Analytical Chemistry

Analytical chemistry is the study of the separation, identification, and quantification of the chemical components of natural and artificial materials. Qualitative analysis gives an indication of the identity of the chemical species in the sample and quantitative analysis determines the amount of one or more of these components. The separation of components is often performed prior to analysis.
Analytical methods can be separated into classical and instrumental. Classical methods (also known as wet chemistry methods) use separations such as precipitation, extraction, and distillation and qualitative analysis by color, odor, or melting point. Quantitative analysis is achieved by measurement of weight or volume. Instrumental methods use an apparatus to measure physical quantities of the analyte such as light absorption, fluorescence, or conductivity. The separation of materials is accomplished using chromatography or electrophoresis methods.
Analytical chemistry is also focused on improvements in experimental design, chemometrics, and the creation of new measurement tools to provide better chemical information. Analytical chemistry has applications in forensics, bioanalysis, clinical analysis, environmental analysis, 


Analytical chemistry has been important since the early days of chemistry, providing methods for determining which elements and chemicals are present in the object in question. During this period significant analytical contributions to chemistry include the development of systematic elemental analysis by Justus von Liebig and systematized organic analysis based on the specific reactions of functional groups.
The first instrumental analysis was flame emissive spectrometry developed by Robert Bunsen and Gustav Kirchhoff who discovered rubidium (Rb) and caesium (Cs) in 1860.
Most of the major developments in analytical chemistry take place after 1900. During this period instrumental analysis becomes progressively dominant in the field. In particular many of the basic spectroscopic and spectrometric techniques were discovered in the early 20th century and refined in the late 20th century.
The separation sciences follow a similar time line of development and also become increasingly transformed into high performance instruments. In the 1970s many of these techniques began to be used together to achieve a complete characterization of samples.
Starting in approximately the 1970s into the present day analytical chemistry has progressively become more inclusive of biological questions (bioanalytical chemistry), whereas it had previously been largely focused on inorganic or small organic molecules. Lasers have been increasingly used in chemistry as probes and even to start and influence a wide variety of reactions. The late 20th century also saw an expansion of the application of analytical chemistry from somewhat academic chemical questions to forensic, environmental, industrial and medical questions, such as in histology.
Modern analytical chemistry is dominated by instrumental analysis. Many analytical chemists focus on a single type of instrument. Academics tend to either focus on new applications and discoveries or on new methods of analysis. The discovery of a chemical present in blood that increases the risk of cancer would be a discovery that an analytical chemist might be involved in. An effort to develop a new method might involve the use of a tunable laser to increase the specificity and sensitivity of a spectrometric method. Many methods, once developed, are kept purposely static so that data can be compared over long periods of time. This is particularly true in industrial quality assurance (QA), forensic and environmental applications. Analytical chemistry plays an increasingly important role in the pharmaceutical industry where, aside from QA, it is used in discovery of new drug candidates and in clinical applications where understanding the interactions between the drug and the patient are critical.


Analytical chemistry research is largely driven by performance (sensitivity, selectivity, robustness, linear range, accuracy, precision, and speed), and cost (purchase, operation, training, time, and space). Among the main branches of contemporary analytical atomic spectrometry, the most widespread and universal are optical and mass spectrometry. In the direct elemental analysis of solid samples, the new leaders are laser-induced breakdown and laser ablation mass spectrometry, and the related techniques with transfer of the laser ablation products into inductively coupled plasma. Advances in design of diode lasers and optical parametric oscillators promote developments in fluorescence and ionization spectrometry and also in absorption techniques where uses of optical cavities for increased effective absorption pathlength are expected to expand. Steady progress and growth in applications of plasma- and laser-based methods are noticeable. An interest towards the absolute (standardless) analysis has revived, particularly in the emission spectrometry.
A lot of effort is put in shrinking the analysis techniques to chip size. Although there are few examples of such systems competitive with traditional analysis techniques, potential advantages include size/portability, speed, and cost. (micro Total Analysis System (┬ÁTAS) or Lab-on-a-chip). Microscale chemistry reduces the amounts of chemicals used.
Much effort is also put into analyzing biological systems. Examples of rapidly expanding fields in this area are:
  • Genomics - DNA sequencing and its related research. Genetic fingerprinting and DNA microarray are very popular tools and research fields.
  • Proteomics - the analysis of protein concentrations and modifications, especially in response to various stressors, at various developmental stages, or in various parts of the body.
  • Metabolomics - similar to proteomics, but dealing with metabolites.
  • Transcriptomics - mRNA and its associated field
  • Lipidomics - lipids and its associated field
  • Peptidomics - peptides and its associated field
  • Metalomics - similar to proteomics and metabolomics, but dealing with metal concentrations and especially with their binding to proteins and other molecules.
Analytical chemistry has played critical roles in the understanding of basic science to a variety of practical applications, such as biomedical applications, environmental monitoring, quality control of industrial manufacturing, forensic science and so on.
The recent developments of computer automation and information technologies have innervated analytical chemistry to initiate a number of new biological fields. For example, automated DNA sequencing machines were the basis to complete human genome projects leading to the birth of genomics. Protein identification and peptide sequencing by mass spectrometry opened a new field of proteomics. Furthermore, a number of ~omics based on analytical chemistry have become important areas in modern biology.
Also, analytical chemistry has been an indispensable area in the development of nanotechnology. Surface characterization instruments, electron microscopes and scanning probe microscopes enables scientists to visualize atomic structures with chemical characterizations.
Among active contemporary analytical chemistry research fields, micro total analysis system is considered as a great promise of revolutionary technology. In this approach, integrated and miniaturized analytical systems are being developed to control and analyze single cells and single molecules. This cutting-edge technology has a promising potential of leading a new revolution in science as integrated circuits did in computer developments.

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