There would appear to be a large disconnect between the content of a typical high school chemistry course, and an introductory, college materials science course. For example, A National Science Foundation report notes that,
“the historic bias of chemistry curricula towards small molecule chemistry, generally in the gaseous and liquid states, is out of touch with current opportunities for chemists in research, education and technology”.
In contrast, the typical introductory college materials science course concentrates almost exclusively on the solid state, and a discussion of “small molecular” materials is virtually absent.
In the present contribution, it will be shown how the “molecule” forms part of a hierarchical series of structures, from the sub-atomic to the macroscopic. It will also be argued that the molecule is but a sub-set of a localized grouping of atoms, which is best described by the term “monomer”.
Based on a strict definition of the molecule and monomer, a complete hierarchical scheme for the structure of materials is developed, which should be applicable to both a high school chemistry course, and an introductory materials science course.