What is chemistry? Chemistry is the study of matter, which is a scientific discipline that examines the structure, composition, function, properties and chemical reactions that occur in matter. One are of primary concern for chemists are the study of atoms and how they interact with each other. The manner in which atoms react with each other is referred to as a chemical bond.
Chemistry is considered to be one of the central studies of the scientific community as its principles apply throughout biology, physics and geology as well. The foundation of chemistry is said to have been based in ancient alchemy, where kings employed alchemists to attempt to synthesize gold in order to increase the kingdom’s wealth.
Branches of Chemistry
Chemistry, like all disciplines of science is divided into a variety of sub branches which a chemist can specialize in. Chemists will typically continue onto graduate school after receiving a degree to specialize in one of the following branches.
Organic chemistry consists of the studying the structure, function, properties and chemical reactions which occur in carbon based compounds and hydrocarbons. All known living organisms (with one rare exception) are carbon based life forms, carbon compounds and hydrocarbons are the organic materials which are necessary in the formation of life on Earth.
Inorganic chemistry is the study of the structure, properties, behavior and chemical reactions of inorganic compounds. The primary focus of an inorganic chemist is with ionic compounds which are the most common form of inorganic compounds. These compounds become adhesive through ionic bonds. Although an inorganic chemist specializes in these types of molecular compounds they often must overlap into the research of organic compounds and how they react to ionic compounds.
Analytic chemistry is the study of how chemical components, both artificial and natural, separate from each other. This branch analyzes the chemical state of water, liquid and gas through the processes of precipitation, distillation and extraction. Factors taken into account include the compounds melting point, odor and color as it undergoes reactions. Other factors analyzed through scientific instruments include the conductivity of a chemical compound, fluorescence and the absorption of light particles.
Physical chemistry involves the research of atomic, subatomic and macroscopic particles share a unique dynamic with the chemical reactions in compounds and other particles. Chemists that pursue this branch tend to work closely with physicists and apply their theories and observations to physics. This branch studies the chemical bonding relationship between atoms and how these bonds are formed and broken. Quantum chemistry is also considered to be contained within this sub branch of science.
Biochemistry or biological chemistry involves the study of the structure, function and interaction of biological components and the chemical reactions that occur in living organisms. This branch primarily investigates the functions of biomolecules including lipids, nucleic acid, protein, carbohydrates. Much of the research conducted involves enzyme catalyzed reactions which is common in proteins found in living organisms.
Atoms and Molecules
Atoms are made up of 3 types of subatomic particles, protons, electrons and neutrons. The number of protons an atom contains determines its atomic number which is used by chemists and scientists to classify the components to elements. Protons and neutrons make up the nucleus of the atom which is located in the center, while electrons orbit the nucleus. The number of protons and electrons is the same in an atom under normal circumstances, and typically neutrons will also share the same value.
Molecules are the combination of two or more atoms which are joined in a process called a chemical bonding. Chemical bonds are most commonly formed by the sharing of electrons between two or more atoms. Molecules are typically classified as the combination of two or more of the same element, while a compound is classified as a bond between two or more different elements. Compounds are considered to be molecules, however all molecules are not considered to be compounds.
Periodic Table of Elements
The periodic table of elements is a classification system used by chemists to arrange chemical elements in order by atomic number. The atomic number of an element is determined by the number of protons a chemical element contains. The periodic table is arranged by periods (horizontal) and groups (vertical) where elements in groups are known to typically share similar properties. The periodic table is not a perfect classification system however it is a valuable tool for chemists and all scientists alike.
During the creation of the periodic table discoveries were made into the exploration of new, unnaturally occurring elements that were not known by chemists or scientists. These elements were discovered by analyzing gaps in the atomic number count and synthesizing the desired elements. The first version of the periodic table of elements was credited to Dmitri Mendeleev in 1869 and has been elaborated by a collaboration of minds since then. The periodic table of elements is a highly organized system of classifying the atomic makeup of chemical components which has given scientists a view of a bigger picture, thus allowing advancements in scientific developments and research.
Chemical bonds also called chemical bonding consists of the attraction of two or more atoms which creates a substance typically in the form of a molecule or compound. Although there are a variety of chemical bond types the two most commonly explored in chemistry are the covalent bond and ionic bond. A covalent bond is the most common type found in organic compounds and results from sharing pairs of electrons between two atoms. An ionic bond is determined by the electronegativity or two atoms. This typically occurs when one atom passes an electron to another creating opposing polarity which causes attraction of the two atoms. Almost all ionic bonds also utilize covalent bonding as well, however some chemical bonds are partially ionic and partially covalent resulting in what’s called a polar covalent bond.
Chemical reactions are a process of transformation in a chemical substance to produce a new chemical substance as a byproduct. These can occur spontaneously, requiring no energy, or can be stimulated by the output of energy such as heat, light or electricity. A chemical reaction most commonly occurs when chemical bonds are broken between atoms or the motion of electron movement is disrupted. The chemical compounds going into the reaction are referred to as a reagent or reactant. Chemical reactions are often difficult to reverse, if at all possible.
This process is dramatically different from physical reactions, which involve the changing of states of matter, from a solid, liquid or gas. During a physical reaction the compound remains the same in regards to its chemical makeup however the physical state is altered by changes in heat which cause subatomic particles to expand, collapse, speed up or slow down. Chemical reactions on the other hand result in the degeneration of the old chemical compound and the synthesis of a new chemical compound.