There are so many things you need to know before studying chemistry, and it can all be very overwhelming!
Where should you go to school? What courses should you take? Do you need any prerequisites?
There’s no one right answer to these questions, but this article will help prepare you for what’s ahead when you start your education in chemistry. Let’s get started!
1) The Basics: Elements, Compounds, and Mixtures
Chemistry is the study of matter and how its properties are affected by changes in its structure.
There are three types of matter: elements, compounds, and mixtures. Elements are substances that can’t be broken down into simpler substances by chemical means.
Compounds are made up of two or more different elements. Mixtures contain two or more substances that don’t react together chemically.
These substances may be solids, liquids, gases, or a combination thereof. Every substance you encounter on Earth is a mixture of some sort.
As you’ll soon find out during your studies, it’s important to understand what type of matter something is before you make any assumptions about what it might do when mixed with other substances.
For example, if you have sodium metal and water, the water will bubble because sodium reacts explosively with water to produce hydrogen gas bubbles.
But if you have potassium metal and water, nothing happens at all because potassium does not react with water at all (you could mix them for as long as you want and nothing will happen).
Some things that we think are one thing turn out to be another thing altogether. Pure water isn’t just H2O; it also contains tiny amounts of HCl, which is hydrochloric acid a strong corrosive acid.
2) The Laws of Thermodynamics
Studying chemistry makes it eager for you to know all your chemistry laws.
Below we’ve stated a few:
The law of conservation of mass, which states that matter is neither created nor destroyed in chemical reactions.
The law of the conservation of energy, which states that in a chemical reaction the total energy remains unchanged.
The law of constant proportions, which states that when elements combine according to a fixed ratio into molecules, the ratio will not change regardless of the amounts used or the conditions under which it was made.
Avogadro’s Law, which states that the same volume of any gas contains about 6.02×1023 particles at standard temperature and pressure (STP).
Boyle’s Law, which states that the volume of a given quantity of gas varies inversely as its pressure; this means that if you have twice as much gas with half the pressure, the volume doubles.
3) Acid Base Reactions
Start by understanding the basics. Acid base reactions are a type of chemical reaction in which an acid and a base react with each other.
The resulting products of these reactions may be either neutral or acidic, depending on whether the products have more H+ ions or OH- ions.
In general, reactions between acids and bases form water and a salt.
For example, when hydrochloric acid reacts with sodium hydroxide, the reaction produces water (H2O) and table salt (NaCl).
If you’re studying chemistry, it’s important to understand that chemists use different symbols for acid molecules (HA), and for base molecules (B), so they can keep track of the pH.
A solution where there is equal numbers of H+ ions and OH- ions has a pH level close to 7; this is considered neutral.
An acidic solution will have lots more H+ ions than OHM-ions; its pH will be below 7.
4) Redox Reactions
Redox reactions occur when an atom or molecule loses electrons and another atom or molecule gains the electrons.
This type of reaction is also called a reduction oxidation reaction.
The electron transfer process in redox reactions happens from one reactant (reducing agent) to another reactant (oxidizing agent).
These reactions can be broken down into half-cell reactions, where the reducing agent passes its electrons to the oxidizing agent, and full-cell reactions, which are made up of two half-cell reactions.
When considering what goes on at the molecular level, you may be thinking about oxidation numbers.
An oxidation number tells you how many electrons each element in the compound has lost or gained.
A positive oxidation number means that an atom has gained one or more electrons while a negative oxidation number indicates that an atom has lost one or more electrons.
For example, if a metal’s oxidation number is 0 then it will not change during a redox reaction because metals don’t undergo any type of chemical change.
If water with an oxidation number of -1 reacts with hydrogen gas with an oxidation number of +1, then water will gain one electron and hydrogen gas will lose one electron.
5) Organic Chemistry
Organic chemistry is the study of organic compounds, which are compounds that contain carbon.
The word organic refers to the fact that these compounds contain carbon and hydrogen only.
The study of organic chemistry involves reactions of these compounds with one another, reactions with inorganic substances, analysis, and some other topics.
The simplest type of organic compound is a hydrocarbon molecule.
Organic molecules are made up of different combinations of atoms called elements. Hydrocarbons consist of molecules composed entirely or almost entirely of hydrogen and carbon.