The world of chemistry is large and intricate, making it rich and fascinating. It explores every nook and cranny of the physical world in a dynamic way, looking at how physical molecules interact in exciting reactions. These reactions can lead to entirely different substances and activities, even leading to life itself. The chemistry topics discussed here each focus on a small area of the field, letting you discover the greater whole one step at a time.
Starter Chemistry Topics
General chemistry is a common course at introductory university levels and even in high school. It aims to provide students with the basic knowledge of different concepts in chemistry. These key concepts include reactions, stoichiometry, thermodynamics, and physical chemistry. A foundation in these topics can help students to cover the basics and decide on their majors in higher levels of chemistry education.
This topic in chemistry is a bit more advanced than general chemistry. It focuses on the behavior of inorganic and organometallic compounds. That is, anything that's not carbon-based is fair game. The field studies the reactions, structures, properties, and synthesis of the elements in the periodic table. Inorganic chemistry is usually taught to students after they have been introduced to organic chemistry which is concerned with the reactions and synthesis of carbon compounds. However, there can be some overlap between the two due to organometallic compounds. These compounds contain bonds between the carbon atoms of organic compounds and other atoms of a metal.
Put simply, organic chemistry is the study of carbon and or organic-based molecules that contain carbon. It is the scientific study of the properties, reactions, structures, composition, and synthesis of these different organic carbon-containing compounds. The bonds formed in the compounds are usually between carbon and hydrogen, such as the structure of methane (CH4). Covalent bonding is the type of bonding that occurs between the carbon and hydrogen atoms, and the resulting structure determines chemical composition and formula. Organic chemistry leads to many products, drugs, and materials of great use in society today.
Chemistry Topics Relating to Space and the Atmosphere
This topic bridges the divide between chemistry and space. It is the study of the reactions, abundances of molecules in the galaxy, and their interaction with radiation. The term can apply to both the interstellar medium and the solar system. This includes the formation, excitation, and destruction of molecules in astronomical environments such as black holes, star collisions, and more. Astrochemistry is a discipline borne of the curiosity of humankind and our inherent desire to reach for the beyond.
Atmospheric chemistry is a branch of atmospheric science that studies the atmosphere's chemical composition. It looks at the ways solids, liquids, and gases interact with each other and with the surface of the Earth. It also explores the interaction between the elements and the effect of human activities on the physical and chemical characteristics of the atmosphere. This is especially important as humanity continues to produce large amounts of waste products that go back into the environment and atmosphere. We need to evaluate how these material affect the environment, and what we can do to prevent damage. The field draws on other areas like computer modeling, volcanology, oceanography, physics, and meteorology to explain the topics it studies.
Also known as chemical cosmology, this is the field of study that explores the chemical composition of matter in the galaxy and the processes through which these compositions form. However, unlike astrochemistry, this discipline focuses on the chemical composition of meteorites and related samples. These samples can provide a wealth of information not only about the rest of the universe, but also about our own planet. For example, they can give us clues about the composition of the Earth when it first formed or shed light on how certain elements arrived here over time. Additionally, scientists have used them to compile lists of cosmic abundances.
Chemistry Topics in Biology
As the name suggests, this chemistry topic aims to understand and control agricultural processes. That is, the processes through which homo sapiens acquire food to feed themselves and their animals. This includes the processes involved in obtaining food and control of these processes to boost yields and improve quality while reducing costs. Agrochemistry makes great use of organic chemistry and biochemistry to study these factors of food production. Additionally, it puts effort into monitoring environmental effects of the industry and providing remediation. Due partly to advances in this field, food yields in the last century or so have shot up while the effort necessary to produce them has gone down.
Chemical biology is an interdisciplinary field that combines biology and chemistry, specifically the application of chemistry to biology. It involves the study of biological systems via the application of chemical techniques and analysis. These techniques often include producing small molecules through synthetic laboratory chemistry. It also involves the study of chemical reactions that are created in biological processes, looking at the biochemical pathways and relationships in and between cells. It is an expansive but very useful field that incorporates disciplines such as pharmacology, biochemistry, cell biology, and organic chemistry.
Marine chemistry, aka ocean chemistry, is a topic that extensively studies the composition, structure, and properties of ions, compounds, and elements in the ocean. The field studies an array of topics and specimens in the ocean, from the physical components to life itself. For example, it studies the dynamic interactions between sediments, atmospheric constituents, currents, and geology of the ocean environment. But it also studies the chemical signaling among marine organisms, the oceanic carbon cycle, decomposition in the sea of cultural heritage, benthic nutrient fluxes, and ocean acidification. These are important topics in modern times due to frequent over-fishing and negative effects of global warming.
Immunochemistry is a field that deals with the study of the molecular mechanisms and their interactions that support the functions of parts of the immune system such as antigens, antibodies, and toxins. It can also be defined as the demonstration of an antigen in a cytological preparationor other histological tissue section using an antibody that binds to an antigen. It has a strong relationship to protein chemistry, as proteins play a crucial part in the immune system. In the lab, this field uses advanced and efficient methods to bring about huge changes in medicine equipment and drugs.
