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Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

An oil painting of a chemist (Ana Kansky, painted by Henrika Šantel
in 1932)

Chemistry is the scientific study of the properties and behavior of matter.[1] It is a natural science that covers the elements that make up matter to the compounds composed of atoms, molecules and ions: their composition, structure, properties, behavior and the changes they undergo during a reaction with other substances.[2][3][4][5]

In the scope of its subject, chemistry occupies an intermediate position between


Chemistry addresses topics such as how atoms and molecules interact via chemical bonds to form new chemical compounds. There are two types of chemical bonds:

  • Primary chemical bonds, such as
    metallic bonds
  • Secondary chemical bonds, such as hydrogen bonds; Van der Waals force bonds; ion-ion interaction; ion-dipole interactions


The word

chemistry comes from a modification during the Renaissance of the word alchemy, which referred to an earlier set of practices that encompassed elements of chemistry, metallurgy, philosophy, astrology, astronomy, mysticism and medicine. Alchemy is often seen as linked to the quest to turn lead or other base metals into gold, though alchemists were also interested in many of the questions of modern chemistry.[8]

The modern word alchemy in turn is derived from the

Kemet, which is the ancient name of Egypt in the Egyptian language.[9] Alternately, al-kīmīā may derive from χημεία 'cast together'.[10]

Modern principles

Laboratory, Institute of Biochemistry, University of Cologne in Germany

The current model of atomic structure is the

interactions, reactions and transformations that are studied in chemistry are usually the result of interactions between atoms, leading to rearrangements of the chemical bonds which hold atoms together. Such behaviors are studied in a chemistry laboratory

The chemistry laboratory stereotypically uses various forms of laboratory glassware. However glassware is not central to chemistry, and a great deal of experimental (as well as applied/industrial) chemistry is done without it.

A chemical reaction is a transformation of some substances into one or more different substances.[13] The basis of such a chemical transformation is the rearrangement of electrons in the chemical bonds between atoms. It can be symbolically depicted through a chemical equation, which usually involves atoms as subjects. The number of atoms on the left and the right in the equation for a chemical transformation is equal. (When the number of atoms on either side is unequal, the transformation is referred to as a nuclear reaction or radioactive decay.) The type 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.

chemists.[14] Most chemists specialize in one or more sub-disciplines. Several concepts are essential for the study of chemistry; some of them are:[15]


In chemistry, matter is defined as anything that has rest mass and volume (it takes up space) and is made up of particles. The particles that make up matter have rest mass as well – not all particles have rest mass, such as the photon. Matter can be a pure chemical substance or a mixture of substances.[16]


A diagram of an atom based on the Bohr model


neutrons (together called nucleons), while the electron cloud consists of negatively charged electrons which orbit the nucleus. In a neutral atom, the negatively charged electrons balance out the positive charge of the protons. The nucleus is dense; the mass of a nucleon is approximately 1,836 times that of an electron, yet the radius of an atom is about 10,000 times that of its nucleus.[17][18]

The atom is also the smallest entity that can be envisaged to retain the



A chemical element is a pure substance which is composed of a single type of atom, characterized by its particular number of protons in the nuclei of its atoms, known as the atomic number and represented by the symbol Z. The mass number is the sum of the number of protons and neutrons in a nucleus. Although all the nuclei of all atoms belonging to one element will have the same atomic number, they may not necessarily have the same mass number; atoms of an element which have different mass numbers are known as isotopes. For example, all atoms with 6 protons in their nuclei are atoms of the chemical element carbon, but atoms of carbon may have mass numbers of 12 or 13.[18]

The standard presentation of the chemical elements is in the

groups, or columns, and periods, or rows. The periodic table is useful in identifying periodic trends.[19]


A compound is a pure chemical substance composed of more than one element. The properties of a compound bear little similarity to those of its elements.

CAS registry number


A ball-and-stick representation of the caffeine
molecule (C8H10N4O2).

A molecule is the smallest indivisible portion 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. However, this definition only works well for substances that are composed of molecules, which is not true of many substances (see below). 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.

Thus, molecules exist as electrically neutral units, unlike ions. When this rule is broken, giving the "molecule" a charge, the result is sometimes named a

mass spectrometer. Charged polyatomic collections residing in solids (for example, common sulfate or nitrate ions) are generally not considered "molecules" in chemistry. Some molecules contain one or more unpaired electrons, creating radicals
. Most radicals are comparatively reactive, but some, such as nitric oxide (NO) can be stable.

The "inert" or


However, not all substances or chemical compounds consist of discrete molecules, and indeed most of the solid substances that make up the solid crust, mantle, and core of the Earth are chemical compounds without molecules. These other types of substances, such as

silicate minerals
such as quartz and granite.

