The Five Main Branches of Chemistry
It is often discussed that there are five (5) main branches of chemistry, namely: Organic, Inorganic, Physical, Analytical and Biochemistry, many would say that the science of chemistry actually links out to other branches or sub-branches. Often sub-branches fall under one or more of the main branches of chemistry.
Here are the 5 main branches of chemistry and then let’s delve deeper into chemistry’s many sub-branches:
It is the study of chemical processes in living organisms. Biochemists research includes cancer and stem cell biology, infectious disease as well as membrane and structural biology and spans molecular biology, genetics, mechanistic biochemistry, genomics, evolution and systems biology. It can also be explained as a discipline in which biological phenomena are examined in chemical terms. Examples are digestion and cellular respiration.
For this reason biochemistry is also known as Chemical Biology or Biological Chemistry.
Sub-branches of Biochemistry
Enzymology - study of enzymes
Endocrinology - study of hormones
Clinical Biochemistry - study of diseases
Molecular Biochemistry - study of biomolecules and their functions
2. Physical Chemistry
It is the study of the physical properties of molecules, and their relation to the ways in which molecules and atoms are put together. Physical chemistry deals with the principles and methodologies of both chemistry and physics and is the study of how chemical structure impacts physical properties of a substance. An example is baking brownies, as you’re mixing materials and using heat and energy to get the final product.
Sub-branches of Physical Chemistry
Electrochemistry - study of the interaction of atoms, molecules, ions and electric current
Photochemistry - study of the chemical effects of light; photochemical reactions
Surface chemistry - study of chemical reactions at interfaces
Chemical Kinetics - study of rates of chemical reactions
Thermodynamics/Thermochemistry - study of how heat relates to chemical change
Quantum Mechanics/Quantum Chemistry - study of quantum mechanics and how it relates to chemical phenomena
Spectroscopy - study of spectra of light or radiation
3. Analytical Chemistry
Analytical chemistry is the study involving how we analyze the chemical components of samples. How much sugar is really in a bottle of soda? Are there drugs found in athlete’s urine samples? What is the pH level of my swimming pool? Examples of areas using analytical chemistry include forensic science, environmental science, and drug testing.
Sub-branches or Two Main Branches
Qualitative analysis- employs methods/measurements to help determine the components of substances.
Quantitative analysis - helps to identify how much of each component is present in a substance.
4. Inorganic Chemistry
Chemists in this field focus on elements and compounds other than carbon or hydrocarbons. Inorganic chemistry covers all materials that are not organic and are termed as non-living substances – those compounds that do not contain a carbon hydrogen (C-H) bond.
Compounds studied by inorganic chemists include crystal structures, minerals, metals, catalysts, and most elements on the periodic table. An example is the strength of a power beam used to carry a specific weight or investigating how gold is formed in the earth.
Sub-branches of Inorganic Chemistry
Bioinorganic chemistry - study of role of metals in biology
Coordination chemistry- study of coordination compounds
Geochemistry - study of the earth’s chemical composition, rocks, minerals & atmosphere
Inorganic technology - synthesizing new inorganic compounds
Nuclear chemistry - study of radioactive substances
Organometallic chemistry -study of chemicals that contain bonds between a metal and carbon – overlaps into organic chemistry
Solid-state chemistry/materials chemistry -study of the forming, structure, and characteristics of solid phase materials
Synthetic inorganic chemistry -study of synthesizing chemicals
Industrial inorganic chemistry - study of materials used in manufacturing. ex.: fertilizers
5. Organic Chemistry
It is the study of carbon compounds such as fuels, plastics, food additives, and drugs. An opposite of inorganic chemistry that focuses on non-living matter and non-carbon based substances, organic chemistry deals with the study of carbon and the chemicals in living organisms. An example is the process of photosynthesis in a leaf because there is a change in the chemical composition of the living plant. Organic chemists are often the ones who devise experimental methods to isolate or synthesize new materials, or to study their properties, and usually work and research in a lab. Some examples on the work they do include formulating a conditioner that keeps hair softer, developing a better drug for headaches and creating a non-toxic home cleaning product.
Sub-branches of Organic Chemistry
Stereochemistry - study of the 3-dimensional structure of molecules
Medicinal chemistry -deals with designing, developing and synthesizing pharmaceutical drugs
Organometallic chemistry -study of chemicals that contain bonds between a carbon and a metal
Physical organic chemistry -study of structure and reactivity in organic molecules-
Polymer chemistry -study of the composition and creation of polymer molecules