problem solving, critical reading and interpretation of scientific literature, digital literacy, scientific communication and the use of modern databases.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • Marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • Guiding you to additional learning resources.
  • Providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content.
  • Facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

Laboratory schools

The School of Life, Health and Chemical Sciences offers optional laboratory schools in Milton Keynes at an additional cost. Laboratory schools are not part of this module; however, they are compulsory if you’re studying towards the #BSc (Honours) Chemistry [R59]]#. If you’re not studying towards the chemistry degree, the laboratory schools may be of interest if you wish to gain relevant hands-on laboratory experience.

Further information and instructions for booking are on the SS031 website.

Future availability

Chemistry: further concepts and applications (S315) starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2023.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2024.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Course work includes:

    6 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    No residential school

    Entry requirements

    This is an OU level 3 module and you need to have a good knowledge of chemistry, obtained through study of the OU level 2 module, Chemistry: essential concepts (S215) (or the discontinued module The molecular world (S205)) or equivalent study at another university.

    Students who are appropriately prepared have the best chance of completing their studies successfully and get the most enjoyment and satisfaction out of the module.

    It is essential that you establish whether or not your background and experience give you a sound basis on which to tackle the module, since students who are appropriately prepared have the best chance of completing their studies successfully. The Science Faculty has produced a booklet Are you ready for S315? to help you to decide whether you already have the recommended background knowledge and experience to start the module.

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.


    Start End England fee Register
    07 Oct 2023 Jun 2024 £3462.00

    Registration closes 07/09/23 (places subject to availability)

    This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2024.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

    If your income is not more than £25,000 or you are in receipt of a qualifying benefit, you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

    Ways to pay for this module

    Open University Student Budget Account

    The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

    You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

    • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
    • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

    Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

    More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

    • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
    • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

    Credit/debit card

    You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

    We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

    Mixed payments

    We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

    Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fee information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2024. Fees normally increase annually. For further information about the University's fee policy, visit our Fee Rules

    This information was provided on 10/06/2023.

    Can you study an Access module for free?

    In order to qualify, you must:

    1. be resident in England
    2. have a personal income of less than £25,000 (or receive qualifying benefits)
    3. have not completed one year or more on any full-time undergraduate programme at FHEQ level 4 or above, or completed 30 credits or more of OU study

    How to apply to study an Access module for free

    Once you've started the registration process, either online or over the phone, we'll contact you about your payment options. This will include instructions on how you can apply to study for free if you are eligible.

    If you're unsure if you meet the criteria to study for free, you can check with one of our friendly advisers on +44 (0)300 303 0069 or you can request a call back.

    Not eligible to study for free?

    Don't worry! We offer a choice of flexible ways to help spread the cost of your Access module. The most popular options include:

    • monthly payments through OUSBA
    • part-time tuition fee loan (you'll need to be registered on a qualification for this option)

    To explore all the options available to you, visit Fees and Funding.

    What's included

    This module does not have any printed material. All the teaching and assessment materials are embedded within, or linked to from, the texts of the module, which are accessed via a dedicated website.

    Downloadable ebook versions of the study texts for each topic are also available.

    You will need

    A scientific calculator.

    Computing requirements

    You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11). Any macOS is unsuitable with this module.

    Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

    To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

    Our module websites comply with web standards and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

    Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

    It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying S315 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Disability support website.