Tools of Chemistry

Chemistry is a precise laboratory science, and the equipment of a chemical laboratory is usually involved with measurement. Balances are used to measure mass, pipettes and burettes to measure volume, and thermometers to measure temperature changes. Advances in electronics and computer technology have enabled the development of scientific instruments that determine the chemical properties, structure, and content of substances accurately and precisely.

Most modern chemical instrumentation has three primary components; a source of energy, a sample compartment within which a substance is subjected to the energy, and some sort of detector to determine the effect of the energy on the sample. An X-ray diffractometer, for instance, enables the chemist to determine the arrangement of atoms, ions, and molecules that constitute crystals by means of scattering X-rays. Most modern laboratories contain ultraviolet, visible, and infrared spectrophotometers, which use light of various wavelengths on gaseous or liquid samples. By such a mean the chemist can determine the electron configuration and the arrangement of atoms in molecules. A nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer subject a sample in a strong magnetic field to radio frequency radiation. (Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy under spectroscopy). Other instruments include mass spectrometers, which use electrons as an energy source, and differential thermal analyzers, which use heat.

An entirely different class of instruments are those which use chromatography to separate complex mixtures into their components. Chemists are also using extremely short pulses of laser light to investigate the atomic and molecular processes taking place in chemical reactions at the microsecond level. These and other devices generate so much data that chemists frequently must use computers to help analyze the results.


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