Coffee Time Trivia


Join us on Thursdays at 3pm in the Graduate Lounge (D211) for trivia fun!


See below for our previous questions and answers…

Thu 10th August, 2017

Our question was…

What is the current pH level of ocean water? (answer in 1-digit number)

The answer is 8.

Congrats to Meng from the Bertram group as the winner! 🙂

The pH of the ocean is partially determined by the carbon cycle on Earth, where CO2 fluxes between oceans, biosphere, lithosphere and the atmosphere. Due to the significantly intensified fossil fuel combustions since Industrial Revolution, the acidification of ocean has been accelerated due to the intensified emission of CO2.

The process of CO2 dissolving in seawater can be described by the following equation:

CO2(aq) + H2O <-> H2CO3 <-> HCO3- + H+ <-> CO32- + 2H+

The pH level of water in Pre-industrial period was approximately 8.179, and had dropped to 8.104 in 1990s. Up till now, there has been a drop of 0.11 in pH since 18th century, representing a 29% increase in H+. It is estimated that the pH of ocean will drop below 8 by 2050, and will drop to ~7.8 by 2100.

Read more about it in the fact sheet attached.


Thu 20th July,2017

Our question was…

What is the atom economy of the following reaction?

C(s) + 2H2O(g) -> CO2(g)+ 2H2(g)

The answer was… 8.3%

Congratulations to Kris from the Love lab! 🙂

The atom economy is defined as:

Atom Economy= (molecular mass of desired product)/(molecular mass of all reactants)

In this case, the reactants are carbon and water, and the desired product is H2:
Atom Economy = 2xMW(H2)/(MW(C)+2MW(H2O))x100%=8.3%


Thu 13th July, 2017

Our question was…

Which of the following chemicals is used to reduce the emission of NOx in industrial processes?
A.Lime (CaO) B. NH3 C. NaOH D. CaCO3

Congratulations to Jordan from the Withers lab! 🙂

Selective catalytic reduction and selective non-catalytic reduction are common methods used in NOx reduction, in which ammonia or urea is injected to react with NOx to form nitrogen and water. The process can be described
by the following equations:

4NO + 4NH3 + O2 -> 4N2 + 6H2O
2NO2 + 4NH3 + O2 -> 3N2 + 6H2O
NO + NO2 + 2NH3 -> 2N2 + 3H2O


Thu March 30th, 2017

Our question was…

Where is ozone layer located in Earth’s atmosphere?

A. Troposphere      B. Stratosphere      C. Mesosphere      D. Thermosphere

Congratulations to Harvey from the Gates lab! 🙂

The highest level of ozone occurs in the stratosphere of Earth’s atmosphere, which starts at about 10 to 18 km above the ground and ends at 50 km above the around. Although the the average ozone concentration in this ozone layer is only 10 ppm, it is considerably high compared to the average ozone concentration in the entire atmosphere, which is about 0.3 ppm. The ozone layer usually resides near the bottom of the stratosphere and is approximately 10-15 km above the ground. Ozone in the stratosphere is produced from photochemical reaction of O2: the ultraviolet light strikes the O2 molecules, which are in turn split into oxygen atoms. The produced oxygen atom subsequently reacts with another O2 molecule to generate O3


Thu March 23rd, 2017

Our question was…

What chemical process is utilized to make biodiesel?

A. Transesterification      B. Ethanolization        C. Glycerol conversion        D. Fermentation

Congratulations to Jeff from the Gates lab! 🙂

Biodiesel is a diesel-fuel substitute made from vegetable oil or animal fat obtained from renewable materials, through the chemical process called transesterification reaction. The reaction occurs between the oil or animal fat and an alcohol in presence of a base catalyst. The process leaves behind two products — methyl esters (the chemical name for biodiesel) and glycerin (a valuable by product usually sold to be used in soaps and other products). Typically, biodiesel is blended with petroleum diesel to create a blend of varied ratios.


Thu March 16th, 2017

Our question was…

Which of the following is not usually a part of life cycle assessments?

A. Determination of the environmental and human health impacts

B. Statement of the boundaries or limitations of the assessment

C. Determination of the energy and material requirements for running the process

D. Analysis of the commercial and cultural aspects of running the process


Congratulations to Nikita from the Ciufolini lab! 🙂

Life cycle assessments focus on the environmental impacts of products, processes or services,through production, usage, and disposal. There are four linked components of LCA: Goal definition and scoping, life-cycle inventory, impact analysis, improvement analysis. Another important aspect is social life cycle assessment (S-LCA), a method which can be used to assess the social and sociological aspects of products, their actual and potential positive as well as negative impacts along the life cycle. S-LCA does not provide information on the question of whether a product should be produced or not – although information obtained from an S-LCA may offer “food for thought” and can be helpful for decision makers from business, governmental organizations and NGOs when choosing between products.


