Analytic chemistry

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We begin this section with a deceptively simple question. What is analytical chemistry? Like all fields of chemistry, analytical chemistry is too broad and active a discipline for us to easily or completely define in an introductory textbook. Instead, we will try to say a little about what analytical chemistry is, as well as a little about what analytical chemistry is not. Analytical chemistry is often described as the area of chemistry responsible for characterizing the composition of matter, both qualitatively (what is present) and quantitatively (how much is present). This description is misleading. After all, almost all chemists routinely make qualitative or quantitative measurements. The argument has been made that analytical chemistry is not a separate branch of chemistry, but simply the application of chemical knowledge.1 In fact, you probably have performed quantitative and qualitative analyses in other chemistry courses. For example, many introductory courses in chemistry include qualitative schemes for identifying inorganic ions and quantitative analyses involving titrations. Unfortunately, this description ignores the unique perspective that analytical chemists bring to the study of chemistry. The craft of analytical chemistry is not in performing a routine analysis on a routine sample (which is more appropriately called chemical analysis), but in improving established methods, extending existing methods to new types of samples, and developing new methods for measuring chemical phenomena.2 Here’s one example of this distinction between analytical chemistry and chemical analysis. Mining engineers evaluate the economic feasibility of extracting an ore by comparing the cost of removing the ore with the value of its contents. To estimate its value they analyze a sample of the ore. The challenge of developing and validating the method providing this information is the analytical chemist’s responsibility. Once developed, the routine, daily application of the method becomes the job of the chemical analyst. Another distinction between analytical chemistry and chemical analysis is that analytical chemists work to improve established methods. For example, several factors complicate the quantitative analysis of Ni2+ in ores, including the presence of a complex heterogeneous mixture of silicates and oxides, the low concentration of Ni2+ in ores, and the presence of other metals that may interfere in the analysis. Figure 1.1 is a schematic outline of one standard method in use during the late nineteenth century.3 After dissolving a sample of the ore in a mixture of H2SO4 and HNO3, trace metals that interfere with the analysis, such as Pb2+, Cu2+ and Fe3+, are removed by precipitation. Any cobalt and nickel in the sample are reduced to Co and Ni, isolated by filtration and weighed (point A). After dissolving the mixed solid, Co is isolated and weighed (point B). The amount of nickel in the ore sample is determined from the difference in the masses at points A and B. %Ni = m

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