Molecular Playground @

“Interactive molecules at a human scale”


  • To grab the attention of students, university community and general public towards molecular structure and its relation to topics, both academic and of general interest, such as health, industry, materials, engineering...
  • To promote interest for personal investigation and exploration.
  • To complement teaching and study with multimedia materials, reaching a faster and more efficient understanding. To provide instructors with a format and a broadcasting media for material related to their subject matters. To provide students with material and activities for their personal work.


Actions in the project are focused, first, on setup and installation in a ample, publicly accessed space inside the School, of a computing system with projection, coupled to a sensor that allows interacting with the projected material by means of waving hands by any person that passes by. Second, on development of materials suitable to be displayed in such a system; these contents, following a didactic design –either academic or for general dissemination–, correspond to molecular sciences and, specifically, to the structure of molecules.

The idea of this project originates as a local implementation at the University of Alcalá following the previous experience developed at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (USA) and materialized in the international Molecular Playground project. Up to now, 4 installations of this kind have been set in the USA and one in Japan, so the display at Alcalá is the first in Europe.

This website hosts a copy of the presentations that make up the interactive on-site exhibition. In addition, the media is suitable for expanding the information on each molecule.


The collection of molecular structures is displayed successively, continuously and unattended. The system provides any visitor with an immediate perception of interaction with the structure and allows him/her to appreciate its three-dimensional nature and its volume, as well as to explore its features.

The choice of molecules aims to be varied, pertaining to several fields: natural products, food additives, diseases, pharmacological drugs, proteins, genetic material... The scripts needed for the demonstration begin as simple ones, not much more than a structure and a title with a brief message. However, some of those scripts have progressively been enhanced to tell a little story around the relevance of the molecule at hand, or which are the features that stand out in the structure.

In the most sophisticated scripts the structure moves progressively, changes its rendering style, focuses on diverse details, etc., while short descriptive captions are displayed. The main idea in each script is to highlight the relevant features with an interest either academic or applied, particularly in order to understand the way molecular structure is responsible for the properties and applications. One should not discard the artistic or aesthetic issues: many molecules posess a strong symmetry and there is a true sense of beauty in their structure. This also offers a way to attract students and general public towards scientific knowledge and to bring science closer for society.