What Is Inorganic Chemistry? Definition and Examples

Inorganic chemistry is a field of chemistry that studies chemical compounds and their reactions. We prepared this post to help you answer the question, what is inorganic chemistry, by offering a simplified inorganic chemistry definition and examples of what inorganic chemists do.

This post will also explore the key concepts and applications of inorganic chemistry. Read on to learn more!

What Is Inorganic Chemistry? 

In contrast to organic chemistry, which focuses on carbon-based molecules, inorganic chemistry or “inorganics,” looks at elements that don’t contain carbon atoms as their primary focus.

It focuses primarily on elements from the periodic table, such as hydrogen, sulfur, nitrogen, and oxygen. Why else do you think inorganics is sometimes referred to as “non-carbon” chemistry? 

This field covers metal-containing compounds, coordination complexes, catalysis, bioinorganic chemistry, etc.

Inorganic chemistry also helps with the production of many everyday products. For instance, Advanced ChemTech produces a range of inorganic compounds and reagents, such as coupling reagents, resins, and catalysts for chemical synthesis. 

These are all essential tools for any chemist who wishes to study the molecules and reactions that make up our world.

Critical Concepts in Inorganic Chemistry

Let’s look at some key concepts that make up inorganic chemistry. 

1. Chemical Bonding in Inorganic Compounds

Chemical bonds in inorganic compounds can be categorized into three main types: ionic, covalent, and metallic.

A. Ionic Bonds

Ionic bonds form when electrons transfer from one atom to another, forming ions with opposite charges. These ions are held together by electrostatic attraction. 

Ionic bonds are prevalent in compounds composed of elements with significantly different electronegativities. For example, sodium chloride (NaCl) entails positively charged sodium ions (Na+) bonded with negatively charged chloride ions (Cl-) held together by ionic bonds.

B. Covalent Bonds

Covalent bonds manifest when atoms share electrons to achieve a stable electron configuration. These bonds are prevalent in compounds composed of nonmetals and often result in the formation of molecules. 

An example is carbon dioxide (CO2), where two oxygen atoms share two pairs of electrons with a carbon atom, resulting in a linear molecule.

C. Metallic Bonds

Metallic bonds occur in metals and involve a “sea” of delocalized electrons shared among a lattice of positively charged metal ions. This arrangement gives metals characteristic properties, such as malleability and electrical conductivity.

The Significance of Chemical Bonding in Inorganic Chemistry

  • Ionic bonds often result in compounds with high melting and boiling points, with excellent conductivity, when dissolved in water or melted.
  • Covalent bonds form diverse molecular structures with varying physical and chemical properties.
  • Metallic bonds are responsible for metals’ unique properties, such as ductility and thermal conductivity.

Examples of Industrial Applications of Inorganic Chemical Bonding

Advanced ChemTech produces coupling reagents and resins used in peptide synthesis. Coupling amino acids is achieved by forming a bond between an amino acid’s amine group and another carboxyl group. These coupling reagents are essential for peptide synthesis, a drug discovery and development process. 

We also produce catalysts that speed up chemical reactions without being consumed or affected by them. Catalysis occurs when molecules interact with a catalyst, which alters the reaction pathway and rate. Catalysts can be organic or inorganic, but inorganic catalysts are more common due to their stability and low cost.

2. Coordination Complexes and Transition Metals

A. Coordination Complexes

Coordination complexes are molecules or ions formed by coordinating central metal ions with surrounding ligands (molecules or ions with lone pairs of electrons). These complexes often exhibit unique colors, magnetic properties, and reactivity. Ligands donate electron pairs to the metal center, forming coordination bonds.

B. Transition Metals

Transition metals are a group of elements characterized by their partially filled d orbitals. They often form colorful and paramagnetic compounds and are known for their variable oxidation states and complex chemistry.

Applications in Inorganic Chemistry

A. Catalysis and Industrial Processes

Inorganic catalysts play a crucial role in accelerating chemical reactions in industrial processes. For instance, vehicle catalytic converters contain transition metals like platinum and palladium that facilitate the conversion of harmful exhaust gasses into less toxic substances. 

In pharmaceutical synthesis, inorganic catalysts can generate desired products more efficiently and selectively.

B. Bioinorganic Chemistry

Bioinorganic chemistry explores the role of inorganic elements in biological systems. Transition metals often play essential roles in proteins as cofactors, aiding in enzymatic reactions. 

Advanced ChemTech’s production of specialized amino acids contributes to developing peptides with specific biological functions, bridging bioinorganic chemistry with peptide synthesis.

Notable Examples of Inorganic Compounds

It’s time to look at some prominent compounds in inorganic chemistry applications.

1. Water (H2O)

Water is a crucial solvent and medium for chemical reactions in biological and industrial processes. It contains two polar atoms (oxygen and hydrogen) arranged in a bent molecular structure, forming hydrogen bonds. 

2. Sodium Chloride (NaCl)

Sodium chloride is a typical ionic compound, entailing negatively charged chloride ions bonded with positively charged sodium ions and held together by electrostatic attraction. It has a high melting and boiling point, making it an excellent choice for products such as table salt and industrial cleaning agents.

NaCl has various applications, including food preservation and chemical manufacturing.

3. Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

CO2 is a linear covalent compound consisting of two oxygen atoms sharing electrons with a carbon atom. It has many uses, including fire extinguishers, refrigerants, and carbonated beverages.

CO2 is also vital in climate regulation, as it’s one of the most abundant greenhouse gasses. 

4. Iron (Fe) 

Scientists refer to iron as a transition metal, as it can form various compounds with varying oxidation states. It plays an essential role in biological systems, as it’s in hemoglobin and helps transport oxygen around the body.

Iron also finds notable applications in industrial processes such as steel production and electrical wiring. 

5. Ammonia (NH3)

Ammonia is a colorless gas composed of nitrogen and hydrogen atoms held together by covalent bonds. It has many uses, including fertilizers, explosives, and refrigerants. 

In addition to being used as a household cleaner, ammonia can help produce nitric acid for chemical manufacturing processes. 

Final Thoughts on Inorganic Chemistry

Inorganic chemistry is a broad field of science that studies the structure, properties, and reactivity of various con-carbon elements and compounds. It’s integral to many industries, such as pharmaceuticals, materials science, energy production, and environmental control.

You can also learn how biochemistry and chemistry differ to understand the different roles of these two disciplines. Advanced ChemTech is a leader in developing advanced inorganic and organic chemistry-based products and solutions for diverse industrial applications. 

Our team’s expertise in chemical bonding, coordination complexes, and transition metals allows us to create innovative solutions that align with the principles and applications of inorganic chemistry. 

We also stay up-to-date on the latest research and developments in the field, so we can continuously provide our clients with topline products and services. Contact us today.