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Chemistry and industry

Chemistry, atoms and molecules

"Chemistry"...For many, this word often conjures up an image of a mad scientist mixing substances in a cluttered laboratory in which hundreds of flasks gather dust on the shelves. This image often overshadows the fact that chemistry is a strict science which studies the constitution of matter. It focuses on atoms• — which are assembled together in an organized and structured fashion to form molecules• — as well as all the mechanisms, processes and interactions in which they are involved. Moreover, chemicals are often assimilated with hazardous substances. This is not necessarily the case. All matter is made up of chemicals or a mixture of chemicals.

Did you know?

The word chemistry is derived from the Arabic al-kimi alchemy”, which was borrowed either from the Greek khumeia “pouring together”, or from the Egyptian khemet meaning “earth”. Chemistry was therefore originally the art of preparing, purifying, transforming and utilizing naturally occurring substances.

Elements and compounds

From a scientific point of view, chemicals may be pure substances made up of a single type of component, or mixtures. Pure substances can be elements (i.e. composed of a single type of atom) or compounds (i.e. composed of different atoms).

Example of two chemicals: dihydrogen (H2) and carbon dioxide (CO2)
Dihydrogen (H2) and carbon dioxide (CO2)

Types of industrial products

From an industrial point of view, chemicals are defined
according to their place in the production chain. The
following categories can be distinguished:

  • raw materials which are naturally present in the environment and are used to obtain certain primary products,
  • primary products which are manufactured from raw materials or artificially synthesized. The same primary product can be used in a very large number of different industrial processes,
  • intermediate products which are obtained from primary products and which enter into the composition of finished products,
  • finished or manufactured products which are mixtures or intermediate combinations and are used in our everyday lives.
Find out more

To find out about the scientists who have transformed chemistry from antiquity to the present day, see the website:

Production chain for a finished product: fertilizer

This document will mainly focus on raw materials, primary products and intermediate products.

Mendeleev's Table: the Periodic Table

In 1869, the Russian chemist Dimitri Mendeleev designed a table presenting all the chemical elements identified at the time in an orderly manner. Since then, this table has undergone many changes.
In 2016, it comprised 118 elements sorted according to their atomic number, i.e. their number of protons• (positive charges).
Each column is made up of elements with similar physical and chemical properties. Each row comprises elements with a similar electron• (negative charges) arrangement around the nucleus•.

Periodic Table

An interactive version of the Periodic Table can be found on the website:


Last update: 8/11//2016