chemistry

chemistry

[kem-uh-stree]
chemistry, branch of science concerned with the properties, composition, and structure of substances and the changes they undergo when they combine or react under specified conditions.

Branches of Chemistry

Chemistry can be divided into branches according to either the substances studied or the types of study conducted. The primary division of the first type is between inorganic chemistry and organic chemistry. Divisions of the second type are physical chemistry and analytical chemistry.

The original distinction between organic and inorganic chemistry arose as chemists gradually realized that compounds of biological origin were quite different in their general properties from those of mineral origin; organic chemistry was defined as the study of substances produced by living organisms. However, when it was discovered in the 19th cent. that organic molecules can be produced artificially in the laboratory, this definition had to be abandoned. Organic chemistry is most simply defined as the study of the compounds of carbon. Inorganic chemistry is the study of chemical elements and their compounds (with the exception of carbon compounds).

Physical chemistry is concerned with the physical properties of materials, such as their electrical and magnetic behavior and their interaction with electromagnetic fields. Subcategories within physical chemistry are thermochemistry, electrochemistry, and chemical kinetics. Thermochemistry is the investigation of the changes in energy and entropy that occur during chemical reactions and phase transformations (see states of matter). Electrochemistry concerns the effects of electricity on chemical changes and interconversions of electric and chemical energy such as that in a voltaic cell. Chemical kinetics is concerned with the details of chemical reactions and of how equilibrium is reached between the products and reactants.

Analytical chemistry is a collection of techniques that allows exact laboratory determination of the composition of a given sample of material. In qualitative analysis all the atoms and molecules present are identified, with particular attention to trace elements. In quantitative analysis the exact weight of each constituent is obtained as well. Stoichiometry is the branch of chemistry concerned with the weights of the chemicals participating in chemical reactions. See also chemical analysis.

History of Chemistry

The earliest practical knowledge of chemistry was concerned with metallurgy, pottery, and dyes; these crafts were developed with considerable skill, but with no understanding of the principles involved, as early as 3500 B.C. in Egypt and Mesopotamia. The basic ideas of element and compound were first formulated by the Greek philosophers during the period from 500 to 300 B.C. Opinion varied, but it was generally believed that four elements (fire, air, water, and earth) combined to form all things. Aristotle's definition of a simple body as "one into which other bodies can be decomposed and which itself is not capable of being divided" is close to the modern definition of element.

About the beginning of the Christian era in Alexandria, the ancient Egyptian industrial arts and Greek philosophical speculations were fused into a new science. The beginnings of chemistry, or alchemy, as it was first known, are mingled with occultism and magic. Interests of the period were the transmutation of base metals into gold, the imitation of precious gems, and the search for the elixir of life, thought to grant immortality. Muslim conquests in the 7th cent. A.D. diffused the remains of Hellenistic civilization to the Arab world. The first chemical treatises to become well known in Europe were Latin translations of Arabic works, made in Spain c.A.D. 1100; hence it is often erroneously supposed that chemistry originated among the Arabs. Alchemy developed extensively during the Middle Ages, cultivated largely by itinerant scholars who wandered over Europe looking for patrons.

Evolution of Modern Chemistry

In the hands of the "Oxford Chemists" (Robert Boyle, Robert Hooke, and John Mayow) chemistry began to emerge as distinct from the pseudoscience of alchemy. Boyle (1627-91) is often called the founder of modern chemistry (an honor sometimes also given Antoine Lavoisier, 1743-94). He performed experiments under reduced pressure, using an air pump, and discovered that volume and pressure are inversely related in gases (see gas laws). Hooke gave the first rational explanation of combustion—as combination with air—while Mayow studied animal respiration. Even as the English chemists were moving toward the correct theory of combustion, two Germans, J. J. Becher and G. E. Stahl, introduced the false phlogiston theory of combustion, which held that the substance phlogiston is contained in all combustible bodies and escapes when the bodies burn.

