A chemist in a laboratory coat. Most human being think chemistry is something excellent in lab, however you practice facets of chemistry everyday. (Image credit: Getty)
You could think that chemistry just in the context of lab tests, food additive or dangerous substances, however the ar of chemistry involves everything roughly us.

You are watching: What is the study of matter and how it changes

"Everything girlfriend hear, see, smell, taste, and touch entails chemistry and chemicals (matter)," follow to the American Chemical culture (ACS), a non-profit science company for the breakthrough of chemistry, chartered by the U.S. Congress. "And hearing, seeing, tasting, and also touching every involve intricate series of chemical reactions and interactions in her body."

So, even if friend don"t work-related as a chemist, you"re law chemistry, or something that entails chemistry, v pretty much everything you do. In everyday life, you do chemistry when you cook, as soon as you use cleaning detergents to wipe off your counter, once you take medication or as soon as you dilute focused juice so that the taste isn"t together intense.

Related: Whoa! huge "cotton candy" explosion in kids" chemistry lab

According to the ACS, chemistry is the study of matter, characterized as noþeles that has mass and also takes increase space, and the changes that matter deserve to undergo once it is topic to different environments and also conditions.

Chemistry looks for to understand not only the nature of matter, like the mass or composition of a chemical element, but likewise how and why issue undergoes details changes — whether something transformed since it linked with another substance, froze because it to be left for two weeks in a freezer, or adjusted colors since it was exposed come too much sunlight.

Chemistry basics

The reason why chemistry touches whatever we carry out is because virtually everything in existence deserve to be damaged down right into chemical building blocks.

The main structure blocks in chemistry room chemical elements, which space substances make of a solitary atom. Each chemical is unique, composed of a set number of protons, neutrons and also electrons, and is figured out by a name and a chemical symbol, such as "C" because that carbon. The facets that scientists have found so much are noted in the periodic table that elements, and also include both aspects that are found in nature choose carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, as well as those that space manmade, prefer Lawrencium.

Related: How are facets grouped in the regular table?

Chemical elements can bond together to kind chemical compounds, which room substances comprised of multiple elements, choose carbon dioxide (which is make of one carbon atom associated to two oxygen atoms), or multiple atom of a single element, prefer oxygen gas (which is made of two oxygen atoms connected together). This chemical compounds have the right to then bond with other compounds or facets to type countless various other substances and also materials.

Chemistry together a physics science

Chemistry is frequently considered a physical science, as defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica, because the research of chemistry does no involve living things. Most of the chemistry affiliated in research and development, such together making new products and materials for customers, drops within this purview.

But the distinction as a physical science becomes a little bit blurry in the case of biochemistry, which explores the chemistry of living things, follow to the Biochemical Society. The chemicals and also chemical processes studied through biochemists are not technically considered "living," but understanding them is crucial to understanding just how life works.


Chemistry is a physical science, which method it doesn"t indicate "living" things. One method a many of world practice chemistry regularly, maybe without establish it, is in cooking and also baking. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

The 5 main branches the chemistry

Traditionally, chemistry is broken into 5 main branches, follow to the virtual chemistry textbook published by LibreText. Over there are additionally more specialized fields, such as food chemistry, environmental chemistry and also nuclear chemistry, yet this section focuses on chemistry"s five major subdisciplines.

Analytical chemistry entails the evaluation of chemicals, and includes qualitative methods like feather at shade changes, as well as quantitative techniques like analyzing the exact wavelength(s) of light the a chemical absorbed to result in that shade change.

These methods enable scientists come characterize plenty of different properties of chemicals, and also can benefit culture in a number of ways. For example, analysis chemistry help food companies make tastier frozen dinners through detecting exactly how chemicals in food change when they are frozen end time. Analytical chemistry is likewise used to monitor the health and wellness of the setting by measuring chemicals in water or soil, because that example.

Biochemistry, as mentioned above, supplies chemistry techniques to know how organic systems job-related at a chemistry level. Many thanks to biochemistry, researchers have actually been able to sketch the human being genome, recognize what different proteins execute in the body and develop cures for many diseases.

