As you may already know, chemistry incorporates a wide range of other disciplines, enabling scientists to conduct comprehensive research and provide solutions to numerous global problems. Physical chemistry is one of the major branches of chemistry that provides a better understanding of how physical principles are involved in chemical processes. Evidently, physical chemistry is essential for understanding other branches of chemistry. But what makes it so crucial? Here are ten reasons why physical chemistry is so important.
#1. Physical Chemistry Uses Laws of Physics to Gain Insights into Chemical Processes
Generally speaking, physical chemistry relies on the laws of physics to explain how different chemical processes occur. The knowledge of physics allows chemists to determine and analyze how the principles of physics are involved in chemical phenomena. In order to understand how chemical reactions work, physical chemists learn the physical properties of atoms and molecules. By combining the theories of physics, mathematics, and chemistry, physical chemistry provides a better understanding of why and how different chemical phenomena occur.
#2. Physical Chemistry Studies the Interactions and Transformations of Materials
Physical chemistry is important for understanding how different chemicals interact with each other or transform into other materials. And we are talking about both physical and chemical changes in matter. This is because many processes in chemical science involve phase changes or diffusion, which are physical transformations. Without physical chemistry, scientists would not be able to explain even the simplest interactions and transformations of materials.
#3. Physical Chemistry Is Key to Understanding Quantum Mechanics
Physical chemistry allows physicists and chemists to understand how quantum mechanics works. Quantum mechanics, on the other hand, is a theory that describes the physical properties of matter on atomic and subatomic levels. Quantum mechanics not only enables us to comprehend how thermodynamics or chemical kinetics work but also allows engineers to design modern electronic devices, such as lasers, transistors, computers, MRI scanners, and many more.
#4. Physical Chemistry Explains How Spectroscopy Works
Physical chemistry is essential for developing numerous areas of study, including spectroscopy. Spectroscopy is the area of science that deals with the absorption and emission of light or other forms of electromagnetic radiation. Besides, spectroscopy is a crucial tool used for analyzing the structures and properties of atoms and molecules. Spectrometry, on the other hand, applies the principles of spectroscopy to provide quantitative results. Major types of spectroscopy are Infrared Spectroscopy (IR), Ultraviolet-Visible Spectroscopy (UV-Vis), Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (NMR), Raman Spectroscopy, and X-Ray Spectroscopy.
#5. Physical Chemistry Allows Scientists to Study Thermodynamics
Thermodynamics is another area of science studied by physical chemists. Thermodynamics explains how heat, work, and temperature are related to each other and describes how they change in a system. Besides, thermodynamics provides a better understanding of how different systems respond to surrounding changes and determines the direction in which a chemical reaction occurs. The knowledge of physical chemistry along with the laws of thermodynamics enables scientists and engineers to develop and manufacture numerous devices (heat engines, refrigerators, etc.) that we rely on daily.
#6. Physical Chemistry Is Essential for Understanding Chemical Kinetics
Chemical kinetics, also referred to as reaction kinetics, is a branch of physical chemistry that deals with the rates of a chemical reaction. While thermodynamics gives us information about the direction of a chemical reaction, it does not provide any details about the reaction rate. This is when chemical kinetics comes into play. Chemical kinetics enables scientists and engineers to determine the optimal conditions to speed up the reactions. Besides, it plays a crucial role in the design, synthesis, development, and production of drugs while ensuring their stability.
#7. Physical Chemistry Is Key to Analyzing Samples
As physical chemistry studies quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, chemical kinetics, and spectroscopy, it plays a key role in the analysis of different chemicals and materials. This is because many of the chemical analysis equipment has been developed through the understanding of physical and instrumental chemistry. For example, chemists often use Atomic, Mass, Infrared, Raman, and Double Beam (UV-Vis) spectrometers and spectrophotometers to analyze samples.
#8. Physical Chemistry Is Important in Discovering Potential Uses of Materials
As we constantly face technological challenges, it is crucial to develop new materials or discover innovative uses of already-existing ones. To do so, it is essential to understand the physical and chemical properties of atoms and molecules. Being aware of these properties allows scientists to determine how different chemicals will interact with each other or what features they can offer. Therefore, physical chemistry plays a key role in the discovery of potential uses of materials. Oftentimes, physical chemists refer to computational chemistry to make the process more straightforward.
#9. Physical Chemistry Facilitates the Development of Nanotechnology
Nanotechnology enables the production of new materials and devices by manipulating matter on atomic, molecular, and supramolecular levels. Along with offering a broad range of scientific advancements, nanotechnology improves multiple industry sectors, including but not limited to medicine, energy, food safety, information technology, and transportation. Without the knowledge of physical chemistry, it would be barely possible to achieve success in nanoscience.
#10. Physical Chemistry Is Crucial for Understanding Other Branches of Chemistry
As a matter of fact, chemistry can be categorized into multiple branches and even more sub-branches, each concerned with different scientific aspects. Believe it or not, these branches largely rely on each other and it is pretty much impossible to develop in one area without having knowledge in another one. As physical chemistry describes some of the essential concepts, even the basic principles of the discipline are absolutely crucial for understanding other branches of chemistry.