Thu March 2nd, 2017

Our question was…

Which substance acts as a female hormone and has been banned in baby bottles in Canada, but is still used as a plasticizer in everyday-use plastic bottles?

A. Estrogen       B. Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate       C. Bisphenol A       D. Glycol Methacrylate

Congratulations to Lev from the MacLachlan lab! 🙂

The chemical 2,2-bis(4-hydroxyphenyl) propane, more commonly known as Bisphenol A (BPA), is a chemical monomer used primarily in the production of polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins, and used in food contact materials such as beverage bottles, infant feeding bottles, food containers, processing equipment and other articles. It is also a potent endocrine disrupting chemical which can interfere with mammalian development by mimicking the action of the sex hormone oestradiol. However, European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) latest comprehensive re-evaluation of BPA exposure and toxicity published in January 2015 concluded that BPA poses no health risk to consumers of any age group, and the highest estimates for aggregate exposure are 3 to 5 times lower than the tolerable daily intake.


Thu February 23rd, 2017

Our question was…

Which of the following is NOT one of the principles of green chemistry?

A. Use of catalysis    B. Reduction of derivatization   C. Use of computational methods   D. Minimizing energy use

Congratulations to Jeff from the Orvig lab 🙂

The 12 principles of Green Chemistry provides a framework for scientists and engineers to use when designing new materials, products, processes, and systems. The principles focus on sustainable design criteria and have proven to be the source of innovative solutions to a wide range of problems. Green chemistry and green engineering embrace this power of design and when used wisely, can make significant contributions in the drive toward sustainability for the simultaneous benefit of the environment, economy, and society.


Thu February 16th, 2017

Our question was…

According to their life-cycle assessment, after one use, which of the following has the lowest environmental impact?

A. Cotton bags  B. Paper bags  C. PP reusable bags  D. Conventional HDPE bags

Congratulations to Kelsi L. from the Algar lab 🙂

The conventional HDPE bag had the lowest environmental impacts of the lightweight bags in eight of the nine impact categories. The bag performed well because it was the lightest bag considered. The lifecycle impact of the bag was dictated by raw material extraction and bag production, with the use of Chinese grid electricity significantly affecting the acidification and ecotoxicity of the bag.


Thu January 26, 2017

Our question was…

Which of the following organic compounds has the highest carcinogenicity (cancer risk) in drinking water?

A. Ethylene dibromide B. Vinyl chloride C. Dichloromethane D. Heptachlor epoxide 3

Congratulations to Jeff from the Orvig lab 🙂

Water is a powerful solvent that readily dissolves many natural and synthetic substances from the environment (e.g. inorganic salts, humic acids and pesticide residues). The composition of drinking water, therefore, is complex and varies between sites and with the seasons. A study by the school of public health at University of California Berkeley stated that in general, halogenated compounds tend to pose a higher cancer risk of than non-halogenated ones. Toxicity can be compared and analysed by giving substances a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) value – The highest level of a contaminant that is allowed in drinking water, measured in microg/L. These compounds are of concern in drinking water because of regular exposure and their pseudo-persistence (though even non-persistent contaminants can be a risk of cancer in water).


Thu January 19, 2017
Our question was…

Which of the following compounds has the highest ozone depletion potential (ODP)?

A. CCl4 B. CClF2Br C. N2O D. CCl3F

Congratulations to Sanjia (Patrick) Xu from the Ciufolini lab 🙂

The ozone depletion potential (ODP) of CCl3F is referenced as 1. The value for N2O is 0.017, for CCl4 is 0.82 and that of CClF2Br is 7.9. These ozone depletion potential values are developed and estimated by the World Meteorological Organization. The values can be found on the EPA website:


Thu January 12, 2017

The question was…

Which of the following is NOT a component of syngas?

A. CO        B. CO2        C. NH3      D. H2

Congratulations to Carlos  from the Mehrkhodavandi lab 🙂

Syngas is a mixture of carbon monoxide, hydrogen and often carbondioxide, and is produced from a variety of sources containing a hydrocarbon feedstock by the gasification of a carbon-containing fuel to a gaseous
product with a calorific value. It is often used as an intermediate for the production of ammonia, methanol and synthetic hydrocarbon fuels.


