Examples of the uses and applications of chemicals


Doc Brown's Chemistry  email doc brown


 including elements, compounds or mixtures

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See also Chemical formulations - composition and uses

Uses of selected-examples of Elements, compounds or Mixtures in alphabetical order of name of element, compound or mixture for KS3 Science KS4 Science GCSE/IGCSE CHEMISTRY and GCE AS A2 IB Advanced Level Chemistry (~US grades 6-10)

PAGE INTRODUCTION - PLEASE READ first! This web page consists of an ALPHABETICAL LIST of 220 elements, compounds or mixtures with a brief description of their properties and uses. You can quickly scroll down through them using the 'page up or page down key' or click on the first letter index below.

Do NOT print out all of this page, it is 30-40 A4 pages long!

Chemical name beginning with A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

This list is very much about what is around you or close by geographically. Not only are you a complex biochemical system yourself, but much of your 'environment' in its widest cultural and technological sense depends on chemistry and its many applications. The proof is just to browse down this 'humble' list, which only contains a tiny fraction of the millions of different chemical compounds that exist, both naturally and manmade whether used in the chemical industry, the environment or a household product.  Can I 'emphasise' that the 'emphasis' in this list is how different materials have different uses without going into excessive detail and there are lots of 'cross-links' on this page for inter-related material uses and links to more detailed notes where available. There are no graphic images so as to reduce the download time of this extensive and long page. Issues relating to the use of the listed materials may be mentioned here or elsewhere on the website. I hope this alphabetical list will prove useful as a quick brief and preliminary research resource or revision study notes for pupils/students of KS3 science, GCSE/IGCSE/KS4 Science, GCSE/IGCSE Chemistry, GCE-AS-A2-IB Advanced Level Chemistry and US science-chemistry K12 grades 6-12 and other equivalent courses.

SUBSTANCES in alphabetical order STRUCTURE and PROPERTIES TYPICAL EXAMPLES of USES of the substance which you should be able you relate to the substances structure and properties
A uses of materials - elements, compounds and mixtures


See ETHANOIC ACID for uses. More on carboxylic acids at GCSE Extra Organic Chemistry Notes, see also ESTERS and CARBOXYLIC ACIDS.


CH3COOH etc.

Compounds containing an 'acidic' H that can be replaced by a metal or ammonium ion. Acids react with metals, oxides, hydroxides and carbonates to form salts. If soluble n water give a pH < 7. Uses of acids: Look up individual acids by name for their uses, too many to list here. Detailed chemistry notes on Acids, Bases, Alkalis, pH, Neutralisation & Salts GCSE Revision Notes.

e.g. polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), man-made organic polymers.

Large organic molecules formed by polymerising unsaturated molecules (alkenes with the C=C double carbon=carbon bond group) such as methyl acrylate (methyl propenoate), methyl methylacrylate (methyl 2-methyl propenoate), acrylonitrile (propenenitrile), acrylic acid (propenoic acid). PMMA when cast in sheets has the trade name Perspex. Uses of acrylic materials: They make tough flexible plastics or sticky resins that can solidified in context e.g. paints, moulded bone substitute. These resins and plastics have a huge range of uses. Poly(methyl acrylate) is used in emulsion form in textile and leather finishes, lacquers, paints, adhesives and safety glass layers (can replace glass in many situations). Poly(methyl methylacrylate), PMMA is a clear plastic material (Perspex) which can be injection moulded and extruded into a variety of products e.g. transparent impact resistant screens like car headlamps-aircraft windows, aquarium tanks, eye lenses, bone substitutes, signs. Acrylic paints consist of PMMA 'resin' suspended in water mixed with the colour pigment. Polyacryonitrile is used to make artificial fibres and elastomers (materials with elastic rubbery properties) for the textile industry.
ALCOHOLS (compounds)

e.g. CH3OH, CH3CH2OH etc.

Organic compounds of C, H and O atoms forming a homologous series of molecules containing the hydroxyl functional group -OH. They are colourless molecular liquids at room temperature. Uses of alcohols: Wide range of uses e.g. fuels, solvents, esters, starting molecule to make other molecules. Best to see methanol, ethanol ('alcohol') and esters.
ALKALIS Dissolve in water to give alkaline solutions of pH > 7 because the hydroxide ion, OH-, is formed. Uses of alkalis: Best to look up individual acids by name for their uses e.g. sodium hydroxide, calcium hydroxide. Their single biggest function is to make salts by reaction with acids. Detailed chemistry notes at Acids, Bases, Alkalis, pH, Neutralisation & Salts GCSE Revision Notes
ALKALI METALS Group 1 elements of the periodic table. See also GCSE/IGCSE Alkali Metal Notes and Advanced Level s-block notes Uses of alkali metals: See individual metals and their compounds e.g. sodium, sodium chloride etc.
ALKALINE EARTH METALS Group 2 elements of the periodic table. Uses of alkaline earth metals: See individual metals and their compounds e.g. calcium, calcium carbonate etc.
ALKANES (compounds)

Homologous series of hydrocarbon compounds of general formula CnH2n+2 where n = 1, 2, 3 etc.

