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Everyday Life Chemistry

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General chemistry is a science that is deeply incorporated in our everyday lives, but most of the people are probably not aware of it being so. After reading this article, you will think a bit more about everyday life chemistry the next time you light a match or a lighter, or for example, change the antifreeze in your car. Everything mentioned can serve as excellent example for chemistry processes that we witness often.

When you light a match, a complex reaction occur in the tip of the match that contains potassium chlorate (an oxidant), sulfur, starch, glue and some other ingredients. The striking surface on the match box, usually contains powdered glass, red phosphorus, glue and other ingredients. When you strike a match on this surface, the heat of the friction causes a reaction between the potassium chlorate in the match head and the red phosphorus in the striking surface. That way sparks are formed, which finally ignite the match head that continues to burn after that.

Igniting a lighter as an example isn't as complex as the above mentioned case, but it is also an interesting example. When you press down the wheel of the lighter, the friction between the wheel and the flint causes the sparks to be formed. At the moment when sparks are still in the air, the butane/propane gas is being released and it catches fire, and then continues to flow, as long as you have your thumb pressed down on the lighter. The products of the combustion of butane and propane are water, and carbon dioxide.

We also mentioned changing the antifreeze in your car. The use of antifreeze is also an excellent example of everyday chemistry. It is added to the cooling system of your car because it lowers the temperature at which water freezes. That way the freezing point of water gets much lower than the lowest temperatures in the winter, and that way it never gets a chance to solidify and cause serious damage to your car. In addition most modern antifreeze solutions also contain substances that inhibit corrosion.

These were just some of the many situations where chemistry can give you an answer on how something works. However, there is also another way by which most of us are also in contact with chemistry every day - everyday chemicals that we often use, and mostly don't think about. Here we will mention three of the most commonly used chemicals: acetone, sodium hydrogen carbonate and hydrogen peroxide.

The first one, acetone, is a chemical that is often the main ingredient in nail polish removers. It is used because it is a very good solvent, and is capable of removing pigments and other chemical compounds that stay on your nails after applying nail polish. Acetone in nail polish removers is often mixed with a certain amount of water, and sometimes parfumes or pigments may also be added, but these compounds usually don't change the properties of acetone as a solvent. Acetone is basically a flammable and colorless liquid, and is the simplest example of ketones. It has a lower density than water, and boils already at 57°C.

The other mentioned compound is sodium hydrogen carbonate, often called baking soda, because it is the main (and mostly only) ingredient in baking powder which is used because of its ability to decompose into CO2 when it reacts with acids. This carbon dioxide that is released by the mentioned reaction, helps the dough to "rise". The mentioned, sodium hydrogen carbonate (also known as sodium bicarbonate) is a white solid crystalline powder, that mostly appears as a fine powder. It has a slight alkaline taste, and mostly no odor.

The last compound that we mentioned is hydrogen peroxide. The most common application of this compound is hair bleaching. In such products it has a concentration between 3% and 12%. Even more diluted solutions of this compound are used for wound disinfection. Hydrogen peroxide, when pure, is a very pale blue liquid that is slightly more viscous than water, and it is known to appear colorless in dilute solutions. It has strong oxidizing properties, and is a strong bleaching agent, as we mentioned, even in lower concentrations. Beside the mentioned applications it is also used as an antiseptic, an oxidizer and a propellant in rocketry.

The compounds that we mentioned are just some of the most well known chemicals that we usually use very often. If one is also interested in founding out more related to the chemicals that have been mentioned in this article, or other substances that are also commonly used in our everyday lives, there are many pretty useful and interesting sites that can be found online with various data related to common and basic chemsitry related tutorials, and other interesting information regarding chemistry as well. For more information check out the link in the author bio below.
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