Chemistry is generally divided into two broad branches: organic chemistry and inorganic chemistry. Other types of chemistry include physical chemistry, biochemistry, and analytical chemistry, with each field branching off into several specific subfields. Here’s a brief description of the most common branches of chemistry.
Organic Chemistry has to do with the study of compounds that contain carbon (and sometimes hydrogen). Even though carbon is only the fourteenth most common element on the planet, it produces the greatest number of different compounds on Earth. Not surprisingly then, much of the study of chemistry involves organic chemistry.
The most studied groups of organic compounds are those that contain nitrogen. These organic compounds are important because they are often linked to the amino group. When the amino group combines with the carboxyl group, amino acids are born. Amino acids are important because they are as the building blocks of proteins.
Inorganic chemistry involves the study the properties and reactions of compounds that do not contain carbon and which are not organic. Inorganic chemistry studies all non-living matter, such as minerals found in the Earth’s crust. There are many branches of inorganic chemistry, including geochemistry, nuclear science, coordination chemistry, and bioinorganic chemistry.
There is much overlap between organic and inorganic chemistry. For instance, organometallic chemistry studies the use of compounds that are capable of creating a covalent bond between carbon and metal.
As its name implies, physical chemistry has to do with the physical properties of materials. Physical properties that are studied may include the electrical and magnetic behavior of materials, as well as their interaction with electromagnetic fields.
There are several subcategories of physical chemistry. These include thermochemistry, electrochemistry, and chemical kinetics. Thermochemistry studies the changes of entropy and energy that naturally occur during chemical reactions. Electrochemistry is concerned with the study of interconversions of electric and chemical energy of matter, as well as the effects of electricity on chemical changes. Chemical kinetics involves the study of chemical reactions. Specifically, chemical kinetics studies the equilibrium it reached between products and their reactants.
Biochemistry is a branch of chemistry concerned with the composition and changes of living matter. Biochemists commonly focus on the physical properties and structures of biological molecules. Common biological molecules include carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids. Biochemistry is sometimes referred to as physiological chemistry and biological chemistry. Biophysics, molecular biology, and cell biology are research fields closely related to biochemistry.
Unlike the other main types of chemistry, analytical chemistry doesn’t deal specifically with specific elements. Analytical chemistry is concerned mainly with the various techniques and laboratory methods used to determine the composition of materials. Qualitative and quantitative analysis are the two most basic methods used in analytical chemistry. Qualitative analysis has to do with identifying all the atoms and molecules in a sample of matter, with attention paid to trace elements. Quantitative analysis also involves determining the atomical and molecular structure of matter, but includes also measuring the exact weight of each chemical constituent.