One of the main characteristics of a molecule is its geometry often called its

. 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.

Substance and mixture

allotrope of carbon), sucrose (pure sugar), and sodium chloride (salt) and sodium bicarbonate
(baking soda), which are both ionic compounds.

A chemical substance is a kind of matter with a definite

Mole and amount of substance

The mole is a unit of measurement that denotes an amount of substance (also called chemical amount). One mole is defined to contain exactly 6.02214076×1023 particles (atoms, molecules, ions, or electrons), where the number of particles per mole is known as the Avogadro constant.[25] Molar concentration is the amount of a particular substance per volume of solution, and is commonly reported in mol/dm3.[26]


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. Another phase commonly encountered in the study of chemistry is the aqueous phase, which is the state of substances dissolved in aqueous solution (that is, in water).

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


Atoms sticking together in molecules or crystals are said to be bonded with one another. A chemical bond may be visualized as the

multipole balance between the positive charges in the nuclei and the negative charges oscillating about them.[27]
More than simple attraction and repulsion, the energies and distributions characterize the availability of an electron to bond to another atom.

The chemical bond can be a

oxidation number
can be used to explain molecular structure and composition.

An ionic bond is formed when a metal loses one or more of its electrons, becoming a positively charged cation, and the electrons are then gained by the non-metal atom, becoming a negatively charged anion. The two oppositely charged ions attract one another, and the ionic bond is the electrostatic force of attraction between them. For example, sodium (Na), a metal, loses one electron to become an Na+ cation while chlorine (Cl), a non-metal, gains this electron to become Cl. The ions are held together due to electrostatic attraction, and that compound sodium chloride (NaCl), or common table salt, is formed.

In a covalent bond, one or more pairs of valence electrons are shared by two atoms: the resulting electrically neutral group of bonded atoms is termed a molecule. Atoms will share valence electrons in such a way as to create a noble gas electron configuration (eight electrons in their outermost shell) for each atom. Atoms that tend to combine in such a way that they each have eight electrons in their valence shell are said to follow the octet rule. However, some elements like hydrogen and lithium need only two electrons in their outermost shell to attain this stable configuration; these atoms are said to follow the duet rule, and in this way they are reaching the electron configuration of the noble gas helium, which has two electrons in its outer shell.

Similarly, theories from

metal complexes, valence bond theory is less applicable and alternative approaches, such as the molecular orbital
theory, are generally used. See diagram on electronic orbitals.


In the context of chemistry, energy is an attribute of a substance as a consequence of its

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

endothermic reactions
, the reaction absorbs heat from the surroundings.

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 – that is the probability of a 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 to occur can be in the form of heat, light, electricity or mechanical force in the form of ultrasound.[28]

A related concept free energy, which also incorporates entropy considerations, 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, ; if it is equal to zero the chemical reaction is said to be at equilibrium.

There exist only 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 a 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, more amenable to chemical reactions.

The phase of a substance is invariably determined by its energy and the energy of its surroundings. When the

dipole-dipole interactions

The transfer of energy from one chemical substance to another depends on the size of energy

invoked for the electronic energy transfer. Thus, because vibrational and rotational energy levels are more closely spaced than electronic energy levels, heat is more easily transferred between substances relative to light or other forms of electronic energy. For example, ultraviolet electromagnetic radiation is not transferred with as much efficacy from one substance to another as thermal or electrical energy.

The existence of characteristic energy levels for different

, etc. Spectroscopy is also used to identify the composition of remote objects – like stars and distant galaxies – by analyzing their radiation spectra.

Emission spectrum of iron

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


During chemical reactions, bonds between atoms break and form, resulting in different substances with different properties. In a blast furnace, iron oxide, a compound, reacts with carbon monoxide to form iron, one of the chemical elements
, and carbon dioxide.

When a chemical substance is transformed as a result of its interaction with another substance or with energy, a chemical reaction is said to have occurred. A chemical reaction is therefore a concept related to the "reaction" of a substance when it comes in close contact with another, whether as a mixture or a solution; exposure to some form of energy, or both. It results in some energy exchange between the constituents of the reaction as well as with the system environment, which may be designed vessels—often laboratory glassware.

Chemical reactions can result in the formation or dissociation of molecules, that is, molecules breaking apart to form two or more 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.[30]

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

physical chemists specialize in exploring and proposing the mechanisms of various chemical reactions. Several empirical rules, like the Woodward–Hoffmann rules
often come in handy while proposing a mechanism for a chemical reaction.

According to the

IUPAC gold book, a chemical reaction is "a process that results in the interconversion of chemical species."[31] Accordingly, 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').

