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Chemistry LibreTexts

1: Introduction to Analytical Chemistry

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  • Chemistry is the study of matter, including its composition, its structure, its physical properties, and its reactivity. Although there are many ways to study chemistry, traditionally we divide it into five areas: organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, biochemistry, physical chemistry, and analytical chemistry. This division is historical and, perhaps, arbitrary, as suggested by current interest in interdisciplinary areas, such as bioanalytical chemistry and organometallic chemistry. Nevertheless, these five areas remain the simplest division that spans the discipline of chemistry.

    Each of these traditional areas of chemistry brings a unique perspective to how a chemist makes sense of the diverse array of elements, ions, and molecules (both small and large) that make up our physical environment. An undergraduate chemistry course, therefore, is much more than a collection of facts; it is, instead, the means by which we learn to see the chemical world from a different perspective. In keeping with this spirit, this chapter introduces you to the field of analytical chemistry and highlights the unique perspectives that analytical chemists bring to the study of chemistry.

    • 1.1: What is Analytical Chemistry
      Let’s begin with a deceptively simple question: What is analytical chemistry? Like all areas of chemistry, analytical chemistry is so broad in scope and so much in flux that it is difficult to find a simple definition more revealing than that quoted above. In this chapter we will try to expand upon this simple definition by saying a little about what analytical chemistry is, as well as a little about what analytical chemistry is not.
    • 1.2: The Analytical Perspective
      Having noted that each area of chemistry brings a unique perspective to the study of chemistry, let’s ask a second deceptively simple question: What is the analytical perspective? Many analytical chemists describe this perspective as an analytical approach to solving problems.
    • 1.3: Common Analytical Problems
      Typical problems on which analytical chemists work include qualitative analyses (Is lead present in this sample ?), quantitative analyses (How much lead is present in this sample?), characterization analyses (What are the sample’s chemical and physical properties?), and fundamental analyses (How does this method work and how can it be improved?).
    • 1.4: Problems
      End-of-chapter problems to test your understanding of topics in this chapter.
    • 1.5: Additional Resources
      A compendium of resources to accompany topics in this chapter.
    • 1.6: Chapter Summary and Key Terms
      Summary of chapter's main topics and a list of key terms introduced in the chapter.

    Thumbnail: Several graduated cylinders of various thickness and heights with white side markings in front of a large beaker. They are all filled about halfway with red or blue chemical compounds. The blue ink is showing signs of Brownian motion when dissolving into water. Image used with permission (CC BY-SA 3.0; Horia Varlan from Bucharest, Romania).

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