Analytical chemistry is the analysis of material samples to gain an understanding of their chemical composition and structure. It has wide range of application from routine quality control in industrial settings to cutting edge chemical research in developing new compounds. Monitoring pollution in the environment, development of new materials, drug manufacture, and even forensic science all make use of techniques and methods developed in analytical chemistry. While the focus of this article is the functions in a laboratory setting, analytical chemistry is involved in many synthetic or man-made creations. As such, analytical chemistry is a foundational arena for the infinite unfolding of human creativity.
Analytical chemistry can be split into two main types, qualitative and quantitative:
Most modern analytical chemistry is quantitative. Quantitative analysis can be further split into different areas of study. The material can be analyzed for the amount of an element or for the amount of an element in a specific chemical species. The latter is of particular interest in biological systems; the molecules of life contain carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and others, in many complex structures.
There is a bewildering array of techniques available to separate, detect and measure chemical compounds.
Analytical methods rely on scrupulous attention to cleanliness, sample preparation, accuracy and precision.
Many practitioners will keep all their glassware in acid to prevent contamination, samples will be re-run many times over, and equipment will be washed in specially pure solvents.
A standard method for analysis of concentration involves the creation of a calibration curve.
If the concentration of element or compound in a sample is too high for the detection range of the technique, it can simply be diluted in a pure solvent. If the amount in the sample is below an instrument's range of measurement, the method of addition can be used. In this method a known quantity of the element or compound under study is added, and the difference between the concentration added, and the concentration observed is the amount actually in the sample.
Analytical chemistry research is largely driven by performance (sensitivity, selectivity, robustness, linear range, accuracy, precision, and speed), and cost (purchase, operation, training, time, and space).
A lot of effort is put in shrinking the analysis techniques to chip size. Although there are few examples of such systems competitive with traditional analysis techniques, potential advantages include size/portability, speed, and cost (Total Analysis System or lab on a chip)
Much effort is also put into analyzing biological systems. Examples of rapidly expanding fields in this area are:
|General subfields within the Natural sciences|
|Astronomy | Biology | Chemistry | Earth science | Ecology | Physics|
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