The discovery of various gases and the analysis of air as a mixture of gases occurred during the phlogiston period. Carbon dioxide, first described by J. B. van Helmont and rediscovered by Joseph Black in 1754, was originally called fixed air. Hydrogen, discovered by Boyle and carefully studied by Henry Cavendish, was called inflammable air and was sometimes identified with phlogiston itself. Cavendish also showed that the explosion of hydrogen and oxygen produces water. C. W. Scheele found that air is composed of two fluids, only one of which supports combustion. He was the first to obtain pure oxygen (1771-73), although he did not recognize it as an element. Joseph Priestley independently discovered oxygen by heating the red oxide of mercury with a burning glass; he was the last great defender of the phlogiston theory.

The work of Priestley, Black, and Cavendish was radically reinterpreted by Lavoisier, who did for chemistry what Newton had done for physics a century before. He made no important new discoveries of his own; rather, he was a theoretician. He recognized the true nature of combustion, introduced a new chemical nomenclature, and wrote the first modern chemistry textbook. He erroneously believed that all acids contain oxygen.

Impact of the Atomic Theory

The assumption that compounds were of definite composition was implicit in 18th-century chemistry. J. L. Proust formally stated the law of constant proportions in 1797. C. L. Berthollet opposed this law, holding that composition depended on the method of preparation. The issue was resolved in favor of Proust by John Dalton's atomic theory (1808). The atomic theory goes back to the Greeks, but it did not prove fruitful in chemistry until Dalton ascribed relative weights to the atoms of chemical elements. Electrochemical theories of chemical combinations were developed by Humphry Davy and J. J. Berzelius. Davy discovered the alkali metals by passing an electric current through their molten oxides. Michael Faraday discovered that a definite quantity of charge must flow in order to deposit a given weight of material in solution. Amedeo Avogadro introduced the hypothesis that equal volumes of gases at the same pressure and temperature contain the same number of molecules.

William Prout suggested that as all elements seemed to have atomic weights that were multiples of the atomic weight of hydrogen, they could all be in some way different combinations of hydrogen atoms. This contributed to the concept of the periodic table of the elements, the culmination of a long effort to find regular, systematic properties among the elements. Periodic laws were put forward almost simultaneously and independently by J. L. Meyer in Germany and D. I. Mendeleev in Russia (1869). An early triumph of the new theory was the discovery of new elements that fit the empty spaces in the table. William Ramsay's discovery, in collaboration with Lord Rayleigh, of argon and other inert gases in the atmosphere extended the periodic table

Organic Chemistry and the Modern Era

Organic chemistry developed extensively in the 19th cent., prompted in part by Friedrich Wohler's synthesis of urea (1828), which disproved the belief that only living organisms could produce organic molecules. Other important organic chemists include Justus von Liebig, C. A. Wurtz, and J. B. Dumas. In 1852 Edward Frankland introduced the idea of valency (see valence), and in 1858 F. A. Kekule showed that carbon atoms are tetravalent and are linked together in chains. Kekule's ring structure for benzene opened the way to modern theories of organic chemistry. Henri Louis Le Châtelier, J. H. van't Hoff, and Wilhelm Ostwald pioneered the application of thermodynamics to chemistry. Further contributions were the phase rule of J. W. Gibbs, the ionization equilibrium theory of S. A. Arrhenius, and the heat theorem of Walther Nernst. Ernst Fischer's work on the amino acids marks the beginning of molecular biology.

At the end of the 19th cent., the discovery of the electron by J. J. Thomson and of radioactivity by A. E. Becquerel revealed the close connection between chemistry and physics. The work of Ernest Rutherford, H. G. J. Moseley, and Niels Bohr on atomic structure (see atom) was applied to molecular structures. G. N. Lewis, Irving Langmuir, and Linus Pauling developed the electronic theory of chemical bonds, directed valency, and molecular orbitals (see molecular orbital theory). Transmutation of the elements, first achieved by Rutherford, has led to the creation of elements not found in nature; in work pioneered by Glenn Seaborg elements heavier than uranium have been produced. With the rapid development of polymer chemistry after World War II a host of new synthetic fibers and materials have been added to the market. A fuller understanding of the relation between the structure of molecules and their properties has allowed chemists to tailor predictively new materials to meet specific needs.

Bibliography

See I. Asimov, A Short History of Chemistry (1965); D. A. McQuarrie and P. A. Rock, General Chemistry (1984); L. Pauling, General Chemistry (3d ed. 1991); R. C. Weast, ed., CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics (published annually).

