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Inorganic chemistry studies are utilized across a wide variety of industries for numerous different experimental purposes. This article will discuss some of the laboratory equipment that makes these studies possible.
What is Inorganic Chemistry?
As compared to organic chemistry, which is a study dedicated to carbon-containing compounds, inorganic chemistry examines the properties and behaviors of all other compounds including metals, minerals and organometallic compounds.
The industrial applications of inorganic chemistry can range from environmental science, fibers and plastics to mining and microchip production. The high melting point and specific conductivity properties of most inorganic compounds make them particularly useful when incorporated into pigments, coatings, surfactants, medicines, fuels and much more.
Types of Inorganic Chemistry Equipment
Much of the work performed in a typical inorganic chemistry lab will be focused on exploring the relationship that exists between the physical properties and functions of inorganic compounds at the molecular level.
Although the applications of inorganic chemistry studies can vary greatly, there are several types of equipment that can be commonly found in almost any inorganic chemistry laboratory.
Diffraction techniques are considered to be the most important aspect of any inorganic chemistry study, as these nondestructive methods provide researchers with important structural information on inorganic and organometallic compounds.
X-ray diffraction techniques, in particular, have historically been used to identify up to a million different substances in the field of inorganic chemistry. Some commonly used X-ray diffraction techniques include powder X-ray diffraction, single-crystal X-ray diffraction and X-ray diffraction at synchrotron sources.
Both absorption and emission spectroscopy techniques are widely used in many inorganic chemistry laboratories. Absorption spectroscopy, for example, offers inorganic chemists a nondestructive way to analyze the frequency and intensity of radiation absorbed from inorganic compounds in order to infer their energy levels.
Ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy (UV-vis), which is otherwise referred to as electronic spectroscopy, is widely used in many academic inorganic chemistry laboratories. Additional spectroscopy techniques that are widely used for inorganic chemistry studies include fluorescence, infrared and Raman spectroscopy.
Many structural investigation techniques rely upon instruments capable of utilizing electromagnetic radiation to bring energy-level separations into resonance. One of the most commonly utilized resonance techniques found in an inorganic chemistry lab is nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). This allows researchers to determine the molecular structures of compounds containing magnetic nuclei, particularly hydrogen, within solutions and pure liquids.
NMR also allows researchers to observe chemical shifts, spin-spin coupling and signal intensities of the magnetic nuclei of these compounds. Other useful resonance techniques used within an inorganic chemistry lab include electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy and Mössbaur spectroscopy.
Chemical Analysis Equipment
Various chemical analysis techniques are utilized for inorganic chemistry studies in order to determine the elemental composition of these compounds. While many of these techniques are destructive, they provide useful information for these studies.
To this end, atomic absorption spectroscopy (AAS), CHN analysis techniques, X-ray fluorescence elemental analysis and thermal analytical methods such as thermogravimetric analysis, differential thermal analysis and differential scanning calorimetry can be found in many inorganic chemistry labs.
Like many other scientific disciplines, microscopy techniques play a critical part in many inorganic chemistry studies. Some of the most commonly used microscopy tools within an inorganic chemistry lab include optical, electron and scanning probe microscopes. Each of these microscopy instruments allows users to visualize and characterize the structural, chemical and physical properties of materials down to the nanoscale.
More specifically, the scanning probe microscopes often found within an inorganic chemistry lab include scanning tunneling microscopes (STM) and atomic force microscopes (AFM). Both of these scanning probe microscopes provide users with a three-dimensional (3D) image of the material by applying a sharp probe either in close proximity to or directly in contact with the sample’s surface.
As this sharp probe is moved across the specimen’s surface, information is gathered on the potential difference, electric current, magnetic field or mechanical force of the specimen in order to construct a highly detailed image.
Electron microscopy techniques are also very important for many inorganic chemistry studies. The two most commonly used electron microscopes in an inorganic chemistry lab include transmission electron microscopes (TEM) and scanning electron microscopes (SEM). Without requiring users to undergo difficult specimen preparations prior to performing the microscopic analysis, both SEM and TEM allow researchers to obtain extremely high-resolution images of their samples.
In addition to the different instruments previously discussed here, a variety of other laboratory equipment can be utilized for inorganic purposes. These can include physical property measurement systems, electrical furnaces, polarimeters, magnetometers and a number of electrochemical techniques, such as cyclic voltammetry instruments.
Ionization-based techniques are also widely used, some of which include photoelectron spectroscopy and X-ray absorption spectroscopy.
- “Inorganic Chemistry” – American Chemical Society
- “Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory” – University of North Florida
- Weller, M., Overton, T., Armstrong, F., & Rourke, J. Chapter 8 Physical techniques in inorganic chemistry. In: Inorganic Chemistry. 7th ed. Oxford, United Kingdom. Oxford University Press. 2018; 244-283.
- “Major Equipment” –Hokkaido University