Physical Chemistry Basics

Ooooh. We smell math. This must be the page on physical chemistry. If you like math, complex calculations, and a little bit of physics, then this is the chemistry for you! It's really not all bad. Don't let the math keep you away. Physical chemistry is the newest field of chemistry.

Since p-chem uses both chemistry and physics, it is the study of both matter and energy. It studies the details of atoms and elements. Those studies could not be done 200 years ago, because we didn't have the technology. Physical chemists study the thermodynamics of reactions and then do the complex calculations to figure out the amounts energy involved. These folks also look deep into the structure of compounds and their atoms. It's truly amazing.


One of the cornerstones of p-chem is using spectroscopy to analyze the structures of compounds. On one hand, these chemists are testing and proving many of the existing theories of chemistry. On the other hand, they are also acting as true explorers, searching and visiting new worlds of neutrinos, quarks and the origins of matter. That exploration is the exciting part.

Pen and Paper

Much of physical chemistry is based on theories and math. We don't actually have the equipment to prove many of the ideas developed with this science. In the same way that nuclear physicists need to do much of their work on paper, physical chemists are right there with their calculators and spreadsheets.

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How I Got Started in Physical Chemistry (American Chem Society)
Did you know about the largets manmade molecule?
Source: Angewandte Chemie/Wiley

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