Field of science concerned with chemical substances and processes that occur in plants, animals, and microorganisms. It involves the quantitative determination and structural analysis of the organic compounds that make up cells (proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids) and of those that play key roles in chemical reactions vital to life (e.g., nucleic acids, vitamins, and hormones). Biochemists study cells' many complex and interrelated chemical changes. Examples include the chemical reactions by which proteins and all their precursors are synthesized, food is converted to energy (see metabolism), hereditary characteristics are transmitted (see heredity), energy is stored and released, and all biological chemical reactions are catalyzed (see catalysis, enzyme). Biochemistry straddles the biological and physical sciences and uses many techniques common in medicine and physiology as well as those of organic, analytical, and physical chemistry.

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Science that deals with the properties, composition, and structure of substances (elements and compounds), the reactions and transformations they undergo, and the energy released or absorbed during those processes. Often called the “central science,” chemistry is concerned with atoms as building blocks (rather than with the subatomic domain; see nuclear physics, quantum mechanics), with everything in the material world, and with all living things. Branches of chemistry include inorganic (see inorganic compound), organic (see organic compound), physical, and analytical (see analysis) chemistry; biochemistry; electrochemistry; and geochemistry. Chemical engineering (applied chemistry) uses the theoretical and experimental information obtained in chemistry to build chemical plants and make useful products.

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Chemistry (from Egyptian kēme (chem), meaning "earth") is the science concerned with the composition, structure, and properties of matter, as well as the changes it undergoes during chemical reactions. Historically, modern chemistry evolved out of alchemy following the chemical revolution (1773). Chemistry is a physical science related to studies of various atoms, molecules, crystals and other aggregates of matter whether in isolation or combination, which incorporates the concepts of energy and entropy in relation to the spontaneity of chemical processes.

Disciplines within chemistry are traditionally grouped by the type of matter being studied or the kind of study. These include inorganic chemistry, the study of inorganic matter; organic chemistry, the study of organic matter; biochemistry, the study of substances found in biological organisms; physical chemistry, the energy related studies of chemical systems at macro, molecular and submolecular scales; analytical chemistry, the analysis of material samples to gain an understanding of their chemical composition and structure. Many more specialized disciplines have emerged in recent years, e.g. neurochemistry the chemical study of the nervous system (see subdisciplines).

Overview

Chemistry is the scientific study of interaction of chemical substances that are constituted of atoms or the subatomic particles: protons, electrons and neutrons. Atoms combine to produce molecules or crystals. Chemistry is often called "the central science" because it connects the other natural sciences, such as astronomy, physics, material science, biology, and geology.

The genesis of chemistry can be traced to certain practices, known as alchemy, which had been practiced for several millennia in various parts of the world, particularly the Middle East.

The structure of objects we commonly use and the properties of the matter we commonly interact with, are a consequence of the properties of chemical substances and their interactions. For example, steel is harder than iron because its atoms are bound together in a more rigid crystalline lattice; wood burns or undergoes rapid oxidation because it can react spontaneously with oxygen in a chemical reaction above a certain temperature; sugar and salt dissolve in water because their molecular/ionic properties are such that dissolution is preferred under the ambient conditions.

The transformations that are studied in chemistry are a result of interaction either between different chemical substances or between matter and energy. Traditional chemistry involves study of interactions between substances in a chemistry laboratory using various forms of laboratory glassware. A chemical reaction is a transformation of some substances into one or more other substances. It can be symbolically depicted through a chemical equation. The number of atoms on the left and the right in the equation for a chemical transformation is most often equal. The nature of chemical reactions a substance may undergo and the energy changes that may accompany it are constrained by certain basic rules, known as chemical laws.

Energy and entropy considerations are invariably important in almost all chemical studies. Chemical substances are classified in terms of their structure, phase as well as their chemical compositions. They can be analysed using the tools of chemical analysis, e.g. spectroscopy and chromatography.

Chemistry is an integral part of the science curriculum both at the high school as well as the early college level. At these levels, it is often called 'general chemistry' which is an introduction to a wide variety of fundamental concepts that enable the student to acquire tools and skills useful at the advanced levels, whereby chemistry is invariably studied in any of its various sub-disciplines. Scientists, engaged in chemical research are known as chemists. Most chemists specialize in one or more sub-disciplines.

