It wasn’t that long ago that the only way someone could realistically learn and study the natural sciences was through a formal education or trial and error. For chemistry, the latter could be incredibly hazardous, so this fascinating field of science was largely off-limits for most people who couldn’t take the time or expense of pursuing a Chemistry degree. Thanks to the power of streaming video, high-quality educational material is now widely available, often produced and hosted by professionals in the field or highly trained teachers. In order to help you find your way through this fast-growing content market, we sat down and watched dozens of channels to find the 11 best chemistry channels on YouTube.
Produced by the University of Nottingham, Periodic Videos has been active for ten years now, so there is a deep archive of content to watch. One playlist even goes through the properties of every element of the periodic table, in order. Their experiments and demonstrations are the kind of thing that makes us want to study chemistry in the first place. Their videos are fairly short and digestible, so you won’t feel like you’re trapped inside a lecture hall. There are other channels for that, but what Periodic Videos does better than the rest is to remind you why you wanted to study Chemistry in the first place.
A project of the University of Manchester, CAMERA (Chemistry At Manchester Explains Research Advances) is a series of short videos that showcases the work of the Chemistry Department at the school. While some of it might come off sounding promotional—which it no doubt is—CAMERA describes some of the important areas of modern chemistry research as well as some of the practical uses of the chemistry the school does. If you are a student wondering whether to pursue a Chemistry degree, this channel is a good way to see the field of chemistry in a fuller context than that of the classroom and chemistry lab at school.
Developed by the faculty of the University of Colorado at Boulder, LearnChemE is designed for a very specific audience in mind. Rather than experiments or demonstrations of cool chemical reactions, LearnChemE has hundreds of screencasts that could double as your university professor’s classroom lecture. Not for the casual fan of chemistry videos, this is highly technical material best viewed by someone already well versed in the field to brush up on a topic or learn something new. Their videos aren’t limited to just chemistry either, offering a wide range of engineering and science videos.
Tyler DeWitt is a high school chemistry teacher who has built up a very large following by taking the fundamentals concepts taught in an AP or Intro Chemistry course and explaining them in an accessible way for students who are struggling with the material. While this will be rudimentary material for people in the field, for those just starting out in their coursework, or those who just need help getting through a tough class, Tyler Dewitt’s videos are an invaluable tool.
Similar to the last two entries on our list, ChemistNATE provides instructional screencasts on a variety of High School and University level chemistry topics. What sets ChemistNATE apart is that ChemistNATE’s videos don’t necessarily provide instruction on a broad topic, but tend to be more geared toward answering fairly specific questions that come up in lower level chemistry courses that might not be covered as thoroughly in other channels.
American Chemical Society
The American Chemical Society is an organization dedicated to furthering chemistry education and research. Their YouTube channel isn’t loaded down with instructional videos, but rather it consists of everything from interviews with industry professionals to press materials from leading chemical producers. If you are an industry professional or you are looking to start working in the field, then this site is for you.
CEN Online is the YouTube account for Chemical & Engineering News, a publication of the American Chemical Society. Whereas the videos on the American Chemical Society channel are more evergreen in the content they cover, CEN Online focuses on up-to-date industry news that is of particular relevance to working chemistry professionals. If you’re a working chemist, CEN Online is an essential source of information to help you stay current at work.
Chemical Bouillon’s stated purpose is to throw chemicals together and see if they make any cool or interesting patterns, colors, or other visually pleasing reaction. The videos Chemical Bouillon make of these reactions then become a form of abstract art which they share with the rest of us. Not necessarily informative in any way, Chemical Bouillon reminds us that sometimes chemistry is just fun to play around with and see what happens.
NurdRage is dedicated to practical chemistry. Their videos cover everything from making thermite to making glow sticks. If you are a chemistry student or professional, these are the kinds of videos that you can spend an entire lunch hour binging on without even realizing it. And since NurdRage has drawn more than 90 million views since their inception in 2008, you clearly wouldn’t be alone, either.
Extractions&Ire, like NurdRage, is a channel dedicated to practical chemical engineering. Their videos demonstrate how you can take all that chemistry you learned and put it to use in the world making things with it. The channel is only a couple of years old, so there isn’t an overwhelming volume of content, but what is there is the kind of video that graduates of a university chemistry program will get a lot out of and appreciate.
Produced by the same people who make Extractions&Ire, Explosions&Fire (there are two channels, Explosions&Fire and Explosions&Fire2) is all about blowing stuff up with science. These are the kinds of videos that excite both chemists and non-chemists alike. The simple joy of watching a chemical reaction blow apart a tin can with a loud bang has been the not-always-unspoken motivator for millions of chemistry students over the centuries. The people behind Explosions&Fire take the chemistry very seriously, but not themselves, which makes their videos that much more enjoyable.
The Future of Science Education and Entertainment
YouTube channels are a tricky business for most people, but for scientists, it's especially challenging trying to break down complex ideas into the kind of content that YouTube was built to broadcast. Fortunately, scientists from every field of the Natural Sciences have stepped to meet that challenge, whether it is to aid struggling students, to inject science education more directly into our culture, or simply to entertain the masses with the spectacle and wonder that science alone produces.
The list we've drawn up of the best chemistry channels is by no means exhaustive, not to mention the fact that new channels are starting up every day, but these channels provide an excellent jumping-off point into the fast-growing world of YouTube science content. How far you can go is limited only by your desire to learn more, something that becomes easier every day thanks to the channels on our list and others like them.