What is inorganic chemistry?
Inorganic chemistry is concerned with the properties and behavior of inorganic compounds, which include metals, minerals, and organometallic compounds.
While organic chemistry is defined as the study of carbon-containing compounds, inorganic chemistry is the study of the remaining (i.e., not carbon-containing) subset of compounds. But there can be overlap between the two fields. For example, organometallic compounds usually contain a metal or metalloid bonded directly to carbon.
What do inorganic chemists do?
Inorganic chemists are employed in fields ranging from mining to microchips. Their work is based on understanding:
- The behavior and analogues for inorganic elements, and
- How these materials can be modified, separated, and used.
Specific work may include:
- Developing methods to recover metals from waste streams
- Working as an analytical chemist in the analysis of mined ores
- Performing research on the use of inorganic chemicals for treating soil
Many inorganic chemists work in industry, but they also work in academic institutions and government labs. Inorganic chemists who work in government say their time is increasingly spent writing grant proposals and competing for research money.
Inorganic chemists compare their jobs to those of materials scientists and physicists. All focus on exploring the relationship between physical properties and functions. But an inorganic chemist is more concerned with these properties at the molecular level.
Where is inorganic chemistry used?
Inorganic compounds are used as catalysts, pigments, coatings, surfactants, medicines, fuels, and more. They often have high melting points and specific high or low electrical conductivity properties, which make them useful for specific purposes. For example:
- Ammonia is a nitrogen source in fertilizer. It is one of the major inorganic chemicals used in the production of nylons, fibers, plastics, polyurethanes, hydrazine (used in jet and rocket fuels), and explosives.
- Chlorine is used in the manufacture of polyvinyl chloride (used for pipes, clothing, furniture etc.), agrochemicals (e.g., fertilizer, insecticide, or soil treatment), pharmaceuticals, and chemicals for water treatment and sterilization.
- Titanium dioxide is the naturally occurring oxide of titanium, which is used as a white powder pigment in paints, coatings, plastics, paper, inks, fibers, food, and cosmetics. it also has good ultraviolet light resistance properties, and there is a growing demand for its use in photocatalysts.