Related: Autoimmune disease: definition and examples

Inorganic chemistry research studies the chemical compounds in inorganic, or non-living things such together minerals and also metals. Traditionally, not natural chemistry considers compounds that carry out not contain carbon (which room covered by organic chemistry), but this an interpretation is not completely accurate, according to the ACS.

Some compounds studied in not natural chemistry, prefer "organometallic compounds," save metals, i m sorry are steels that are attached to carbon — the main aspect that"s learned in essential chemistry. Together such, compounds such together these are considered component of both fields.

Inorganic chemistry is offered to create a range of products, including paints, fertilizers and sunscreens.

Organic chemistry deals with chemical compounds that contain carbon, an aspect considered crucial to life. Organic chemists examine the composition, structure, properties and reactions of such compounds, which in addition to carbon, contain other non-carbon facets such together hydrogen, sulfur and also silicon. Necessary chemistry is provided in plenty of applications, as described by the ACS, such together biotechnology, the petroleum industry, pharmaceuticals and also plastics.

Physical chemistry uses principles from physics to understand exactly how chemistry works. For example, figuring out just how atoms move and interact with each other, or why part liquids, consisting of water, turn into vapor in ~ high temperatures. Physical chemists shot to know these phenomena in ~ a very small scale — ~ above the level the atoms and molecules — to have conclusions about how chemistry reactions work and what gives particular materials your own distinctive properties.

Related: Nobel compensation in chemistry provided for solvers of "mirror-image problem"

This kind of research helps educate other branches that chemistry and is essential for product development, follow to the ACS. Because that example, physical chemists may study how details materials, such together plastic, may react with chemicals the material is designed come come in call with.

What carry out chemists do?

Chemists work in a range of fields, consisting of research and also development, quality control, manufacturing, ecological protection, consulting and law. They can work in ~ universities, because that the government or in personal industry, according to the ACS.

Here room some examples of what chemistry do:

Research and also development

In academia, chemistry performing study aim to more knowledge about a details topic, and also may no necessarily have actually a details application in mind. Their results, however, deserve to still be applied to pertinent products and also applications.

In industry, chemistry in research and advancement use scientific understanding to build or improve a particular product or process. Because that example, food chemists boost the quality, safety, storage and taste the food; pharmaceutical chemistry develop and also analyze the top quality of drugs and also other clinical formulations; and farming chemists build fertilizers, insecticides and also herbicides important for large-scale crop production.

Sometimes, research and advancement may no involve bettering the product itself, yet rather the manufacturing process involved in making the product. Chemical engineers and procedure engineers devise new ways to do the manufacturing of their commodities easier and an ext cost effective, such as enhancing the speed and/or yield of a product because that a offered budget.

Environmental protection

Environmental chemistry study how chemicals communicate with the organic environment, characterizing the chemicals and chemical reactions existing in herbal processes in the soil, water and also air. For example, scientists can collect soil, water or waiting from a ar of interest and analyze it in a laboratory to determine if human tasks have contaminated, or will contaminate, the atmosphere or affect it in various other ways. Some environmental chemists can also assist remediate, or eliminate contaminants, from the soil, follow to the U.S. Bureau of labor Statistics.

Related: Pesticide residue linked to reduced fertility in women

Scientists through a lift in environmental chemistry can likewise work together consultants for various organizations, such as chemical companies or consulting firms, offering guidance on just how practices and procedures deserve to be perfect in accordance with eco-friendly regulations.

See more: Convert 42 Centimeters Is How Many Inches Are In 42 Cm? How Many Inches Are In 42 Cm


Chemists can also perform analyses that help law enforcement. Forensic chemistry capture and analyze the physical evidence left behind in ~ a crime scene to assist determine the identities the the human being involved, and also to answer other critical questions regarding how and why the crime was brought out. Forensic chemists usage a wide range of analysis methods, such together chromatography and spectrometry, which assist identify and also quantify chemicals.

Additional resources:

This article was to update on Nov. 5 by how It works Editor Ben Biggs