Matter, reactions, production, analysis, recycling and yield

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Offline RedshiftRider

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« on: January 05, 2019, 04:23:58 PM »
The fractal shaped molecule structures I've described before is really cool but there is a much more important part of chemistry which has some principles that are often used for describing fractal structures. The most important of those is distribution.

One of the first things I have learned as a chemist is how matter is made up out of molecules. As an example, if you were to take a sugar cube and split it in half you would end up with two halves of a sugar cube (obviously :)) ). Repeat this a number of times and you would eventually end up with the grains of the sugar cube is made out of. This is not the end though, keep going and you'll eventually end up at molecular scale. Don't try this yourself by the way, it is a very tiresome process if you were to try this by hand, instead, try putting it in water ;).  This is the smallest scale at which the sugar, in this case sucrose, can be called sugar. The next step would split the molecule. I could go on until quarks but for this post that would not be relevant so I'll stop here.

Now, what can we do with this? Having all the molecules of a substance separated like this is very important when doing chemical reactions. In just about every reaction it is a good idea to have the reacting substances as small as possible and to have all of them mixed to form a homogeneous mixture. This way it takes less energy for the reaction to occur and the products will be a lot purer because there be far less impurities of the substances you started with. This is especially important in instances when chemicals are produced because both the reacting substances and the energy that needs to be put into the reaction takes effort and purifying the product afterwards also takes effort.

Having a homogeneous mixture is also very important in analytical chemistry because during analysis the goal is to accurately find out how much of a specific substance is in a sample. So the first step is to take a sample in such a way that is representative for the entirety of whatever you take the sample of. The second step is to make the sample itself homogeneous by mixing it thoroughly and breaking certain components of it down to even out the size of the particles.

With recycling distribution has a slightly different role but it is still important. When recycling a material it is best to break it down as far as possible to maximize the amount of the original product that will eventually be reused. Especially with organic products (products that have carbon in them) it is a good idea because those products can be broken to almost pure carbon to later be turned into something else.

While this can be a great idea it is not always ideal. When breaking something down to a very small particle size and manipulating them you basically have a larger number of particles to work with which means that if you need to react them you would need put an equal amount of particles of a different substance into it to react it which has the potential to make it horribly inefficient. It's is like the shoreline paradox where a more accurate measurement give a longer shoreline.

The number of steps that it takes to reduce the size of the particles can also be a downside because while every step gives you more matter to work with you inevitably will lose some as well because no step can be 100 percent accurate. Every step you'll lose something and every extra step the final yield you'll end up with will become smaller.

It does not matter what substances you are using or in what process you use them in, the distribution is important in all sorts of ways.

I may have been rambling a bit, if so, I'm sorry about that. Feel free to share your opinion on this, ask questions or correct me. :)
« Last Edit: January 05, 2019, 10:39:00 PM by RedshiftRider »

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