History

The genesis of chemistry can be traced to the widely observed phenomenon of burning that led to metallurgy- the art and science of processing ores to get metals (e.g. metallurgy in ancient India). The greed for gold led to the discovery of the process for its purification, even though, the underlying principles were not well understood -- it was thought to be a transformation rather than purification. Many scholars in those days thought it reasonable to believe that there exist means for transforming cheaper (base) metals into gold. This gave way to alchemy, and the search for the Philosopher's Stone, which was believed to bring about such a transformation by mere touch.

Some consider medieval Muslims to be the earliest chemists, who introduced precise observation and controlled experimentation into the field, and discovered numerous chemical substances. The most influential Muslim chemists were Geber (d. 815), al-Kindi (d. 873), al-Razi (d. 925), and al-Biruni (d. 1048). The works of Geber became more widely known in Europe through Latin translations by a pseudo-Geber in 14th century Spain, who also wrote some of his own books under the pen name "Geber". The contribution of Indian alchemists and metallurgists in the development of chemistry was also quite significant.

The emergence of chemistry in Europe was primarily due to the recurrent incidence of the plague and blights there during the so called Dark Ages. This gave rise to a need for medicines. It was thought that there exists a universal medicine called the Elixir of Life that can cure all diseases, but like the Philosopher's Stone, it was never found.

For some practitioners, alchemy was an intellectual pursuit, over time, they got better at it. Paracelsus (1493-1541), for example, rejected the 4-elemental theory and with only a vague understanding of his chemicals and medicines, formed a hybrid of alchemy and science in what was to be called iatrochemistry. Similarly, the influences of philosophers such as Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) and René Descartes (1596-1650), who demanded more rigor in mathematics and in removing bias from scientific observations, led to a scientific revolution. In chemistry, this began with Robert Boyle (1627-1691), who came up with an equations known as the Boyle's Law about the characteristics of gaseous state. Chemistry indeed came of age when Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794), developed the theory of Conservation of mass in 1783; and the development of the Atomic Theory by John Dalton around 1800. The Law of Conservation of Mass resulted in the reformulation of chemistry based on this law and the oxygen theory of combustion, which was largely based on the work of Lavoisier. Lavoisier's fundamental contributions to chemistry were a result of a conscious effort to fit all experiments into the framework of a single theory. He established the consistent use of the chemical balance, used oxygen to overthrow the phlogiston theory, and developed a new system of chemical nomenclature and made contribution to the modern metric system. Lavoisier also worked to translate the archaic and technical language of chemistry into something that could be easily understood by the largely uneducated masses, leading to an increased public interest in chemistry. All these advances in chemistry led to what is usually called the chemical revolution. The contributions of Lavoisier led to what is now called modern chemistry - the chemistry that is studied in educational institutions all over the world. It is because of these and other contributions that Antoine Lavoisier is often celebrated as the "Father of Modern Chemistry". The later discovery of Friedrich Wöhler that many natural substances, organic compounds, can indeed be synthesized in a chemistry laboratory also helped the modern chemistry to mature from its infancy.

The discoveries of the chemical elements has a long history from the days of alchemy and culminating in the creation of the periodic table of the chemical elements by Dmitri Mendeleev (1834-1907) and later discoveries of some synthetic elements.

Etymology

The word chemistry comes from the earlier study of alchemy, which is a pseudoscientific practice which encompasses elements of chemistry, metallurgy, philosophy, astrology, astronomy, mysticism and medicine. Alchemy is commonly thought of as the quest to turn lead or another common starting material into gold. As to the origin of the word "alchemy" the question is a debatable one; it certainly can be traced back to the Greeks, and some, following E. Wallis Budge, have also asserted Egyptian origins. Alchemy, generally, derives from the old French alkemie from the Arabic كيمياء al-kīmiyā' - "the art of transformation". The Arabs borrowed the word "kimia" from the Greeks when they conquered Alexandria in the year 642 AD. A tentative outline is as follows:

