Chemistry is the branch of science that deals with the study of the structure, properties, and behavior of atoms, ions, and molecules. Several commercially important processes are a result of technological breakthroughs in the field of chemistry. For example, polyethylene is a widely used plastic that is prepared via a polymerization reaction. Several named reactions in organic chemistry have important industrial applications as well. Examples include the Sandmeyer reaction and the Cannizzaro reaction. A few important technological breakthroughs in the field of chemistry are listed below.
The Discovery of Penicillin
Penicillin is an antibiotic that is effective against numerous bacterial infections. This wonder drug was first discovered by the Scottish microbiologist Alexander Fleming in the year 1928. He observed that a mold that was growing in his Petri dishes had a suppressing effect on the growth of other bacteria. However, he failed to extract penicillin from the mold. In the year 1939, a team of chemists led by the medical scientist Howard Florey formulated a method of purifying penicillin for human use.
Liquid Crystal Display Systems
Plans for the development of liquid crystal display (LCD) systems were formulated in the 1960s. At that time, most of the display systems functioned on cathode ray tubes (CRTs). However, the challenge faced by scientists at that time was that the LCD systems could only function at high temperatures.
George William Gray, a professor of organic chemistry at the University of Hull, successfully synthesized a compound known as 5CB in the year 1972. The IUPAC name of this compound is 4-Cyano-4’-pentylbiphenyl. The use of 5CB in liquid crystal display systems enabled them to operate at lower temperatures.
The Haber process
The Haber process (also known as the Haber-Bosch process) is a process that artificially converts atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia. Before this process was developed, the industrial production of ammonia was quite difficult. This process is widely used today for the production of fertilizers.
The Haber process involves the conversion of atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia via reaction with hydrogen in the presence of a metal catalyst at high temperatures and pressures. The balanced chemical reaction here can be written as follows.
N2 + 3H2 → 2NH3 [click here to learn about balancing chemical equations]
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