Ions and salts

An ion is a charged species, an atom or a molecule, that has lost or gained one or more electrons. When an atom loses an electron and thus has more protons than electrons, the atom is a positively charged ion or

anion. Cations and anions can form a crystalline lattice of neutral salts, such as the Na+ and Cl ions forming sodium chloride, or NaCl. Examples of polyatomic ions that do not split up during acid–base reactions are hydroxide (OH) and phosphate

Plasma is composed of gaseous matter that has been completely ionized, usually through high temperature.

Acidity and basicity

A substance can often be classified as an acid or a

hydroxide ions when dissolved in water. According to Brønsted–Lowry acid–base theory, acids are substances that donate a positive hydrogen ion
to another substance in a chemical reaction; by extension, a base is the substance which receives that hydrogen ion.

A third common theory is Lewis acid–base theory, which is based on the formation of new chemical bonds. Lewis theory explains that an acid is a substance which is capable of accepting a pair of electrons from another substance during the process of bond formation, while a base is a substance which can provide a pair of electrons to form a new bond. According to this theory, the crucial things being exchanged are charges.[32][unreliable source?] 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.[33]

Acid strength is commonly measured by two methods. One measurement, based on the Arrhenius definition of acidity, is pH, which is a measurement of the hydronium ion concentration in a solution, as expressed on a negative logarithmic scale. Thus, solutions that have a low pH have a high hydronium ion concentration and can be said to be more acidic. The other measurement, based on the Brønsted–Lowry definition, is the acid dissociation constant (Ka), which measures the relative ability of a substance to act as an acid under the Brønsted–Lowry definition of an acid. That is, substances with a higher Ka are more likely to donate hydrogen ions in chemical reactions than those with lower Ka values.


Redox (reduction-oxidation) reactions include all

reducing agents
, reductants, or reducers.

A reductant transfers electrons to another substance and is thus oxidized itself. And because it "donates" electrons it is also called an electron donor. Oxidation and reduction properly refer to a change in oxidation number—the actual transfer of electrons may never occur. Thus, oxidation is better defined as an increase in

oxidation number
, and reduction as a decrease in oxidation number.


Although the concept of equilibrium is widely used across sciences, in the context of chemistry, it arises whenever a number of different states of the chemical composition are possible, as for example, in a mixture of several chemical compounds that can react with one another, or when a substance can be present in more than one kind of phase.

A system of chemical substances at equilibrium, even though having an unchanging composition, is most often not

static; molecules of the substances continue to react with one another thus giving rise to a dynamic equilibrium
. Thus the concept describes the state in which the parameters such as chemical composition remain unchanged over time.

Chemical laws

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


The history of chemistry spans a period from very old times to the present. Since several millennia BC, civilizations were using technologies that would eventually form the basis of the various branches of chemistry. Examples include extracting metals from ores, making pottery and glazes, fermenting beer and wine, extracting chemicals from plants for medicine and perfume, rendering fat into soap, making glass, and making alloys like bronze.

Chemistry was preceded by its protoscience, alchemy, which operated a non-scientific approach to understanding the constituents of matter and their interactions. Despite being unsuccessful in explaining the nature of matter and its transformations, alchemists set the stage for modern chemistry by performing experiments and recording the results. Robert Boyle, although skeptical of elements and convinced of alchemy, played a key part in elevating the "sacred art" as an independent, fundamental and philosophical discipline in his work The Sceptical Chymist (1661).[34]

While both alchemy and chemistry are concerned with matter and its transformations, the crucial difference was given by the

Willard Gibbs.[35]


The definition of chemistry has changed over time, as new discoveries and theories add to the functionality of the science. The term "chymistry", in the view of noted scientist Robert Boyle in 1661, meant the subject of the material principles of mixed bodies.[36] In 1663, the chemist Christopher Glaser described "chymistry" as 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 a higher perfection.[37]

The 1730 definition of the word "chemistry", as used by Georg Ernst Stahl, meant the art of resolving mixed, compound, or aggregate bodies into their principles; and of composing such bodies from those principles.[38] In 1837, Jean-Baptiste Dumas considered the word "chemistry" to refer to the science concerned with the laws and effects of molecular forces.[39] This definition further evolved until, in 1947, it came to mean the science of substances: their structure, their properties, and the reactions that change them into other substances – a characterization accepted by Linus Pauling.[40] More recently, in 1998, Professor Raymond Chang broadened the definition of "chemistry" to mean the study of matter and the changes it undergoes.[41]


Democritus' atomist philosophy was later adopted by Epicurus
(341–270 BCE).

Early civilizations, such as the Egyptians[42] Babylonians and Indians[43] amassed practical knowledge concerning the arts of metallurgy, pottery and dyes, but didn't develop a systematic theory.