  1. Egyptian alchemy [3,000 BCE – 400 BCE], formulate early "element" theories such as the Ogdoad.
  2. Greek alchemy [332 BCE – 642 CE], the Greek king Alexander the Great conquers Egypt and founds Alexandria, having the world's largest library, where scholars and wise men gather to study.
  3. Arabian alchemy [642 CE – 1200], the Arabs take over Alexandria; Jabir is the main chemist
  4. European alchemy [1300 – present], Pseudo-Geber builds on Arabic chemistry
  5. Chemistry [1661], Boyle writes his classic chemistry text The Sceptical Chymist
  6. Chemistry [1787], Lavoisier writes his classic Elements of Chemistry
  7. Chemistry [1803], Dalton publishes his Atomic Theory

Thus, an alchemist was called a 'chemist' in popular speech, and later the suffix "-ry" was added to this to describe the art of the chemist as "chemistry".

Definitions

In retrospect, the definition of chemistry seems to invariably change per decade, as new discoveries and theories add to the functionality of the science. Shown below are some of the standard definitions used by various noted chemists:

  • Alchemy (330) – the study of the composition of waters, movement, growth, embodying, disembodying, drawing the spirits from bodies and bonding the spirits within bodies (Zosimos).
  • Chymistry (1661) – the subject of the material principles of mixt bodies (Boyle).
  • Chymistry (1663) – a scientific art, by which one learns to dissolve bodies, and draw from them the different substances on their composition, and how to unite them again, and exalt them to an higher perfection (Glaser).
  • Chemistry (1730) – the art of resolving mixt, compound, or aggregate bodies into their principles; and of composing such bodies from those principles (Stahl).
  • Chemistry (1837) – the science concerned with the laws and effects of molecular forces (Dumas).
  • Chemistry (1947) – the science of substances: their structure, their properties, and the reactions that change them into other substances (Pauling).
  • Chemistry (1998) – the study of matter and the changes it undergoes (Chang).

Basic concepts

Several concepts are essential for the study of chemistry, some of them are:

Atom

An atom is the basic unit of an element. It is a collection of matter consisting of a positively charged core (the atomic nucleus) which contains protons and neutrons, and which maintains a number of electrons to balance the positive charge in the nucleus. The atom is also the smallest entity that can be envisaged to retain some of the chemical properties of the element, such as electronegativity, ionization potential, preferred oxidation state(s), coordination number, and preferred types of bonds to form (e.g., metallic, ionic, covalent).

Element

The concept of chemical element is related to that of chemical substance. A chemical element is characterized by a particular number of protons in the nuclei of its atoms. This number is known as the atomic number of the element. For example, all atoms with 6 protons in their nuclei are atoms of the chemical element carbon, and all atoms with 92 protons in their nuclei are atoms of the element uranium. However, several isotopes of an element, that differ from one another in the number of neutrons present in the nucleus, may exist.

The most convenient presentation of the chemical elements is in the periodic table of the chemical elements, which groups elements by atomic number. Due to its ingenious arrangement, groups, or columns, and periods, or rows, of elements in the table either share several chemical properties, or follow a certain trend in characteristics such as atomic radius, electronegativity, etc. Lists of the elements by name, by symbol, and by atomic number are also available.

Compound

A compound is a substance with a particular ratio of atoms of particular chemical elements which determines its composition, and a particular organization which determines chemical properties. For example, water is a compound containing hydrogen and oxygen in the ratio of two to one, with the oxygen between the hydrogens, and an angle of 104.5° between them. Compounds are formed and interconverted by chemical reactions.

Substance

A chemical substance is a kind of matter with a definite composition and set of properties. Strictly speaking, a mixture of compounds, elements or compounds and elements is not a chemical substance, but it may be called a chemical. Most of the substances we encounter in our daily life are some kind of mixture, e.g. air, alloys, biomass etc.

Nomenclature of substances is a critical part of the language of chemistry. Generally it refers to a system for naming chemical compounds. Earlier in the history of chemistry substances were given name by their discoverer, which often led to some confusion and difficulty. However, today the IUPAC system of chemical nomenclature allows chemists to specify by name specific compounds amongst the infinite variety of possible chemicals. The standard nomenclature of chemical substances is set by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). There are well-defined systems in place for naming chemical species. Organic compounds are named according to the organic nomenclature system. Inorganic compounds are named according to the inorganic nomenclature system. In addition the Chemical Abstracts Service has devised a method to index chemical substance. In this scheme each chemical substance is identifiable by a numeric number known as CAS registry number.

