5 ways Chemistry has helped shape the modern world

According to the Royal Society of Chemistry, interdisciplinarity between chemistry and other sciences is indispensable for innovation and tackling global challenges.

One pivotal example is the influence of chemistry in technology. The advancements in chemistry, especially materials chemistry, have allowed tech firms to experiment and create cutting edge products that are helping shape the world.

In this article we highlight some key technological innovations that could not have happened without chemistry.

 

Touch screens

Chemistry has helped develop most of the tech products we use every day like our computer or our mobile phone. Without chemistry the mobile phone would not exist as we know it. In fact, out of the 83 nonradioactive elements, around 70 of them can be found in a phone.

The touch screen on a mobile phone is made of a combination of plastics, transparent metal coatings, adhesives and other products, all working together to allow a single touch to activate the phone. This invention is now in everyone’s pockets and is widely used across most other devices.

However it doesn’t stop there. In 2018 we are seeing a tendency for screens to get thinner to enable increased interactivity. So the chemistry industry still has a lot of work left to do in this domain.

 

Nanotechnology

Chemistry has also been at the forefront of nanotechnology breakthroughs. Nanotechnology, the science of extremely small structures, is being used in many sectors from creating higher performance materials to improving efficiency of solar energy production.

One extraordinary nanotech discovery has been the drug-carrying Nanoswimmers. These are nano particles designed to deliver drugs to targeted parts of the body. It is hoped that they will soon be able to combat certain types of cancers and other diseases. As the population lives longer and consequently the global pharmaceutical sector is set to grow by 160% between now and 2030, pharma companies are going to depend on chemical innovations such as Nanoswimmers to help them support this growth.

 

Photovoltaics

Chemistry has become a vital player when it comes to finding sustainable energies for the long term. As there is increasingly more pressure to find better solutions, chemists and tech experts have been working together combing their skills to find solutions. We are currently seeing a lot of research around photovoltaics and ways to use sunlight as a source of energy. In turn these technologies are being used to create safer and more sustainable photo batteries for devices.

Although still in the discovery stages, this technology offers significant potential for the future and could soon be found in everyday electrical devices.

 

Electric vehicles

Another breakthrough technology in the past few years has been the electric car. As the electric car market grows, there has been a drive to develop them further, focusing on improving their performance, battery durability and lightness.

Electric cars have many advantages. They are low maintenance as they have less parts, they are cheaper to run as they don’t need petrol and more importantly they are better for the environment. However, as we stand, electric cars are expensive to produce and not yet dependable enough.

Chemists and engineers are working hard to improve battery durability, and consequently improve the distance range and battery cost. They are also researching lighter materials to help improve performance.

Hopefully, as chemistry helps upgrade the electric car, we will see more affordable models released to the mass market. As Tesla already has half a million pre-orders for its $35,000 Model 3, the success of future affordable electric cars looks very promising.

 

3D printing

In recent years three-dimensional printing has proven to be a no waste, quick and cost-effective way of reproducing goods. The technology has been used universally, transforming many research and manufacturing sectors.

Advancements in printable materials coupled with better mechanical techniques have enabled new developments in three-dimensional printing. Some notable ones have been printing with metal and the creation of 3D printed vaccines.

In 2017 engineers at MIT created a 3D printed vaccine, composed of 3D microparticles capable of holding vaccine doses. By making the microparticles biodegradable, this type of vaccine could deliver multiple doses of a vaccine over time, helping immunity for those who have limited access to healthcare.

Additionally, thanks to chemistry 3D printing is getting faster. Californian-based Carbon3d are designing alternative printed processes using photocurable resins. This has helped speed up printing from hours to minutes. Their 3D printers are relying on the chemical processes, rather than just additive layering.

 

These examples are some of many modern day discoveries that have been made possible as a result of chemistry, tech and engineering experts collaborating together – a perfect example of interdisciplinarity leading to innovation.

The future of the chemical sector is certainly looking bright. If you have a chemistry background and are looking to get involved in exciting new projects, then search our latest jobs here or get in touch with one of our recruiters for careers advice.

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