Covalent saturated hydrocarbon molecules consisting of combinations of carbon and hydrogen atoms.

Flammable, smelly colourless gases or liquids or white waxy solids of little odour, depending on the value of n.

Uses of alkanes: Widely used as fuels from natural gas, petrol, central heating oil, paraffin/candle wax etc.

see also methane, ethane, propane, butane

and GCSE notes on  Oil and its useful products

ALKENES (compounds)

Homologous series of hydrocarbon compounds of general formula

CnH2n where n = 2, 3, 4 etc.

They are small unsaturated covalent hydrocarbon molecules of carbon and hydrogen atoms. They have a C=C double bond which makes them reactive. The first few in the series are the most useful and are pungent smelling colourless gases. Uses of alkenes: Alkenes are not used directly for anything BUT they are readily converted to other very useful organic molecules e.g. you can add water to make ethanol,  as unsaturated monomer molecules they can be polymerised to make useful polymer-plastic materials called poly('alkene name') e.g. ethene makes poly(ethene).

See also ethene, propene and GCSE notes on  Oil and its useful products

ALLOYS a mixture of metal atoms with other metal or non-metal atoms Huge range of mainly solid (sometimes liquids) mixtures of a metal mixed with other metals or non-metals. They are good conductors of heat/electricity but can have a wide variety of strengths and melting points. Metal structure & properties notes Uses of alloys: Huge range, need to look up individual alloys in this list or elsewhere. By varying the mixture you can design an alloy material to suit a wide range of applications and uses e.g. alloys like steel, brass, nitinol/NiTi,
ALUMINIUM (aluminum, element)

Al atoms

Relative low density ('light'), quite strong, high melting metal and a good conductor of heat and electricity. See Metal structure & properties notes and Al is obtained from bauxite ore, see Extraction of Metals Uses of aluminium: Used for electrical power lines-cables (with copper), saucepans (less so, aluminium ions are harmful if aluminium dissolves in fruit juices), many alloys e.g. with magnesium to make strong light metal fabrication products like aircraft wings, food and drink containers and kitchen foil.


It is an amphoteric hydroxide, and with acids it will react as a mild base to neutralise acids - hence its use as in ant-acid medicines. Uses of aluminium hydroxide: Used in antacid mixtures because it will neutralise acids.

AMALGAM (mixture of metal atoms) Alloy mixture of mercury and other metals. Uses of amalgam: Initially prepared by the dentist as a paste which solidifies to make a dental filling.
AMINO ACIDS (organic compound) These covalent molecules usually contain a carboxylic group (-COOH) and the amino group (-NH2). When pure they are colourless crystalline substances which usually dissolve in water. Uses of amino acids: The body needs amino acids and gets them from the digestion of protein from meat, fish, eggs, cheese and grain etc. The body then uses them to build up its own required protein structures from muscle fibres to enzymes.

NH3 molecules

NH4 ... compounds

Ammonia is a small covalent molecule of nitrogen and hydrogen. Its a colourless pungent smelling gas that is very soluble in water. It is a base/alkali and reacts with acids to form salts.

Ammonium salts are colourless ionic crystalline solids which are soluble in water.

Uses of ammonia: Neutralised by acids fertilisers such as ammonium sulphate and ammonium nitrate to provide plants with the essential element nitrogen. It is oxidised (plus water) to manufacture nitric acid which is used in fertiliser and organic dyestuff manufacture. Ammonia is used in nylon manufacture and the aqueous solution used in the home in oven cleaning products.

Uses of ammonium salts: Ammonium chloride paste is the electrolyte in zinc carbon batteries. As already mentioned - typical fertiliser salts ammonium nitrate, ammonium sulphate and ammonium phosphate.

