Materials World Modules

An Inquiry & Design-Based Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Program

Mini Environmental Catalysis Module

Using a Heterogeneous Acid Catalysis
Using Photocatalysis to Degrade a Water Pollutant

Design Project
Designing a Catalytic System to Degrade a Pollutant

Through the following key select activities, students learn what a catalyst is, gain an idea of the scope of catalysis research today and become aware of the effect of catalysis on environmental protection. Advances in nanotechnology are also discussed as a solution to eliminate environmental pollutants. Students are challenged to design an original solution to an environmental problem of their choice.

MWM will give students an opportunity to understand the world around them in a way they have never experienced before. The modules promote an awareness of the roles science and technology play in society and guide students to take increased control of their work.

Module At-a-Glance

Module At-a-Glance

Activity 3: Using a Heterogeneous Acid Catalysis
Students use, recover, and reuse acid catalyst beads to catalyze the hydrolysis of methyl acetate to acetic acid and methanol. They monitor the reaction by testing the pH of the reaction mixture over time. Based on their observations, students infer that heterogeneous acid catalysts are safer and easier to reuse than homogeneous acid catalysts.

Activity 5: Using Photocatalysis to Degrade a Water Pollutant
Students explore the concept of an energy efficient catalysis—room temperature photocatalysis using UV light and titanium dioxide. Monitoring the reaction using color standards, they vary the catalyst concentration, UV light intensity, and pH to test each variable’s effect on the photocatalytic degradation rate of methylene blue dye, which simulates the water pollutant.

Design Project 1: Designing a Catalytic System to Degrade a Pollutant
Using what they learned about catalysis from the Activities, students design and test a functional catalytic system. To be considered successful, the prototype system must meet specific design and performance criteria.

Connecting to Your Curriculum

Connecting to Your Curriculum

Materials World Modules are designed to be easily incorporated into any middle school science or high school science lab or lecture course. The chart below lists the subjects covered in the Activity and Design Project sections of this module.

Physics & Physical Science

  • Properties of Matter
  • Physical and Chemical Changes
  • Heat Energy
  • Light Energy
  • Energy Transformations

Geology & Earth Science

  • Metals
  • Use of Natural Resources
  • Environmental Pollution Issues

Language Arts

  • Writing a report
  • Public speaking


  • Structure and Properties of Matter
  • Conservation of Matter
  • Oxidation-Reduction Reactions
  • Catalysts
  • Activation Energy
  • Reaction Kinetics
  • Biochemical Reactions
  • Combustion
  • Thermodynamics

Technical Education

  • Designing
  • Building Prototypes
  • Communications

Biology and Life Science

  • Photosynthesis
  • Enzymes
  • Biochemistry


  • Measuring
  • Graphing (Making, Reading and Interpreting)
  • Computing
  • Averages
  • Rates

Standards Alignment

Standards Alignment

AAAS Benchmark Standards


NSES Standards


NCTM Standards Activities

Grades 9-12


Grades 9-12


Grades 9-12 Designs

1. The Nature of Science


A. Science as Inquiry

  Numbers & Operations  

A. The Scientific world view

1. Ability to do scientific inquiry

Compute Fluently and Estimate

B. Scientific inquiry

2. Understanding scientific inquiry


3. The Nature of Technology


B. Physical Science

  Analyze Change in Various Contexts

A. Technology and science

1. Structure of atoms



B. Design and systems

2. Structure and properties of matter

Analyze characteristics and properties of two- and three-dimensional geometric shapes

C. Issues in technology

3. Chemical reactions

Use visualization, spatial reasoning, and geometric modeling

4. The Physical Setting


4. Motions and forces


D. Structure of matter

5. Conservation of energy

Apply appropriate techniques, tools, and formulas to determine measurements.

E. Energy transformations

C. Lifes Sciences



G. Forces of nature

1. The cell


5. The Living Environment


5. Matter, energy, and organization in living systems


D. Interdependence of life

E. Science and Technology


E. Flow of matter and energy

1. Ability of technological design


8. The Designed World


2. Understanding science and technology


B. Materials and manufacturing




9. The Mathematical World



B. Symbolic relationships


C. Shapes

11. Common Themes          
A. Systems        
C. Constancy and change        


Material Data Safety Sheets (MSDS) have valuable information concerning substances used in this MWM kit.

Copper Turnings

Dowex M31

Flash Paper

Imitation Banana Extract

Methylene Blue

Platinum Black

Sodium Bicarbonate

Steel Wool

Titanium Dioxide

@ Materials World Modules