Analytical chemistry is a branch of chemistry that deals with the examination of substances in order to determine their composition and how much of each component is present.
Analytical chemistry has applications in a variety of fields. Below are some of the most common industries where analytical chemistry plays a vital role.
Laboratory tests performed in order to check a patient’s health relies on analytical chemistry for diagnosis.
For example, the result of a Complete Blood Count (CBC) can tell if a person is suffering from anemia, a blood infection, or leukemia; the result of a urinalysis (urine test) can indicate whether a person has urinary tract infections, diabetes, kidney, or liver problems; and the result of a cholesterol test can tell if a person is at risk of a heart attack.
Common tests in the field of forensics (the science behind the investigation of crime scenes) are grounded in analytical chemistry.
Toxicology tests, for example, can determine whether poisonous substances are present in a victim’s body, and if the amount present is enough to kill or keep a regular person from being able to move or think rationally. This is important when determining whether the condition that resulted from consuming the substance was due to natural causes or the result of a carefully planned crime.
DNA testing, which is often used to establish the identity of the suspected perpetrator of a crime, also relies on analytical chemistry to solve crimes.
An example of this is the analytical chemistry technique called Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) which is used to produce amounts of DNA samples (such as a tiny drop of blood or saliva) that are large enough to be studied and traced back to the source.
Analytical chemistry is also vital in the development of drugs. By examining the composition of raw materials such as a fruit or a vegetable, chemists are able to isolate individual components that can provide certain benefits. From there, they might be able to find out how much of these certain components are needed to be most effective in treating different conditions.
Inversely, analytical chemistry can also be used to examine existing drugs and how they affect people, especially when certain factors like age, gender, race, and medical histories are taken into consideration.
Notable People and Organization
Agnes Fay Morgan
Agnes Fay Morgan was an American chemist and nutritionist known for her research on vitamins which eventually became the foundation for understanding their nutritional effects as well as the health problems that people lacking certain ones may experience.
Among her most notable accomplishments are finding out that a deficiency in pantothenic acid, a B vitamin, can lead to damage to the adrenal glands and abnormal skin and hair pigmentation as well as showing that high doses of vitamin D can have a toxic effect on the body.
Johann Friedrich Miescher
Johann Friedrich Miescher was a Swiss chemist whose experiments on white blood cells has led to the discovery of a new substance that later came to be known as Deoxyribonucleic Acid or more popularly known as DNA.
His chemical analysis of the then unknown substance has led him to believe that it is a central component of all nuclei and would very much likely be linked to the function of what are called as “organelles” — the parts of cells that perform a specific job.
He also suspected that it might have a role in the passing of hereditary traits from one organism to another, although because of the relatively simple tools and methods available at that time, he eventually decided to reject that possibility.
Further research over the following decades has greatly contributed to what has been known about DNA and technologies related to it have since been widely used in things like genetic engineering, paternity testing, medical screening, vaccine development, and a whole lot of other applications.
International Rice Research Institute
The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is an international training organization based in Los Baños, Laguna that specializes in agricultural research — specifically in the development and introduction of new breeds of rice that are easier to grow, more resistant to damage and pestilence, and are capable of producing more yield than regular varieties.
Their successful breeding of what has come to be known as “semi-dwarf” varieties of rice has been credited as having helped India escape a major famine in the 1960s.
Resources for Further Reading