Third Grade Chemistry

Like biology, chemistry has many different sub‐types or branches of applications. Within these sub‐types are further classifications of specific studies. This is because chemistry is the study of the properties of matter, particularly its composition, behavior, and structure. Since everything is made of matter, the ways that chemistry can be applied are immense.

One such application is called Electrochemistry. This is the study of chemical reactions within a solution. Often, it needs two types of conductors in order for the reaction to be successful. This has to do with the transferring and charging of electrons between the two conductors within the solution. The sub‐topic of electrolysis has much to do with this reaction.

The study of electrochemistry is very useful to our modern society. Primarily, it helped many scientists understand how certain chemicals or types of matter behave when charged and how these can be made useful. Specifically, the study of electrochemistry has enhanced the production of the electrical batteries we know of and often use in our gadgets and toys. It has also helped modern day power plants through the development of fuel cells, and as such make the provision of power more available to society. Finally it has also helped the world of medicine and plastic surgery by providing doctors with new ways to treat, and cure patients or to make them look younger or permanently remove hair.

Humphry Davy's Electrolysis

Electrolysis is a direct application of electrochemistry. It involves using an electric current in order to split or separate elements from each other. Without the electric current, the separation or reaction may never occur because electrolysis usually induces a non‐spontaneous reaction.

The first scientists who successfully used electrolysis are Anthony Carlisle and William Nicholson. Together they were able to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen by passing an electric current through the liquid. Though their work for the discovery of this reaction is well noted, it is the scientist who came after them, Sir Humphry Davy who is commended for his work in electrolysis.

Sir Humphry Davy (your child will be happy to know) started out as a schoolboy who often found himself idle or bored with what was being studied, and was often punished in school. He was a child who had his own interests and pursued them with his own form of passion. One of his interests happened to be science and experimenting with different substances and mixtures he could find. He was given a lot of encouragement by family and friends, and because of this encouragement he went on to further the studies of electrolysis.

Through his work with electrolysis, Davy discovered several elements. He was able to use a simple battery to split elements and in doing so discovered the alkali metals known as sodium and potassium. Before Davy's work, people had believed these two to be the same. Davy had successfully proved themwrong. Apart from these two discoveries, he went on to discover barium, boron, calcium, and magnesium. He also discovered lithium as a source for battery power.

From the short list of elements above, we know that we owe Sir Humphry Davy a lot. Though he did not succeed in discovering or isolating all the elements (primarily because not all the elements can be isolated in this manner only), he pioneered the way for future chemists. What is remarkable about his scientific endeavors, though, is that he started from rather simple beginnings. When he finally became inclined towards science, he did not let failure get him down. He continued to work, always trying new adjustments here and there and eventually he became successful.

Following Humphry Davy's work, electrolysis has come a long way. The technique now has a variety of uses. It makes batteries, can reduce the possible corrosion on metals, and is used to isolate certain elements in order to use their properties for specific purposes or to combine them with other elements just to name a few. It is also used by plastic surgeons for hair removal or skin renewal treatment. There are even home electrolysis kits available in the market today!

Next Article: Third Grade Physics


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