What would chemistry be without chemicals? Probably very boring or even not what it is today. But do you know what a chemical substance is exactly?

What is a chemical substance?

Think about Water as a chemical substance. Water is a well-known substance be everybody and the source of life on our planet. Although water is from its composition always the same, containing out of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom (H₂O – the molecular formula of water), it varies in the macroscopic appearance. For example, water can be liquid in your glass, a solid block of ice or a hot gas stream. So, we see that a chemical substance might appear in different forms, but the basic structure is always the same. Therefore, we can define a chemical substance as a sort of matter, that has always the same composition of atoms.

Molecular vs. structure formula

Now, this definition might not be enough, as in organic chemistry chemical substances can have the same molecular formula but their chemical structure is absolutely different. Moreover, the substances have completely different chemical characteristics and properties. For example, butanoic acid and ethyl acetate (C₄H₈O₂) have the same molecular formula, but a completely different setup and also different functional groups.

Already by the names, you can clearly distinguish the two substances. However, just by looking at the molecular formula, it is impossible to distinguish between the acid and the ester. Therefore, we need to add another point to our definition. A chemical substance contains always the same composition of atoms and chemical properties that are characteristic of this chemical substance.

Through our daily life, we can find chemicals everywhere. However, the basic function of a chemical is not explained on the product we use. For example, cleaning products, fragrances, and even food products contain different chemical substances for a dedicated purpose, but what is it?

Now, in the below list we have collected all the chemicals we are writing about here at hiddenChempions. If you miss one, just let us know and we will add it and share with you why the chemical substance is important and which are the most relevant applications. If you are interested in a broader view, have a look at our markets section.

Chemicals: A – Z


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