|MadSci Network: Chemistry|
Physical Chemists work in a lot of very different areas of specialization. The common theme is that they are interested in physical and chemical properties, rather than in particular compounds. Some of the main traditional areas of physical chemistry are: 1. Thermodynamics and Thermochemistry. Dealing with the heat that is given off in various reactions, the relative energies of different molecules, energy transformation in chemical systems, chemical equilibrium, and non-equilibrium systems 2. Reaction Kinetics. How the rates of reactions vary with the concentrations of the substances involved, with temperature, and with other factors. How to measure, deduce, and/or predict these rates. How to break a complicated reaction down into a series of simnple steps -- investigation of reaction mechanism. Reaction in flow systems, competition between reaction and diffusion. Investigating catalysis. 3. Electrochemistry. Mechanisms of oxidation and reduction and electrolysis. Conductance of ionic solutions. Use of electricity in chemical reactions and in chemical analysis. 4. Spectroscopy. How various substances absorb or emit light in various frequency regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. How this relates to molecular structure. How it can be used in chemical analysis. 5. Colloid and surface chemistry. How chemical and physical properties can change drastically at phase boundaries, and how this can be exploited in a variety of chemical applications. 6. Theoretical chemistry Large quantum mechanical calculations on computers, that attempt to explain molecular structures in terms of fundamental physics. And then a further attempt to explain the physical and chemical properties of various compounds in terms of their molecular structures. Physical chemists are often concerned with developing new types of instruments for measuring different types of data. The aim is to provide tools both for scientific purposes -- obtaining data that gives new insight into the way that chemical systems work -- and for technological purposes - - opening up a new dimension in chemical analysis. Many other physical chemists spend a lot of time with computer modelling of chemical systems in various ways. You can see that physical chemists do many different types of things, and I have not covered all of them. It is also true that in modern chemistry there is no sharp division between physical chemistry and the other branches of chemistry. But I hope this has given you some idea.
Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Chemistry.