September 28, 2021

Importance of Physical Chemistry to Chemical Kinetics and Chemistry As a Whole

I got a question from a young person who became enthralled with chemical reactions (kinetics) and decided to pursue a career in chemistry. He asked what Physical Chemistry is about. This is part of my answer. Physical chemistry underpins all of Chemistry. We hear a lot about health, pollution, green chemistry in the news, and these areas are close to Organic chemistry. In fact a lot of people think that Organic Chemistry is Chemistry.

Physical chemistry covers:

· Thermodynamics-heat, work, spontaneity and there relations

· Equilibrium-the apparent lack of change of a system

· Phase Relations-the changes from solid, liquid and gases, and conditions for their formation

· Gas Kinetics-the gas laws, and the their dependence of intermolecular forces

· Electrochemistry-the study of oxidation and reduction

· Chemical Kinetics-the study of the rates of chemical change

· Quantum Mechanics-the mechanics that governs microscopic particles

· Spectroscopy (including NMR)-the use of light to understand structure and dynamics

· Solids, Liquids and Gases

· Transport Properties-fluid dynamics, viscosity, thermal conductivity etc of substances


· Statistical Mechanics-relates the microscopic properties to the macroscopic observables.

That pretty much shows you how important Physical Chemistry is to the other branches of chemistry.

If you are studying to be a Physical Chemist, the subject of Physical Chemistry can help you specialize in other areas of chemistry like Chemical Kinetics which is about the rates or speeds that reactions take place.

As an undergrad, you cover most of the topics above. A Bachelors of Science in Chemistry prepares you for all branches.

In grad school you can specialize to Reaction, or Chemical, Kinetics. A talk with an adviser will help one understand the courses you need for a BSc
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