How Do Chemists Identify Unknown Substances?
As scientist Martin H. Fischer once said, “All the world is a laboratory to the inquiring mind.” And what is the laboratory but its own place of significant inquiry and wonder? Chemists spend a great deal of time in the lab characterizing various chemical components and analyzing their unique structures.
How do chemists identify unknown substances? Why is this work important for today’s industries? Here’s what to know about the scientific identification of the unknown through modern analytical methods and advanced technology.
Why Chemical Identification Matters
At their core, scientists desire to explore the natural world and all its possibilities. In the chemistry field, scientists explore through the identification of chemical substances. They can analyze any samples from the natural world for research. Yet, determining what lies in the structure of reaction products from synthesis and manufacturing is most important. Each species of produced compounds must have a determined chemical structure to be used safely and efficiently.
Chemists must know how to separate complex composites into their purest components. This general knowledge is key to identifying each component’s molecular structure. Detecting any known substances—and determining any unknown substances—is important for identifying impurities in products of chemical reactions. This type of analysis is especially significant for pharmaceutical products.
Scientifically Approaching Unknown Substances
How do chemists identify unknown substances? Experts can differentiate substances through the examination of their chemical and physical properties. The first step is a targeted approach. To begin, chemists gather critical data and in-depth information about the history of the substance, including the primary reason for the analysis. This general basis of knowledge helps specify what the chemical components may or may not be.
With this specialized background insight, scientists can produce sought-out answers on chemical composition. All that’s needed is the proper analytical techniques and advanced equipment.
Common Methods and Technologies
A wide array of instrumentation and technologies can support the determination of chemical composition. Some highly-sensitive methods are NMR spectroscopy, diffraction techniques, and high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Combined with extensive experience and problem-solving skills, chemists can logically take on any challenge with these scientific advancements.
In healthcare and medicine, the results of complex properties are critical to ensuring the correct quantity and quality of pharmaceutical products. Using contract chemistry techniques and services to advance human health, chemists will continue to support research companies and institutions worldwide for years to come.