Neurochemistry can be defined as the study of different types of neurochemicals. These chemicals include neurotransmitters and others molecules like neuropeptides and psychopharmaceuticals. They alter and influence the function of neurons in the brain, having effects on the nervous system and physiology through operations on synapses, neurons, and neural networks of the brain and body. Some important neurochemicals that you've probably heard of include serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine. Neurochemistry helps to analyze the molecular biology and biochemistry of organic compounds in the body and their importance in neural processes like neural differentiation, neurogenesis, and cortical plasticity.
Topics in Physical Chemistry
Electrochemistry is a branch of physical chemistry that looks at how electricity causes chemical changes. The electricity in the reaction can be either an outcome or an input, and the same goes for the chemical changes. This multidisciplinary field of science concerns chemical phenomena caused by charge separation, or passage of current, and can be applied to a variety of fields within the biological, physical, and chemical sciences. It is usually applied in liquid media and constitutes the primary base for the evolution of several physical entities as its principles are essential for activities associated with living organisms. This means that the field often overlaps with that of both biological and organic chemistry.
Molecular mechanics is a field of study that uses classical mechanics to model molecular systems. It uses these principles of physics to calculate the energy of molecules by creating a simplified model of covalent bonds. In this model, the bonds are “springs” that connect atoms, while other interactions occur between the nonbonded atoms. Molecular mechanics helps in the study of molecule systems with different sizes and complexity ranging from small to large biological systems or different materials assembly with thousands to millions of atoms. It is also known as a computational method that computes the potential energy surface for a particular arrangement of atoms.
Quantum chemistry is a field of physical chemistry with the primary focus on the application of quantum mechanical equations and principles in the study of molecules. The methods of experiments in quantum chemistry are very reliant on spectroscopy. This method gives information on the quantization of energy. This can be thought of as bundles or steps of energy within molecules. There are various types of spectroscopy, including infra-red, nuclear magnetic resonance, and scanning probe.
Solid State Chemistry
Solid-state chemistry, also known as material chemistry, is the study of properties of solid phase materials, synthetic structures, and sometimes non-molecular solids. It is a strong overlap of fields like ceramics, thermodynamics, crystallography, mineralogy, metallurgy, and electronics focusing on the characterization of novel materials and their synthesis. It also entails understanding the process of growth and formation of crystals and applying it to the control and prediction of crystal perfection. Contributions from the field include the Schrodinger equation, the cathode ray discovery, the black-body radiation problem, and Planck's constant.
This unique chemistry topic is a branch of physical chemistry that analyzes chemical reactions on short timescales. This is where the name comes from, as the timescales are those of femtosceonds. The field studies the actions of atoms inside molecules restructuring themselves to form new molecules. It is a fairly recent field in which scientists achieved the viewing of atoms in chemical reactions using lasers in the 1990s. The applications of these accomplishments include observing the behavior of small structures such as RNA. Thus, it can have great implications in areas such as biology.
Theoretical chemistry is a science that provides explanations and theories for chemical observations and also poses questions for future scientists to answer. It uses laws of physics to predict molecular structure, reactivity, bonding, dynamics, spectroscopic response, and physical properties. Theoretical chemistry also examines the dynamic and structural properties of molecular materials and molecules using tools of quantum chemistry. It, therefore, plays a crucial role in physical chemistry.
Chemistry Topics in Computation and Computers
Analytical chemistry involves studying and applying the knowledge of instruments and methods through which matter can be identified, separated, and quantified. Put another way, it tries to determine what exactly matter is and how much of it there is. The overall definition of analytical chemistry states that it is a practice which deals with the identification, quantification, and separation of chemical compounds. Thus, analytical chemists need to have knowledge in various fields including instrumentation, statistics, and computers, as well as that of chemistry itself. The uses of the field are far and wide, including quality and safety of water, food, and medicine.
Cheminformatics is the use of informational and computational techniques to understand and solve a wide range of chemistry problems. These problems can include the storage and organizaitaon of information that relates to chemical compounds. Because compounds are so complicated, they produce huge amounts of information. Therefore, the field relies heavily on the analysis, collection, manipulation, and storage of structured data. New techniques such as data mining and machine learning are useful for the field.
Mathematical chemistry, aka computer chemistry, is the area of research that entails the novel applications of math to chemistry. The field has a main focus with mathematical modeling of chemical phenomena that help us better understand the chemical events. Main areas of research include topology, chemical graph theory, and the development of indices. Although the field sometimes goes by the name computer chemistry, be careful not to confuse it with computational chemistry. This field also uses computer simulation, but for different purposes.
For more in-depth information on these and other chemistry topics, check out other chemistry articles from Direct Knowledge.