Quantum Chemistry

Quantum Chemistry

By Varun Vasudeva

Quantum mechanics has been a well known branch of physics for not too long now. Before this, the mathematics behind reconciling the four fundamental forces of nature (the strong nuclear force, weak nuclear force, electromagnetic force and gravitational force) was an even bigger blur than it is right now.

 

Quantum mechanics, or Q-mech, brought about a simple yet persistent challenge: reconcile it with Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and you have a Unified Field Equation. Einstein’s theory describes the functioning of bodies like planets, stars and elusive black holes. Quantum mechanics, on the other hand, explains the science of the extremely small and microscopic world. Why light behaves like a particle and a wave, why an electron doesn’t fall into the nucleus of an atom: all these questions are ones that were answered by the introduction of quantum theory. An equation that combined these two branches of science would give us a Unified Field Equation. This equation would effectively govern the laws of the universe and, for this reason, is also called the ‘Theory of Everything’.

 

This task is easier said than done, as the mathematics behind their combination becomes nonsensical. While this task is proving to be well near impossible, the act of using quantum mechanics in other fields is not. Quantum chemistry is a prominent field in the interdisciplinary branches of science, as it is an eloquent merger of both physics and chemistry. Quantum chemistry aims to use the science behind quantum mechanics and apply it to fields such as mass spectroscopy on the atomistic level, chemical reaction dynamics, statistical thermodynamics and molecular properties. Spectroscopy yields a picture as to how an element or a compound looks and what it is made up of. Statistical thermodynamics talks about the math as to why some reactions take place by themselves and why some don’t. Molecular properties talk more in detail about the composition of elements and compounds.

 

If this seems like jargon to you, don’t worry. The plain language for this essentially translates to, “quantum mechanics makes chemical reactions easier to understand and gives studying them a more holistic and complete approach”. I’m biased towards physics, undoubtedly, but the use of one science in another is truly what doing and practicing science is all about. Silos in education shouldn’t exist and this is the perfect demonstration of sciences working together in harmony.