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Home » GATE Study Material » Chemistry » Inorganic Chemistry » Fields of Inorganic Chemistry

Fields of Inorganic Chemistry

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Fields of Inorganic Chemistry

Fields of Inorganic Chemistry

Inorganic chemistry, which is the study of the structure and reactivity of inorganic compounds, overlaps with other branches of chemistry, such as physical chemistry and analytical chemistry. Physical chemists develop and use instruments to probe the physical properties (such as density, viscosity, and crystallography) of compounds as well as the behavior of chemical systems. Analytical chemists work to determine the unknown chemical constituents of substances and the relative amounts of these constituents.

Inorganic chemistry is often divided into the subfields of solid-state chemistry, organometallic chemistry, and bioinorganic chemistry. While solid-state chemistry stays more within the bounds of traditional inorganic chemistry research, organometallic chemistry and bioinorganic chemistry overlap with organic chemistry and biology, respectively. Research in solid-state chemistry, organometallic chemistry, and bioinorganic chemistry is leading to progress in areas such as superconductivity, microchip development, and cancer research.

Solid-State Chemistry

Solid-state chemists study the structure and properties of inorganic compounds to fabricate new, more useful materials. For example, solid-state chemists are working to develop high-temperature pliable ceramics capable of withstanding temperatures up to 1370° C (2500° F). These high-temperature ceramics may someday be used to make automobile engines that produce little pollution and are highly fuel-efficient.

High-temperature ceramics might also be used someday as superconductors—materials that exhibit no resistance to electric current. Superconductors made from high-temperature ceramics might be used in supercomputers (powerful computers used to solve extremely complex problems), in medical diagnostic equipment such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and to transmit electricity without loss of electrical power.

Inorganic chemists are making rapid advances in the development of new inorganic polymers. Polymers are usually large, organic molecules that make up substances such as proteins, rubber, and plastics. Most plastics consist of organic polymers made up of extremely long carbon chains. Current research has produced inorganic polymers known as polyphosphazenes, which consist of long chains of alternating nitrogen and phosphorus atoms. Polyphosphazenes may eventually be used in the medical field to provide materials for artificial blood vessels, limbs, and joints.

Chemists have found that changing the side groups of atoms attached to these nitrogen-phosphorus chains forms plastics that possess unique properties, such as the ability for a plastic pill capsule to time-release ingested drugs into the circulatory system. Another inorganic polymer, polysulfurnitride, consists of alternating sulfur and nitrogen atoms. This polymer conducts electricity and becomes a superconductor at the temperature of –273° C (-460° F). However, because polysulfurnitride is unstable, it is not currently used in practical applications.

Organometallic Chemistry

An extremely active area of research in recent years is the study of organometallic chemicals—compounds that consist of transition metals bonded to organic chemical groups. Examples of organometallic complexes include iron pentacarbonyl [Fe(CO)5], ferrocene [Fe(C5H5)2], and phenylmagnesium bromide (C6H5MgBr). Organometallic compounds are used to produce semiconductor wafers, to form highly protective coatings on steel tools (such as high-speed drills), and as extremely selective catalysts in certain organic compound syntheses.

Biological Inorganic Chemistry

Biological inorganic (bioinorganic) chemists research the role of metals in living systems. One area of investigation is the role of metals in the human body, such as how oxygen binds reversibly to the iron in red blood cells. Bioinorganic chemists also study how specific transition metals might be used in drugs to fight certain diseases. For example, scientists are experimenting with platinum complexes as anticancer drugs.

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