What Is Chemistry?

This chemist is collecting soil samples to see if it is suitable for growing crops.

What do you think of when you hear the word chemistry? Do you think of a scientist in a lab coat or a flask with a colorful liquid in it? All of these things are related to chemistry. Chemists often work in a lab and use equipment such as flasks, but chemistry is much more than that. Chemistry is everywhere and everything!

All of the known elements are organized by their properties in the periodic table.

Chemistry is the branch of science that studies matter and how it changes. Everything around us is matter [anything that has mass and takes up space]. In fact, everything in the universe is matter and all matter is made up of building blocks called atoms. There are different types of atoms with different properties. These different types of atoms are called elements and are arranged according to their properties on the periodic table. All of the different types of matter in the universe are made up of different combinations of elements.

Just as matter is all around us, so are chemical reactions. A chemical reaction occurs when atoms link together in different ways to form new substances. Chemists sometimes combine different types of chemicals in a lab to produce new substances, but chemical reactions also happen in nature. Plants use chemical reactions to make food and your body uses chemical reactions to break down food.

Chemists study how different elements combine to form new substances. Chemists use what they know and learn about matter to improve our world and our lives. They develop new chemicals and new uses for existing chemicals. Chemists develop new materials, new energy sources, and new medicines. Where would we be without chemistry?

What Do You Think?    How could you use chemistry to improve people’s lives?

Photo Credit: (t)Singkham/Shutterstock, (b)Lars Poyansky/Shutterstock