A basic chemical hypothesis first emerged in

four elements as propounded definitively by Aristotle stating that fire, air, earth and water were the fundamental elements from which everything is formed as a combination. Greek atomism dates back to 440 BC, arising in works by philosophers such as Democritus and Epicurus. In 50 BCE, the Roman philosopher Lucretius expanded upon the theory in his book De rerum natura (On The Nature of Things).[44][45] Unlike modern concepts of science, Greek atomism was purely philosophical in nature, with little concern for empirical observations and no concern for chemical experiments.[46]

An early form of the idea of conservation of mass is the notion that "Nothing comes from nothing" in Ancient Greek philosophy, which can be found in Empedocles (approx. 4th century BC): "For it is impossible for anything to come to be from what is not, and it cannot be brought about or heard of that what is should be utterly destroyed."[47] and Epicurus (3rd century BC), who, describing the nature of the Universe, wrote that "the totality of things was always such as it is now, and always will be".[48]

Perso-Arab alchemist and pioneer in organic chemistry

In the

Muslim conquests,[51] and from there, and from the Byzantine remnants,[52] diffused into medieval and Renaissance
Europe through Latin translations.

The Arabic works attributed to

Abū al-Rayhān al-Bīrūnī[56] and Avicenna[57] disputed the theories of alchemy, particularly the theory of the transmutation of metals

Under the influence of the

Sir Francis Bacon and others, a group of chemists at Oxford, Robert Boyle, Robert Hooke and John Mayow began to reshape the old alchemical traditions into a scientific discipline. Boyle in particular questioned some commonly held chemical theories and argued for chemical practitioners to be more "philosophical" and less commercially focused in The Sceptical Chemyst.[34] He formulated Boyle's law, rejected the classical "four elements" and proposed a mechanistic alternative of atoms and chemical reactions that could be subject to rigorous experiment.[58]

Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier is considered the "Father of Modern Chemistry".[59]

In the following decades, many important discoveries were made, such as the nature of 'air' which was discovered to be composed of many different gases. The Scottish chemist

phlogiston (a substance at the root of all combustion) was propounded by the German Georg Ernst Stahl in the early 18th century and was only overturned by the end of the century by the French chemist Antoine Lavoisier, the chemical analogue of Newton in physics. Lavoisier did more than any other to establish the new science on proper theoretical footing, by elucidating the principle of conservation of mass and developing a new system of chemical nomenclature used to this day.[60]

English scientist John Dalton proposed the modern theory of atoms; that all substances are composed of indivisible 'atoms' of matter and that different atoms have varying atomic weights.

The development of the electrochemical theory of chemical combinations occurred in the early 19th century as the result of the work of two scientists in particular,

alkali metals by extracting them from their oxides with electric current.[61]

In his periodic table, Dmitri Mendeleev predicted the existence of 7 new elements,[62] and placed all 60 elements known at the time in their correct places.[63]


Lord Rayleigh
at the end of the century, thereby filling in the basic structure of the table.

Top: Expected results: alpha particles passing through the plum pudding model of the atom undisturbed.
Bottom: Observed results: a small portion of the particles were deflected, indicating a small, concentrated charge

At the turn of the twentieth century the theoretical underpinnings of chemistry were finally understood due to a series of remarkable discoveries that succeeded in probing and discovering the very nature of the internal structure of atoms. In 1897,

radioactivity. In a series of pioneering scattering experiments Ernest Rutherford at the University of Manchester discovered the internal structure of the atom and the existence of the proton, classified and explained the different types of radioactivity and successfully transmuted the first element by bombarding nitrogen with alpha particles

His work on atomic structure was improved on by his students, the Danish physicist Niels Bohr, Henry Moseley and Otto Hahn, who went on to father the emerging nuclear chemistry. The electronic theory of chemical bonds and molecular orbitals was developed by the American scientists Linus Pauling and Gilbert N. Lewis.

The year 2011 was declared by the United Nations as the International Year of Chemistry.[67] It was an initiative of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, and of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization and involves chemical societies, academics, and institutions worldwide and relied on individual initiatives to organize local and regional activities.

Organic chemistry was developed by

J. W. Gibbs and Svante Arrhenius
in the 1870s).



Chemistry is typically divided into several major sub-disciplines. There are also several main cross-disciplinary and more specialized fields of chemistry.[69]

Others subdivisions include

synthetic chemistry
, and many others.


chemo-informatics, environmental chemistry, geochemistry, green chemistry, immunochemistry, marine chemistry, materials science, mechanochemistry, medicinal chemistry, molecular biology, nanotechnology, oenology, pharmacology, phytochemistry, solid-state chemistry, surface science, thermochemistry
, and many others.


The chemical industry represents an important economic activity worldwide. The global top 50 chemical producers in 2013 had sales of US$980.5 billion with a profit margin of 10.3%.[71]

Professional societies

See also


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