Molecule

A molecule is the smallest indivisible portion, beside an atom, of a pure chemical substance that has its unique set of chemical properties, that is, its potential to undergo a certain set of chemical reactions with other substances. Molecules can exist as electrically neutral units unlike ions. Molecules are typically a set of atoms bound together by covalent bonds, such that the structure is electrically neutral and all valence electrons are paired with other electrons either in bonds or in lone pairs.

One of the main characteristic of a molecule is its geometry often called its structure. While the structure of diatomic, triatomic or tetra atomic molecules may be trivial, (linear, angular pyramidal etc.) the structure of polyatomic molecules, that are constituted of more than six atoms (of several elements) can be crucial for its chemical nature.

Mole

A mole is the amount of a substance that contains as many elementary entities (atoms, molecules or ions) as there are atoms in 0.012 kilogram (or 12 grams) of carbon-12, where the carbon-12 atoms are unbound, at rest and in their ground state. This number is known as the Avogadro constant, and is determined empirically. The currently accepted value is 6.02214179(30) mol-1 (2007 CODATA). It is much like the term "a dozen" in that it is an absolute number (having no units) and can describe any type of elementary object, although the mole's use is usually limited to measurement of subatomic, atomic, and molecular structures.

The number of moles of a substance in one liter of a solution is known as its molarity. Molarity is the common unit used to express the concentration of a solution in physical chemistry.

Ions and salts

An ion is a charged species, an atom or a molecule, that has lost or gained one or more electrons. Positively charged cations (e.g. sodium cation Na+) and negatively charged anions (e.g. chloride Cl) can form a crystalline lattice of neutral salts (e.g. sodium chloride NaCl). Examples of polyatomic ions that do not split up during acid-base reactions are hydroxide (OH) and phosphate (PO43−).

Ions in the gaseous phase is often known as plasma.

Acidity and basicity

A substance can often be classified as an acid or a base. This is often done on the basis of a particular kind of reaction, namely the exchange of protons between chemical compounds. However, an extension to this mode of classification was brewed up by the American chemist, Gilbert Newton Lewis; in this mode of classification the reaction is not limited to those occurring in an aqueous solution, thus is no longer limited to solutions in water. According to concept as per Lewis, the crucial things being exchanged are charges. There are several other ways in which a substance may be classified as an acid or a base, as is evident in the history of this concept

Phase

In addition to the specific chemical properties that distinguish different chemical classifications chemicals can exist in several phases. For the most part, the chemical classifications are independent of these bulk phase classifications; however, some more exotic phases are incompatible with certain chemical properties. A phase is a set of states of a chemical system that have similar bulk structural properties, over a range of conditions, such as pressure or temperature. Physical properties, such as density and refractive index tend to fall within values characteristic of the phase. The phase of matter is defined by the phase transition, which is when energy put into or taken out of the system goes into rearranging the structure of the system, instead of changing the bulk conditions.

Sometimes the distinction between phases can be continuous instead of having a discrete boundary, in this case the matter is considered to be in a supercritical state. When three states meet based on the conditions, it is known as a triple point and since this is invariant, it is a convenient way to define a set of conditions.

The most familiar examples of phases are solids, liquids, and gases. Many substances exhibit multiple solid phases. For example, there are three phases of solid iron (alpha, gamma, and delta) that vary based on temperature and pressure. A principal difference between solid phases is the crystal structure, or arrangement, of the atoms. Less familiar phases include plasmas, Bose-Einstein condensates and fermionic condensates and the paramagnetic and ferromagnetic phases of magnetic materials. While most familiar phases deal with three-dimensional systems, it is also possible to define analogs in two-dimensional systems, which has received attention for its relevance to systems in biology.

