Uses Of Chemistry
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How has the study of chemistry affected the lives of ordinary people?
Every single day, without even realising it, we use so many things that are brought to us by the discoveries and advances in chemistry. Many of these things we take for granted, and dont even bother to question how it got there, why it is there, and how it works. Chemistry makes up everything in our lives, from the air that we breathe, to the plastic on the keyboard Im typing on now, and a in depth study of some of the wonderful things chemistry has done for the modern day world, will help us to appreciate everything we have a great deal more.
For as long as we know, scientists have been creating, and improving new strategies to improve the lives of us humans. One of the most important inventions was that of portable electricity. Yes, batteries. The same thing that you put into your CD player, in your remote control, in your wireless mouse, in your car and the list goes on. Batteries are one of the most widely used forms of electrical energy, and its hard to believe that the first battery ever created was way back in 1800.
Alessandro Volta was the inventor of the first ever battery, which consisted of layers of zinc, blotting paper soaked in salt water, and silver. In the 1800s, the Daniel cell was developed, which is also known as the wet cell, as it used liquids for the electrolytes. It consists of copper and zinc plates, and copper and zinc sulphates. Although the Daniel cell worked, it was only suitable for stationary items, such as door bells as it was a wet cell.
From this, modern day scientists have developed a range of different cells to cater to our specific needs. There is the zinc carbon battery, which is relatively inexpensive is very commonly used as AA, C and D cells. Then there is the more powerful alkaline battery, and the lithium photo battery, which is able to supply power surges. The battery used in the car is a lead-acid battery, which has a strong acidic electrolyte. One of the more increasingly common types of battery we see these days are the lithium-ion batteries, which are found in mobile phones, iPods, cameras and laptops. These are popular due to the fact that they are so lightweight, but can produce large amounts of power, and that they are rechargeable.
Although, batteries are found so commonly used in a lot of the electronics we use on a day to day basis, we dont usually think about the impact that they can have in other areas. One of the very important uses of batteries is the use of a zinc-mercury oxide battery, found in hearing aids, and another is the silver-zinc battery, used in aeronautical applications. So its not hard to say, batteries have come along way in technological advancement, and changed our lives a great deal. Portable electricity has become so mainstream, and so universally accepted, it is quite hard to imagine your remote control having a cord right?
So chemistry is all about making out lives better and easier? Sadly enough, not all the time. We know that chemistry can do so many great things for the world, although we havent touched on the subject of destruction. Nuclear bombs are one example of the ways in which chemistry has changed and shaped our world in dramatic and disastrous ways.
It was August the 2nd, of 1939, just before the start of World War Two, when Albert Einstein wrote to Franklin D. Roosevelt the President of the USA then, concerning efforts that were being taken place in Germany to purify uranium 235, which can be used to make atomic bombs. From there on, the US government started a serious endeavor into creating a practical atomic bomb, which was known as The Manhattan Project. There was a quite a number of issues they had to overcome in the making of this bomb, and the most significant problem was the extraction of the uranium 235. This was made so difficult due to a number of reasons, starting with the extraction itself. When it finally was extracted, another problem was the fact that the part that was finally refined was 99% uranium-238, which was basically useless in the making of an atomic bomb. To make their task even more complex, the chemical composition of the worthless uranium-238 and the valuable uranium-235 are almost exactly the same, which led to the development of a huge laboratory in Tennessee to separate the two isotopes.
In the mountains of New Mexico on July the 16th, 1945, six years of hard work, and two billion dollars later, the concept of atomic fission was about to be put to the test. When that bomb was blown into the air, and seeing the affects of what could happen if this was allowed to go on, a few of the participants in creating the bomb signed a petition to stop the construction of any more bombs like this, but these protests were completely ignored, and unleashed was the sort of power that has caused death and destruction beyond belief.
The atomic bomb has only ever been used twice in warfare, and both times has caused horrendous damage to human life. The first time it was used, was in Hiroshima, Japan on the 6th August, 1945. Instantly, 66 000 people were killed, and 69 000 were injured by a ten kiloton atomic explosion. Half a mile diameter in area from where the bomb was dropped was completely vaporized, within one and a half miles diameter, everything was completely destroyed, extreme blast damage was incurred within two miles diameter and within two and a half miles diameter, everything flammable burned. Is this what J. Robert Oppenheimer had in mind when he overlooked the entire creation of the first atomic bomb?
Only three days later, Nagasaki, Japan felt the same kind of terror. 39 000 people were killed in an instant and over 25 000 people were seriously injured. What is even more frightening is that physicists who have studies these two explosions have estimated that only 1/10 of one percent of their explosive capabilities were made use of. While more than enough damage had already been done, the power of the atomic bomb is relentless. The rain that followed the nuclear blasts was overloaded with radiation, and may survivors of the bombing fell victim to radiation poisoning. Also, many generations afterwards are victims of this bombing attack as they have been afflicted with leukemia.
Back when atomic bombs were only new, assumptions were made that they would be used to help in mining industries, which obviously never happened. So, who has the right to be given so much power?