See GCSE notes on Ammonia and Nitric Acid and Acids, Bases, Alkalis, pH, Neutralisation & Salts GCSE Revision Notes

ANTIOXIDANTS (usually organic compounds, naturally found and manmade) These are usually organic molecules with quite variable molecular structure. They slow down oxidation rates in auto-oxidisable substances by removing highly reactive species like free radicals. Uses of antioxidants: They are added to protect/preserve foods, particularly those containing fat. They are used to reduce the ageing/deterioration of rubber and plastics. The body needs anti-oxidants to reduce the potential harm of free radicals. Vitamins C and E function as antioxidants and must fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants.
ANTISEPTICS (usually organic compounds) Usually organic molecules, often based on phenol. Dettol and TCP antiseptics are formulations of chlorinated phenol molecules. Ethanol and iodine have powerful antiseptic properties. Antiseptics kill microorganisms but are safe enough to use on the skin. Ethanol is widely used in hand washes in hospitals and iodine is a disinfectant for surgical procedures e.g. for treating skin prior to an operation.

They are not as strong acting as disinfectants and can be used safely on skin and other tissue cells you wish to leave unharmed.

ARGON (element)

Ar atoms


Colourless chemically unreactive gas ('inert') belong to the 'Noble Gases' Group 0 of the Periodic Table. Uses of argon: It is its chemical inertness that makes them so useful. A small amount is in light bulbs to minimise evaporation of the metal at the high temperatures of the filament but will not oxides the metal. It is used in steel making by bubbling it through the mixture to allow stirring of the mixture and prevent oxidation of the metals in the hot liquid mixture.
B uses of materials - elements, compounds and mixtures

BAKELITE phenol-formaldehyde resin compounds

BAKELITE is a hard brittle plastic or thick resin made from phenol and formaldehyde (methanal). When solid it has a strong cross-linked polymer structure which is an excellent electrical insulator and quite heat resistance - its a thermosetting polymer. Uses of bakelite: These phenol-formaldehyde plastics/resins have a wide rage of uses e.g. electrical fittings, saucepan handles, ... (but now replaced by PVC and poly(propene).
BASES Substances that react with acids, the neutralisation reaction producing salts. If soluble in water they are called alkalis. Uses of bases: Need to look up individual bases/alkalis like ammonia, sodium hydroxide, calcium oxide etc.
BAUXITE A mineral ore consisting mainly of aluminium oxide. Uses of bauxite: One of the main ores for extracting the metal aluminium.
BIODEGRADABLE MATERIALS A term, usually applied to waste materials, meaning that they will be naturally broken down by natural means so as not to leave a potential pollutant. Uses of biodegradable fuels: Biodegradable plastic are being developed and technical progress seems good so far!
BIOFUELS Biofuels are organic fuel molecules made from some naturally grown crop. Uses of biofuels: e.g. sugar beet to produce sugar which is fermented into ethanol. Rape seed oil can be made into biodiesel for agricultural vehicles.
BRASS (alloy mixture)

Cu + Zn atoms

A metal made from mixing copper and zinc. Copper is quite weak and zinc is brittle, but the mixture is quite strong and hard wearing. Uses of brass: Brass has many uses e.g. wire, ammunition cartridge cases, tubing, casting decorative objects or plaques.

Br2 molecules

and compounds

Bromine is a dark red low boiling point covalent liquid. It forms both ionic and covalent compounds. Uses of bromine: The element is not used directly but is converted into important compounds. It is added to ethene to make (covalent) 1,2-dibromoethane which is used in manufacturing anti-knocking agents in motor fuels. Other organo-bromine compounds are used as flame-retardants which inhibit combustion if materials catch fire, to make fumigants in pest control and disinfectants. Silver bromide (ionic AgBr) is used in photography - the photographic film emulsion layer that reacts to light.
BRONZE Alloy mixture of the metals copper and tin. The tin hardens and strengthens the relatively weak copper. Uses of bronze: This strong hard wearing easily cast metal is used for cog wheels, ships propellers, statues, coins.
BUCKMINSTER FULLERENES See CARBON Uses of carbon: See CARBON See also Giant covalent structures and large organic molecules
BUTANE (compound)

C4H10 molecules


A colourless pungent petrol like smelling hydrocarbon gas belonging to the homologous series of covalent organic molecules called alkanes. Uses of butane: Liquified under pressure and stored in thick steel fuel gas tanks e.g. calor/bottled gas.

