What exactly is chemistry?
Chemistry is a fundamental and enabling science that investigates molecules – the building blocks of all matter and how they interact to affect the composition, structure and properties of substances.
The industrial applications of chemistry directly affect our daily lives: what we eat, what we wear, our transport, the technology we use, how we treat illnesses and how we get electricity to name just a few.
Research is constantly deepening our understanding of chemistry, and leading to new discoveries.
Applied chemistry is increasingly important in solving environmental problems and contributing to the development of new materials, both of which are key issues in the 21st century. This majorly has four areas of study: physical chemistry, materials chemistry, chemical engineering, and environmental chemistry.
Where Chemistry Is Inevitably Working For Human Race.
Local educational centers and or tertiary institutions like Tropical Institute of Development Innovations (TRIDI) are exhibiting relentless efforts in bringing these chemistry aspects to a daily life of every Ugandan and the world at large by equipping Ugandan communities with chemical skills such as; making of bar, liquid and powder soaps, cosmetology (beauty enhancement and skin science), making of candles, pens and pencils, oil extracts from fruits and seeds, processing medicines, food processing, drink processing, processing fuel gas from biomass, manufacturing oxygen, manufacturing disinfectants like; sanitizers, chlorine compounds like the famous Jik, Vim and the likes, processing animal feeds, wine production science, manufacture of pesticides and insecticides, manufacture of detergents like the famous; Nomi, Omo and Magic, mineral mining, petroleum production, skin products, among others). With no much qualifications required of a human learner, anyone, literate, semi-literate or illiterate can execute most of the above practices.
Food and agriculture
Complex technology goes into modern food production. From soil science to nutrition analysis, and from safety testing to food packaging and preservation, the chemical processes involved are extensive, and often not given much consideration. For example, if it wasn’t for refrigeration, our food distribution systems would be limited and storage would be short lived. The first cooling systems are made of Dimethyl ether and ammonia-based systems, in use today in industrial refrigerators.
Ammonia is also an integral chemical innovation for food production, chiefly due to its use in fertilizer production. Indeed it is estimated that around 1 per cent of the world’s energy is used to make ammonia. Increasing the productivity of our food-growing systems has become necessary due to the combined pressures of population increase, climate change and water shortages. If it wasn’t for the Haber-Bosch process, our current agricultural output would be unsustainable. It was first developed in 1909, and allows for the efficient, large-scale production of ammonia (NH3) by reacting atmospheric nitrogen (N2) with hydrogen (H2) at high temperature and pressure. This resulted in an easily accessible route to fertilizer production, and was responsible for quadrupling agricultural productivity. The discovery of pesticides and herbicides further increased crop yields, with DDT and glyphosate being key compounds. Today, around 40–60 per cent of global agriculture yields rely on artificial fertilizers.
Modern health care is founded on many life-saving breakthroughs the field of chemistry has provided. These include; developing new pharmaceuticals, diagnostic tools and better diagnostic equipment such as X-ray machines, MRI imaging, cancer tests and pregnancy kits. Analytical chemistry and forensic science are crucial for identifying poisons or toxins in food, plants and animals, and in tracing and identifying unknown chemicals and materials.
The discovery of painkillers and anesthetics opened up a whole new scope of opportunity for medical practitioners. Advanced surgery (rather than simple amputation) became possible. Compounds such as Nitrous oxide (N2O), or laughing gas, became popular and minor surgical procedures and dental work became slightly less risky.
Marie Curie’s discovery of radioactive elements provided the base work for innovations in X-ray imaging, nuclear power and radiotherapy.
Chemistry has since helped to explain how diseases are passed down through generations, and explains other mysteries such as; why we look like our parents, how cells function on a micro level and how life evolves. It was a pivotal moment for academic research, and has shaped the direction of research into medicines and health, with a push towards personalized.
One of the key contributions the field of chemistry has provided to our burgeoning society is the ability to harness and store electrical energy—electricity. Electricity had long been an intellectual curiosity, and the phenomena became more understood through experiments by chemists and physicians.
Traditional energy production, via combustion and thermodynamics of fossil fuels, led to the industrial revolution. The batteries that so many of our devices depend upon are underpinned by a chemical reaction that produces electricity. Although current batteries are far more sophisticated than in Volta’s day, there is renewed interest in pushing this vital chemical technology further, so that sustainable energy produced by solar cells or wind energy can be stored.
One aspect of chemical innovation that’s largely taken for granted but is integral to the day-to-day life of many people now are the display screens in smart phones, televisions and computers. These devices use molecules known as liquid crystals to control light and images, which give them their name—LCD (liquid crystal display) screens. Liquid crystals form when a substance has an intermediary state between a solid and a liquid. Instead of having one melting point, describing the change from solid to liquid, a liquid crystal has two—an initial temperature at which a substance melts to form a turbid fluid, and a clear secondary melting point at which that turbid fluid becomes clear. Between these two points is the liquid crystalline state.
The consequences of chemistry are far reaching. Chemistry has been largely responsible for shaping society as we know it; from developing stronger materials for large scale construction, down to what kind of cosmetic products you use every day. Society has benefited hugely from advances in the field, with the few key discoveries outlined here, just a small cross-section of the chemical innovations that have driven society’s development. While discoveries in chemistry have made a huge impact, and continue to have enormous potential, we also need to ensure that we use them responsibly to ensure sustainability into the future. Chemistry will help us solve many future problems, including; sustainable energy and food production, managing our environment, providing safe drinking water and promoting human health and environmental sanity.