Chemical bond

A chemical bond is a concept for understanding how atoms stick together in molecules. It may be visualized as the multipole balance between the positive charges in the nuclei and the negative charges oscillating about them. More than simple attraction and repulsion, the energies and distributions characterize the availability of an electron to bond to another atom. These potentials create the interactions which holds together atoms in molecules or crystals. In many simple compounds, Valence Bond Theory, the Valence Shell Electron Pair Repulsion model (VSEPR), and the concept of oxidation number can be used to predict molecular structure and composition. Similarly, theories from classical physics can be used to predict many ionic structures. With more complicated compounds, such as metal complexes, valence bond theory fails and alternative approaches, primarily based on principles of quantum chemistry such as the molecular orbital theory, are necessary. See diagram on electronic orbitals.

Chemical reaction

Chemical reaction is a concept related to the transformation of a chemical substance through its interaction with another, or as a result of its interaction with some form of energy. A chemical reaction may occur naturally or carried out in a laboratory by chemists in specially designed vessels which are often laboratory glassware. It can result in the formation or dissociation of molecules, that is, molecules breaking apart to form two or more smaller molecules, or rearrangement of atoms within or across molecules. Chemical reactions usually involve the making or breaking of chemical bonds. Oxidation, reduction, dissociation, acid-base neutralization and molecular rearrangement are some of the commonly used kinds of chemical reactions.

A chemical reaction can be symbolically depicted through a chemical equation. While in a non-nuclear chemical reaction the number and kind of atoms on both sides of the equation are equal, for a nuclear reaction this holds true only for the nuclear particles viz. protons and neutrons.

The sequence of steps in which the reorganization of chemical bonds may be taking place in the course of a chemical reaction is called its mechanism. A chemical reaction can be envisioned to take place in a number of steps, each of which may have a different speed. Many reaction intermediates with variable stability can thus be envisaged during the course of a reaction. Reaction mechanisms are proposed to explain the kinetics and the relative product mix of a reaction. Many physical chemists specialize in exploring and proposing the mechanisms of various chemical reactions. Several empirical rules, like the Woodward-Hoffmann rules often come handy while proposing a mechanism for a chemical reaction.

A stricter definition is that "a chemical reaction is a process that results in the interconversion of chemical species". Under this definition, a chemical reaction may be an elementary reaction or a stepwise reaction. An additional caveat is made, in that this definition includes cases where the interconversion of conformers is experimentally observable. Such detectable chemical reactions normally involve sets of molecular entities as indicated by this definition, but it is often conceptually convenient to use the term also for changes involving single molecular entities (i.e. 'microscopic chemical events').

Energy

Energy is an attribute of a substance as a consequence of its atomic, molecular or aggregate structure. Since a chemical transformation is accompanied by a change in one or more of these kinds of structure, it is invariably accompanied by an increase or decrease of energy of the substances involved. Some energy is transferred between the surroundings and the reactants of the reaction in the form of heat or light, thus the products of a reaction may have more or less energy than the reactants. A reaction is said to be exothermic if the final state is lower on the energy scale than the initial state; in case of endothermic reactions the situation is otherwise.

Chemical reactions are invariably not possible unless the reactants surmount an energy barrier known as the activation energy. The speed of a chemical reaction (at given temperature T) is related to the activation energy E, by the Boltzmann's population factor e^{-E/kT} - that is the probability of molecule to have energy greater than or equal to E at the given temperature T. This exponential dependence of a reaction rate on temperature is known as the Arrhenius equation. The activation energy necessary for a chemical reaction can be in the form of heat, light, electricity or mechanical force in the form of ultrasound.

A related concept free energy, which incorporates entropy considerations too, is a very useful means for predicting the feasibility of a reaction and determining the state of equilibrium of a chemical reaction, in chemical thermodynamics. A reaction is feasible only if the total change in the Gibbs free energy is negative, Delta G le 0 ,; if it is equal to zero the chemical reaction is said to be at equilibrium.

There are only a limited possible states of energy for electrons, atoms and molecules. These are determined by the rules of quantum mechanics, which require quantization of energy of a bound system. The atoms/molecules in an higher energy state are said to be excited. The molecules/atoms of substance in an excited energy state are often much more reactive, that is amenable to chemical reactions.

