The Full Wiki

Physical chemistry: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Physical chemistry

Include this on your site/blog:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Physical chemistry is the study of macroscopic, microscopic, atomic, subatomic, and particulate phenomena in chemical systems in terms of physical concepts; often using the principles, practices and concepts of physics like thermodynamics, quantum chemistry, statistical mechanics and dynamics.[1]

Physical chemistry, in contrast to chemical physics, is predominantly a macroscopic or supra-molecular science, as the majority of the principles on which physical chemistry was founded are concepts related to the bulk rather than on molecular/atomic structure alone; for example, chemical equilibrium, colloids[2], etc.

Some of the relationships that physical chemistry has lately tried to resolve include the effects of:

  1. Intermolecular forces on the physical properties of materials (plasticity, tensile strength, surface tension in liquids).
  2. Reaction kinetics on the rate of a reaction.
  3. The identity of ions on the electrical conductivity of materials.
  4. Surface chemistry and electrochemistry of membranes.[3]



The term "physical chemistry" was probably first introduced by Mikhail Lomonosov in 1752, when he presented a lecture course entitled "A Course in True Physical Chemistry" (Russian: «Курс истинной физической химии») before the students of Petersburg University.

The foundation of modern physical chemistry is thought to have been laid in the 1860s to 1880s by work on chemical thermodynamics, electrolytes in solutions, chemical kinetics and other subjects. One milestone was the publication in 1876 by Josiah Willard Gibbs of his paper, On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances, which contained several of the cornerstones of physical chemistry, such as Gibbs energy, chemical potentials, Gibbs phase rule [4] and subsequent naming and accreditation of enthalpy to Heike Kamerlingh Onnes and to macromolecular processes.[citation needed]

The first scientific journal for publications specifically in the field of physical chemistry was the German journal, Zeitschrift für Physikalische Chemie, founded in 1887 by Wilhelm Ostwald and Jacobus Henricus van 't Hoff, which were two of the other leading figures of physical chemistry in the late 19th century and early 20th century together with Svante August Arrhenius.[5] All three were awarded with the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in the period 1901-1909.

Developments in the following decades include the application of statistical mechanics to chemical systems and work on colloids and surface chemistry, where Irving Langmuir made many contributions. Another important step was the development of quantum mechanics into quantum chemistry from the 1930s, where Linus Pauling was one of the leading names. Theoretical developments have gone hand in hand with developments in experimental methods, where the use of different forms of spectroscopy, such as infrared spectroscopy, microwave spectroscopy, EPR spectroscopy and NMR spectroscopy, is probably the most important 20th century development.

Further development in physical chemistry may be attributed to discoveries in nuclear chemistry, especially in isotope separation (before and during World War II), and after, by development of calculation algorithms in field of "additive physicochemical properties" (practically all of physicochemical properties, as: boiling point, critical point, surface tension, vapor pressure etc. - more than 20 in all, can be precisely calculated from chemical structure, even if such chemical molecule is still non existent), and in this area is concentrated practical importance of contemporary physical chemistry.

See Group contribution method, Joback method

Branches of Physical Chemistry, and Related Topics


  1. ^ Quantum Chemistry (p. 3 - "Physical chemistry"), states that "We can divide physical chemistry into four areas: thermodynamics, quantum chemistry, statistical mechanics and kinetics".
  2. ^ Physical Chemistry of Macromolecules (p. 1 - "Introduction"), defines the formation of physical chemistry as being between macromolecules and colloids in modern physical chemistry. Also defines the "fierce battles" in the 1900s between the inclusion of colloids AS macromolecules.
  3. ^ Torben Smith Sørensen (1999). Surface chemistry and electrochemistry of membranes. CRC Press. p. 134. ISBN 0824719220. 
  4. ^ Josiah Willard Gibbs, 1876, "On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances", Transactions of the Connecticut Academy of Sciences
  5. ^ Laidler, Keith (1993). The World of Physical Chemistry. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 48. ISBN 0 19 855919 4. 


  • Levine, I. N. (1978). Physical Chemistry McGraw-Hill publishing ISBN 0-07-037418-X
  • Atkins, P.W. (1978). Physical Chemistry Oxford University Press ISBN 0-7167-3539-X
  • Berry, S. R., Rice, S. A, Ross, J. (2000). Physical Chemistry 2nd ed. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-510589-3
  • Hunter, R. J. (1993) Introduction to Modern Colloid Science Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-855386-2
  • Hiemenz, P. C., Rajagopalan, R., (1997). Principles of Colloid and Surface Chemistry Marcel Dekker Inc., New York. ISBN 0-8247-9397-8
  • Moore, W.J. (1963). Physical Chemistry 4th ed. Longman publishers/London/Prentice Hall, NJ.

Study guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiversity

Physical chemistry is a domain in physical science which overlaps with chemical science.

Many branches of thought and ideas that were developed by physicists over the centuries have been applied to chemistry and that created new branches of knowledge. Actually there was no difference that this something is chemistry or physics as the knowledge developed; it's just as somebody needing a type of a knowledge and investigating it and finding out something new for example when we tried to understand the way heat is transfered and how much work we can extract from it; it gave rise to the branch of knowledge called thermodynamics and some time later somebody realized that the thermodynamics is universal phenomenon and that it can be applied to chemical systems. So when physics students are taught merely thermodynamics chemistry students are taught chemical thermodynamics which comes under physical chemistry.

The study of rates of reactions also come under physical chemistry and is called chemical kinetics as opposed to kinetics in physics which is about the motion of objects.But the big boost to physical chemistry came in the 20th century when the scope of study went inside the atom and we needed to explain the things that are happening on that scale; now physicist would contest that this is not the realm of chemistry but that of physics. Well in reality this is a field which both the sciences share. As the atomic theory evolved with the introduction of quantum mechanics - which is the single most influential scientific branch of the 20th century.

See also


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address