This chemistry survey is designed to introduce students to the world of chemistry. The principles of chemistry were first identified, studied, and applied by ancient Egyptians in order to extract metal from ores, make alcoholic beverages, glaze pottery, turn fat into soap, and much more. What began as a quest to build better weapons or create potions capable of ensuring everlasting life has since become the foundation of modern science. Take a look around you: chemistry makes up almost everything you touch, see, and feel, from the shampoo you used this morning to the plastic container that holds your lunch. In this course, we will study chemistry from the ground up, learning the basics of the atom and its behavior. We will use this knowledge to understand the chemical properties of matter and the changes and reactions that take place in all types of matter.
Our first step in this course is to gain a basic understanding of matter and define the basic terminology used to describe matter. This unit will also provide you with a refresher on measurements, as much of this class will require you to express quantities in standard units and amounts. We will also learn about significant figures, which may be a new concept for those of you who have not yet taken a science course.
Completing this unit should take you approximately 8 hours.
Now that we have a basic understanding of matter, we will delve into the basic unit of matter: the atom. The atom (along with its protons, neutrons, and electrons) serves as the starting point for the study of chemistry. Scientists have studied atoms for hundreds of years and have developed a number of different models in order to describe them. At present, chemists use the quantum mechanical model, which has been around for decades. The "laws” of this model continue to intrigue and spark debate among scientists today. One particularly interesting theory, for example, states that it is impossible to know the exact location and velocity of an electron at the same time!
Completing this unit should take you approximately 15 hours.
Bonds are connections between atoms. (Note that although we will focus on bonds in this unit, there are additional forces that affect atoms, i.e., intermolecular forces.) A solid grasp of VSEPR (Valence Shell Electron Pair Repulsion) theory will help us understand how elements that differ by one or two atomic numbers behave similarly or differently. VSEPR theory explains that the number of electrons an element possesses is intimately tied to its chemical properties. For example, though sodium differs from both neon and potassium by just one atomic number, it is extremely different from neon but very similar to potassium. This is because neon is a stable element with eight valence electrons (as predicted by VSEPR theory). Sodium and potassium have one and two valence electrons, respectively, which explain why they are similar to one another but quite different from neon. VSEPR is also used to predict the 3-dimensional structure, or geometry, of molecules.
Completing this unit should take you approximately 17 hours.
We will now introduce the major tool you will need when solving chemistry problems: the ability to write out formulas and equations. In this unit, you will build upon your understanding of molecules and bonding and begin to name and write compounds. We will then learn to write out and balance chemical equations. Equations enable us to describe chemistry topics in mathematical terms and predict the outcomes of reactions. For example, if we turn 1 kilogram of ice into pure steam at 200 Celsius and sea-level air pressure, what is the volume of steam created? Writing the reaction out in the form of an equation will allow us to precisely calculate the answer!
Completing this unit should take you approximately 9 hours.
In this unit, we will build upon what we have learned in the previous units in order to learn how matter behaves. Because the behaviors and properties of gases are often described in straightforward equations, we will begin with gases. We will also study the phase diagram, which predicts the state (i.e., solid, liquid, or gas) of any group of molecules at any given temperature and pressure.
Completing this unit should take you approximately 20 hours.
In this unit, we will take a look at energy as it relates to chemistry and chemical reactions. We will study both thermochemistry, which deals with the temperature- and heat-related aspects of chemistry, and thermodynamics, which focuses on the overall energies associated with chemical reactions. Thermodynamics will ultimately lead us to the Gibbs free energy equation, which can tell us whether any chemical reaction is spontaneous or not (i.e., whether it occurs by itself, without any external help).
Completing this unit should take you approximately 14 hours.