The phase of a substance is invariably determined by its energy and those of its surroundings. When the intermolecular forces of a substance are such that energy of the surroundings is not sufficient to overcome them, it occurs in a more ordered phase like liquid or solid as is the case with water (H2O), a liquid at room temperature because its molecules are bound by hydrogen bonds. Whereas hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is a gas at room temperature and standard pressure, as its molecules are bound by weaker dipole-dipole interactions.

The transfer of energy from one chemical substance to other depend on the size of energy quanta emitted from one substance. However, heat energy is easily transferred from almost any substance to another mainly because the vibrational and rotational energy levels in a substance are very closely placed. Because, the electronic energy levels are not so closely spaced, ultraviolet electromagnetic radiation is not transferred with equal felicity, as is also the case with electrical energy.

The existence of characteristic energy levels for different chemical substances is useful for their identification by the analysis of spectral lines of different kinds of spectra often used in chemical spectroscopy e.g. IR, microwave, NMR, ESR etc. This is used to identify the composition of remote objects - like stars and far galaxies - by analyzing their radiation (see spectroscopy).

The term chemical energy is often used to indicate the potential of a chemical substance to undergo a transformation through a chemical reaction or transform other chemical substances.

Chemical laws

Chemical reactions are governed by certain laws, which have become fundamental concepts in chemistry. Some of them are:

Subdisciplines

Chemistry is typically divided into several major sub-disciplines. There are also several main cross-disciplinary and more specialized fields of chemistry.

Other fields include Astrochemistry, Atmospheric chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Chemical biology, Chemo-informatics, Electrochemistry, Environmental chemistry, Flavor chemistry, Flow chemistry, Geochemistry, Green chemistry, Histochemistry, History of chemistry, Hydrogenation chemistry, Immunochemistry, Materials science, Mathematical chemistry, Medicinal chemistry, Molecular Biology, Nanotechnology, Natural product chemistry, Oenology, Organometallic chemistry, Petrochemistry, Pharmacology, Photochemistry, Physical organic chemistry, Phytochemistry, Polymer chemistry, Solid-state chemistry, Sonochemistry, Supramolecular chemistry, Surface chemistry, Synthetic chemistry, and Thermochemistry.

Chemical industry

The chemical industry represents an important economic activity. The global top 50 chemical producers in 2004 had sales of 587 billion US dollars with a profit margin of 8.1% and research and development spending of 2.1% of total chemical sales.

References

Further reading

Popular reading

  • Atkins, P.W. Galileo's Finger (Oxford University Press) ISBN 0198609418
  • Atkins, P.W. Atkins' Molecules (Cambridge University Press) ISBN 0521823978
  • Stwertka, A. A Guide to the Elements (Oxford University Press) ISBN 0195150279

Introductory undergraduate text books

  • Chang, Raymond. Chemistry 6th ed. Boston: James M. Smith, 1998. ISBN 0-07-115221-0.
  • Atkins, P.W., Overton, T., Rourke, J., Weller, M. and Armstrong, F. Shriver and Atkins inorganic chemistry (4th edition) 2006 (Oxford University Press) ISBN 0-19-926463-5
  • Clayden, J., Greeves, N., Warren, S., Wothers, P. Organic Chemistry 2000 (Oxford University Press) ISBN 0-19-850346-6
  • Voet and Voet Biochemistry (Wiley) ISBN 0-471-58651-X

Advanced undergraduate-level or graduate text books

  • Atkins, P.W. Physical Chemistry (Oxford University Press) ISBN 0-19-879285-9
  • Atkins, P.W. et al. Molecular Quantum Mechanics (Oxford University Press)
  • McWeeny, R. Coulson's Valence (Oxford Science Publications) ISBN 0-19-855144-4
  • Pauling, L. The Nature of the chemical bond (Cornell University Press) ISBN 0-8014-0333-2
  • Pauling, L., and Wilson, E. B. Introduction to Quantum Mechanics with Applications to Chemistry (Dover Publications) ISBN 0-486-64871-0
  • Stephenson, G. Mathematical Methods for Science Students (Longman)ISBN 0-582-44416-0
  • Smart and Moore Solid State Chemistry: An Introduction (Chapman and Hall) ISBN 0-412-40040-5

Professional societies

See also

Lists

External links

For a full list of external links and suppliers see .

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