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14th Mar 2019 @ 9 min read
Chemistry is a very important branch of science. Chemistry is the study of science that deals with constituents of matter like atoms molecules, ions etc.; and its properties, structure, behaviour, and interactions among them. Since everything is made up of atoms and molecules, we can see the chemistry all around us. Today, chemistry has grown into a very diverse field. There is a significant overlap between chemistry and other branches of science, for example, biochemistry (chemistry and biology), physical chemistry (chemistry and physics), medicinal chemistry (medicine and chemistry), chemical engineering (chemistry and engineering) etc.
Most people consider chemistry as a boring and complicated, but this is untrue. It is because of chemistry many of our daily activities are achieved. Soaps, detergents, pills, plastics, clothes, food, colours, and many others are some of the products of chemistry.
Principles of chemistry are applicable to various sectors. Some of them are discussed below.
Food we eat is nothing but a mixture of various chemicals. From its production to cooking, chemistry plays a very important role. Consider tomatoes, they are produced in farms. Fertilizers and crop-protection chemicals like insecticides, pesticides etc., are used in farming to increase the production of tomatoes. Then ripped tomatoes are brought to food processing industries, where they are converted into a finished product like ketchup. After various stages of food processing different ingredients like flavouring agent, chemical additives are added based on chemistry. Finally, food products are passed on to Food safety and standards authority like the FDA in the US. This authority analyses the content of food by chemical tests and approves the food for consumer consumption
We use detergents and soaps for cleaning, bathing, washing etc. They are a mixture of chemicals with cleaning properties. They are manufactured in chemical industries through saponification of fatty acids. Common chemicals used in soap industries are sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, lauric acid, palmitic acid, oleic acid etc.
Drugs are made of chemicals which are produced in pharmaceutical industries. The knowledge of chemistry is vital for pharmacists and doctors. Have you ever glance at the label of a medicine? If yes, then you have observed various chemical ingredients listed on the label. It is based on these ingredients medical practitioners decide a suitable pill for patients. The chemical nature of drugs also helps doctors to determine how drugs are going to interact with a patient’s body. For example, antibiotics like ciprofloxacin and levofloxacin are dependent on renal functions. So, the doctor who prescribed such pills needs to be prudent for kidney patients. Chemicals are also used in sterilization, disinfection to kill microbes. Chemistry also helps pharmacists to understand biochemical mechanisms in a body.
Raw materials used in textile industries are wool, silk, jute, cotton, flax, glass fibre, polyester, acrylic, nylon etc. These materials are transformed into usable finished products like clothes, bags, carpets, furniture, towels, flags, nets, balloons etc. During this transformation, raw materials are subjected to numerous chemical processes. Pre-treatment chemicals like cleaning and smoothing reagents are added to clean to fabric and smoothen it. Dyeing involves the application of fabric to dyes and pigments. Other chemical processes are bleaching, permanent press, desizing, scouring, printing, finishing. Chemists work to improve the quality of a product or involve in the development of new material.
Chemistry governs the performance of buildings. Building materials play a significant role in improving the performance of buildings. Coating chemicals like acrylics, silicones, urethanes are responsible for reflective roofs, which decreases the heat transfer. Polymers like polyurethane reduce the weight of buildings, which reduces the civil cost. Insulators like polyurethane foams, polystyrene foams decrease the heat leaks or in other words, improves the energy efficiency of the building. Polyethylene is a lightweight, flexible polymer which is used to create building piping. Polyethylene piping is easily curved and deformed to desired shapes. Vinyl tiles give shining, resilient flooring. Fillers like polystyrene beads lighten concrete without affecting the strength of concrete.
Over the last few decades, paper and pulp industries are responsible for negative impacts on the environment. Paper and pulp industries are facing grave challenges to meet environmental norms. Pollutants released from these industries are sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, carbon oxides, heavy metals (lead, cadmium, mercury), dioxins, furans, chlorates, chelating agents etc. To overcome this, industries are more focused on green chemistry to mitigate some of the environmental challenges. Green chemistry enables the researchers to design safer chemicals and products, to use renewable raw materials, converse the energy, to develop better catalyst etc.
Petrol, diesel, LPG, CNG, kerosene, oils, hydrogen etc are all fuel produced from complex refining processes. Today’s transportation (land, water, and air) is possible because of these fuels. These fuels are extracted from cruel oil found beneath the earth or oceans. Here petrochemistry plays an important role; it is a branch of chemistry which deals with the study of petrochemical processes.
Batteries are used in cars, cell phones, laptops, watches, flashlights, and many other power storage applications. Batteries work based on the principle of electrochemistry. The energy inside a battery is stored in the form of chemical energy, which converts into electric energy by electrochemical reaction.
Chemistry is the central subject in the study of environmental conservation. All those pollutants and greenhouse gases nothing but hazardous chemicals. These pollutants destroy our precious environment, degrade the ozone layer, enter our food chain, and cause tumours and so forth. All these interactions of pollutant with the environment are chemical reactions. Hence, chemistry is vital to alleviate the environment and ourselves from these poisons.
Forensic chemistry has made jobs of police officers a lot easier. Forensic helps to identify criminals by detecting chemical evidence left behind crime scenes. Chemical techniques used by forensic investigators are spectroscopy, chromatography, X-ray diffractometry, colour tests, melting point analysis etc.
Chemistry also contributes to the growth of a country. Chemical production increases the GDP of a nation. Chemical industries also generate employment.
We are a biological organism made up of various biochemicals like carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, lipids etc. Our biological processes like digestion, respiration, cellular metabolism, reproduction, and many others are accomplished by biochemical reactions. In nutshell, we will not exist without chemistry.
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