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What Is the Importance of Chemistry?

What Is the Importance of Chemistry?

Chemistry plays a central role in science and is often intertwined with other branches of science.
Principles of chemistry are applicable in diverse areas, such as weather patterns, functioning of brain and operation of a computer, production in chemical industries, manufacturing fertilisers, alkalis, acids, salts, dyes, polymers, drugs, soaps, detergents, metals, alloys, etc., including new material.

Chemistry contributes in a big way to the national economy. It also plays an important role in meeting human needs for food, healthcare products and other material aimed at improving the quality of life.  This is exemplified by the large-scale production of a variety of fertilisers, improved variety of pesticides and insecticides. Chemistry provides methods for the isolation of lifesaving drugs from natural sources and makes possible synthesis of such drugs. Some of these drugs are cisplatin and taxol, which are effective in cancer therapy. The drug AZT (Azidothymidine) is used for helping AIDS patients.

Chemistry contributes to a large extent in the development and growth of a nation. With a better understanding of chemical principles it has now become possible to design and synthesise new material having specific magnetic, electric and optical properties.  This has lead to the production of superconducting ceramics, conducting polymers, optical fibres, etc. Chemistry has helped in establishing industries which manufacture utility goods, like acids, alkalies, dyes, polymesr metals, etc. These industries contribute in a big way to the economy of a nation and generate employment.
In recent years, chemistry has helped in dealing with some of the pressing aspects of environmental degradation with a fair degree of success. Safer alternatives to environmentally hazardous refrigerants, like CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), responsible for ozone depletion in the stratosphere, have been successfully synthesised. However, many big environmental problems continue to be matters of grave concern to the chemists. One such problem is the management of the Green House gases, like methane, carbon dioxide, etc.  Understanding of biochemical processes, use of enzymes for large-scale production of chemicals and synthesis of new exotic material are some of the intellectual challenges for the future generation of chemists. A developing country, like India, needs talented and creative chemists for accepting such challenges. To be a good chemist and to accept such challanges, one needs to understand the basic concepts of chemistry, which begin with the concept of matter. Let us start with the nature of matter.

You are already familiar with the term matter from your earlier classes. Anything which has mass and occupies space is called matter. Everything around us, for example, book, pen, pencil, water, air, all living beings, etc., are composed of matter. You know that they have mass and they occupy space. Let us recall the characteristics of the states of matter, which you learnt in your previous classes.

States of Matter
You are aware that matter can exist in three physical states viz. solid, liquid and gas. The constituent particles of matter in these three states can be represented as shown in Fig. 1.1.
Particles are held very close to each other in solids in an orderly fashion and there is not much freedom of movement. In liquids, the particles are close to each other but they can move around. However, in gases, the particles are far apart as compared to those present in solid or liquid states and their movement is easy and fast. Because of such arrangement of particles, different states of matter exhibit the following characteristics:
(i) Solids have definite volume and definite shape.
(ii) Liquids have definite volume but do not have definite shape. They take the shape of the container in which they are placed.
(iii) Gases have neither definite volume nor definite shape. They completely occupy the space in the container in which they are placed.

These three states of matter are interconvertible by changing the conditions of temperature and pressure.
On heating, a solid usually changes to a liquid, and the liquid on further heating changes to gas (or vapour). In the reverse process, a gas on cooling liquifies to the liquid and the liquid on further cooling freezes to the solid.

Classification of Matter
you have learnt that at the macroscopic or bulk level, matter can be classified as mixture or pure substance. These can be further sub-divided as shown in Fig. 1.2.
When all constituent particles of a substance are same in chemical nature, it is said to be a pure substance. A mixture contains many types of particles.
A mixture contains particles of two or more pure substances which may be present in it in any ratio. Hence, their composition is variable. Pure sustances forming mixture are called its components. Many of the substances present around you are mixtures. For example, sugar solution in water, air, tea, etc., are all mixtures.
A mixture may be homogeneous or heterogeneous. In a homogeneous mixture, the components completely mix with each other. This means particles of components of the mixture are uniformly distributed throughout the bulk of the mixture and its composition is uniform throughout. Sugar solution and air are the examples of homogeneous mixtures. In contrast to this, in a heterogeneous mixture, the composition is not uniform throughout and sometimes different components are visible. For example, mixtures of salt and sugar, grains and pulses along with some dirt (often stone pieces), are heterogeneous mixtures. You can think of many more examples of mixtures which you come across in the daily life.
It is worthwhile to mention here that the components of a mixture can be separated by using physical methods, such as simple hand-picking, filtration, crystallisation, distillation, etc.

Pure substances have characteristics different from mixtures. Constituent particles of pure substances have fixed composition. Copper, silver, gold, water and glucose are some examples of pure substances. Glucose contains carbon, hydrogen and oxygen in a fixed ratio and its particles are of same composition. Hence, like all other pure substances, glucose has a fixed composition. Also, its constituents—carbon, hydrogen and oxygen—cannot be separated by simple physical methods.

Pure substances can further be classified into elements and compounds. Particles of an element consist of only one type of atoms. These particles may exist as atoms or molecules. You may be familiar with atoms and molecules from the previous classes; however, you will be studying about them in detail in Unit 2. Sodium, copper, silver, hydrogen, oxygen, etc., are some examples of elements. Their all atoms are of one type. However, the atoms of different elements are different in nature. Some elements, such as sodium or copper, contain atoms as their constituent particles, whereas, in some others, the constituent particles are molecules which are formed by two or more atoms. For example, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen gases consist of molecules, in which two atoms combine to give their respective molecules. This is illustrated in Fig. 1.3.
When two or more atoms of  different elements combine together in a definite ratio, the molecule of a compound is obtained. Moreover, the constituents of a compound cannot be separated into simpler substances by physical methods. They can be separated by chemical methods. Examples of some compounds are water, ammonia, carbon dioxide, sugar, etc. The molecules of water and carbon dioxide are represented in Fig. 1.4.
Note that a water molecule comprises two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. Similarly, a molecule of carbon dioxide contains two oxygen atoms combined with one carbon atom. Thus, the atoms of different elements are present in a compound in a fixed and definite ratio and this ratio is characteristic of a particular compound. Also, the properties of a compound are different from those of its constituent elements. For example, hydrogen and oxygen are gases, whereas, the compound formed by their combination i.e., water is a liquid. It is interesting to note that hydrogen burns with a pop sound and oxygen is a supporter of combustion, but water is used as a fire extinguisher.

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