What Is Applied Chemistry? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 What Is Applied Chemistry?
  • 1:00 Understanding the Process
  • 3:46 Real-World Examples
  • 5:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Danielle Reid

Danielle has taught middle school science and has a doctorate degree in Environmental Health

Have you ever wondered what drives the makers of laundry detergent to constantly improve their products? The answer stems from a field called applied chemistry. Discover what applied chemistry is and explore some real-world examples.

What Is Applied Chemistry?

There are many slogans used to describe laundry detergents, from 'No other soap like it' to 'Protect them before they fade' to 'Stain, what stain?' No wonder they're all competing to catch your attention - have you ever walked down the cleaning aisle at a store only to become overwhelmed by all the options? Whether it's a stain lifter or power booster, applied chemistry is the science behind the differences and improvements among products like laundry detergent.

Applied chemistry is the application of the principles and theories of chemistry to answer a specific question or solve a real-world problem, as opposed to pure chemistry, which is aimed at enhancing knowledge within the field.

Let's say your aim is to find a cure for a disease - Alzheimer's. You work hard in the laboratory creating a drug that stops dementia from setting in. This would be an example of applied chemistry, since you used chemistry to solve a specific, real-world problem.

Understanding the Process

Chemistry, like other fields of science, follows the scientific method, though perhaps not as strictly. The scientific method is composed of techniques and guidelines for conducting research that help scientists ensure their results are accurate. Let's explore how steps of the scientific method can be used, even loosely, by applied chemists in the laboratory. Keep in mind that some scientists follow processes that more strictly adhere to the scientific method.

Step 1: Define your problem or question. This is crucial to applied chemistry. After all, the field is focused on finding an answer or solving a problem, so the first thing we need to do is clearly state the problem or question. This will help you find the goal of your testing. For example, you might determine that you want to address a problem with hair care: that there are no effective products to protect blonde hair from turning green in chlorine. Your goal, then, is to create a shampoo that people can use before swimming to stop chlorine from affecting light-colored hair.

Determining the problem or question early on will make it easier to move through the rest of the steps smoothly.

Step 2: Crack open the books. Once you've defined your problem, it's time to build up your bank of knowledge about the subject at hand. Again, we're trying to use our knowledge to solve a problem. So, looking at our hair care example, you might investigate the chemical properties of chlorine and try to understand how it reacts with human hair to change colors. In turn, you might discover potential ways to stop that reaction or guard the hair against chlorine. This will help guide your research in the right direction.

Step 3: Design the study. Now, you can move on to research design. The aim is to create a conceptual structure in which you'll conduct your study. There are various types of study designs, such as diagnostic, experimental, and explorative designs, but you can plan your testing in any way best suited for reaching your goal.

For instance, to create a product that will protect hair from chlorine, you might begin by testing reactions that occur between chlorine and other chemicals. Once you've found a mixture that you believe will work, you might go on to test the product on mouse fur before moving on to human hair.

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