Chemistry: This Stuff Is Really Fun!

This Stuff Is Really Fun!

Chemistry is fun! With a good grounding in chemistry, you'll not only understand how to balance an equation and discuss moles like a pro, but you'll also get a better understanding of how real-world phenomena work. For example, take the everyday fish tank filter (see Figure 1.2). Most of us don't give a lot of thought to how the filter works, choosing instead to scrub out the foam sponge and change the charcoal whenever the tank starts looking a little scummy.

The foam rubber filters solid wastes, while the activated charcoal removes liquid wastes.

Figure 1.2The foam rubber filters solid wastes, while the activated charcoal removes liquid wastes.

Though you wouldn't think so by looking at it, the filter uses sophisticated chemistry to keep your fish alive and happy. The first section of the filter contains a foam sponge that allows water to pass through undisturbed but picks up solid fish waste. From a chemist's standpoint, you've filtered the solids from a heterogeneous mixture. The second section of the filter contains activated charcoal, which serves to remove dissolved fish wastes. From a chemist's standpoint, the activated charcoal selectively adsorbs organic compounds, allowing inorganic materials to pass through undisturbed.

Molecular Meanings

When something is adsorbed, it has been stuck to the surface of a material. Absorption, with which you are more familiar, is when something has been soaked up into another material.

Okay, so this example won't wow the guests at your next get-together. However, you'll probably find that people are more interested in the science behind every-day objects than they're willing to admit, even if they do claim to hate chemistry.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Chemistry © 2003 by Ian Guch. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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