Thu, November 24, 2016

The question was:

What is the current level of CO2 concentration in Earth’s atmosphere?

A. 400 ppm B. 200 ppm C. 1000 ppm D. 200 ppb

Congratulations to Kelsi from the Algar group 🙂

The current concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is 400 ppm, and there has been a linear increase in the CO2 concentration in recent years, from ca. 390 ppm in 2012, to 395 ppm in 2013 and has surpassed 400 ppm in 2016. The latest update from October 2016 shows that the CO2 level is 401.57 ppm.


Thu, November 17, 2016

The question was..

Which organic compound has the highest potential to bio-accumulate in aquatic life?

A. Decane B. Toluene C. Stearic acid D. 1-Decanol

Congratulations to Elesha from the Ryan group 🙂

This estimation is based on the octanol-to-water partition coefficient, kow, which is the ratio between a compound’s solubility in octanol to its solubility in water kow = concentration in octanol phase/concentration in aqueous phase As a general rule, saturated hydrocarbons usually have high tendency to participate into the organic layer since water won’t dissolve them. Usually acids have low kow values however, stearic acid has 18 carbons and its saturated hydrocarbon chain is a lot longer than decane. Luckily stearic acid is a naturally occurring product and relatively harmless but this idea is important to keep in mind when designing new compounds with potential toxicity.


Thu, November 10, 2016

The question was..

Which book ignited the environmental movement in the United States?

A. Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice by Paul Anastasia and John Warner

B. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

C. The End of Nature by Bill McKibben

D. Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken

Congratulations to Taleah from the Legzdins lab 🙂

Rachel Louise Carson (May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964) was an American marine biologist and conservationist. Disturbed by the profligate use of synthetic chemical pesticides after World War II, Carson decided to warn the public about the long-term effects of misusing pesticides. In Silent Spring (1962) she challenged the practices of agricultural scientists and the government and called for a change in the way humankind viewed the natural world. In 1972, the EPA issued a cancellation order for DDT based on its adverse environmental effects, such as those to wildlife, as well as its potential human health risks. Since then, studies have continued, and a relationship between DDT exposure and reproductive effects in humans is suspected, based on studies in animals. In addition, some animals exposed to DDT in studies developed liver tumors. As a result, today, DDT is classified as a probable human carcinogen by U.S. and international authorities. In these turbulent times it will be increasingly important for informed scientists to vehemently urge industry to adjust their processes in order protect our environment.


Thu, November 3, 2016

Which of the following metals is attributed for causing the Minamata disease, a neurological syndrome, that killed almost 2000 people in Japan last century?

A. Cd  B. Pb   C. Ag   D. Hg

Congratulations to Lev L. from the MacLachlan group 🙂

In 1950s, Chisso Co. Ltd. was producing a large amount of acetaldehyde made through catalysis. One catalyst used contained mercury and methyl mercury was a side product of the catalytic cycle. The company released methylmercury directly into the river allowing organisms in the water to digest the mercury. Fish ate the smaller organisms leading to bio-magnification, then the people living nearby ate the fish causing Minamata disease. It was documented that people with this disease were seen running hysterically on the street and saying unknown things loudly.


Thu, October 20, 2016

Our question was…

Considering mining to production (cradle-to-gate), which of the following metals has the highest global warming potential?

A. Pd B. Rh C. Ir D. Pt

Congratulations to Nikita J. from the Ciufolini group 🙂

A 2014 study evaluated the environmental effects of a variety of metals by analyzing cumulative energy use, global warming potential, human health implications and ecosystem damage. This study showed that precious metals including platinum group elements (Ru, Rh, Pd, Os, Ir, Pt) and Au, display the highest environmental burdens per kilogram, with Rh being the worst metal in many of the categories.


Thu, October 13, 2016

Our question was… Which of the following gases has the longest atmospheric lifetime?

A. CH2F2 B. CFCl3 C. CH4 D. N2O

Congratulations to Rebecca F. from the Berlinguette lab 🙂

Nitrous oxide gives rise to nitric oxide (NO) on reaction with oxygen atoms, and this NO in turn reacts with ozone. It is also a major greenhouse gas and air pollutant. Considered over a 100-year period, it is calculated to have between 265 and 310 times more impact per unit mass (global-warming potential) than carbon dioxide.