C uses of materials - elements, compounds and mixtures

CADMIUM (element)

Cd atoms

and compounds

CADMIUM is a white lustrous metal, moderately reactive to form salts with acids. Uses of cadmium: Used in metal electroplating, alloyed with copper for tramway wires, some rechargeable batteries (NiCad cells). Cadmium  compounds are used as pigments (cadmium sulphide CdS is yellow), plasticizers for plastics, phosphors in colour TV tubes.
CALCIUM (element)

Ca atoms

A hard grey-white lustrous meal. Very reactive and rapidly dissolves in most acids forming salts. Because its high reactivity it will displace many other metals from their compounds. Uses of calcium: Calcium is used to extract metals like thorium, vanadium and zirconium from there compounds by displacement reactions, a deoxidisers (e.g. it can be added to a molten metal mixture to remove traces of oxygen and it is used in alloys too. As its ion, Ca2+, it is an important dietary element for the body - calcium compounds are needed for the structure of bones and teeth.

CaCO3, Ca2+CO32-

An ionic white solid compound. Occurs naturally as the sedimentary rock limestone, which is an important raw material for both the construction and chemical industry. It is insoluble in water but dissolves in acids to form salts. It also occurs as the metamorphic rock marble which is much harder and less prone to weathering and can be polished to fine surface finish. Uses of calcium carbonate : Uses of limestone: Used in the manufacture of iron & steel - slag removal, neutralise soil acidity, road making, stone block building material, making cement by roasting limestone with clay in a rotary kiln, blackboard chalk, heated in a kiln to make calcium oxide (lime, quicklime used to control excess acidity of agricultural land). Marble is used for building stones, flooring and statues, but much more expensive than limestone.


An ionic compound, a white powder that is slightly soluble in water to give an alkaline solution of ~pH 12. Its a base and neutralises acids forming calcium salts. Uses of calcium hydroxide : Uses of slaked lime: When mixed with water it makes a white slurry used to 'whitewash' houses (quite an exothermic reaction). Use in agriculture to control soil acidity.  Sometimes called 'slaked lime' because it is formed from calcium oxide ('lime') + water.
CALCIUM OXIDE (compound)

CaO, Ca2+O2-

A white high melting ionic solid which is slightly soluble in water to give an alkaline solution ~pH 12. It is a base and so will neutralise acids to form salts. Uses of calcium oxide : Uses of lime : Uses of quicklime: It is used in steel making instead of limestone to remove the last silica and other mineral impurities as slag. It is known as lime/quicklime and is also used to control the acidity of soil when the pH is too low for good crop/plant growth.

CaSO4, Ca2+SO42-

A white ionic compound that is slightly soluble in water. Uses of calcium sulfate: Plaster of Paris is made from calcium sulfate and water.
CARBOHYDRATES (organic compounds) e.g. sugars and starches. Small to huge covalent molecules of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Most naturally occurring sugars contain 6 or 12 carbon atoms e.g.

C6H12O6 glucose/fructose

C12H22O11 sucrose

(C6H10O5)n starches are natural polymers where n is a very large number of repeating units.

Uses of carbohydrates: Sugars are used in food preparation as a sweetening agent and provider of energy (high on calories) and starches like cornflower are used as thickening agents. For more details see individual substances e.g. glucose and Starch.

CARBON (element)

C atoms

Three allotropes, graphite, diamond, fullerenes, all solids.

(i) Coal: Mainly carbon from plant remains but contains small amounts of minerals and organic compounds. Coke is made by roasting coal at a high temperature which drives off organic tar, ammonia gas and water.

(ii) Graphite: It has a porous structure so readily absorbs gases and certain dissolved compounds in solutions. Slippery black solid, high melting point, relatively good conductor of heat or electricity, doesn't dissolve in anything. Charcoal and coke have very porous graphitic structure.

(iii) Diamond: A very hard and high melting colourless (usually) crystals. Refracts light strongly to give vivid 'sparkling rainbow colour' effects.

(iv) Buckminster Fullerenes (bucky balls) and carbon nanotubes: Nanotubes are very strong and conduct electricity.

Nanoparticles in general have different properties to the bulk material and their structures are manufactured by building them molecule-by-molecule or by 'stripping' a material down to nanoscale size and characteristics.

Uses of carbon in its many forms:

(i) A high % of coal is carbon, an important fossil fuel. Anthracite is almost pure carbon and cleaner burning. Uses of coke: An important industrial and domestic solid fuel. It is the reducing agent (O remover) in the blast furnace for the conversion of iron oxides into iron and domestic fuel.

(ii) Graphite is Electrodes in aluminium manufacture by electrolysis of aluminium oxide. Finely powdered charcoal, mainly graphite, is used for decolourising solutions and removing 'taste' and 'odours' in water purification and deodorising e.g. shoes! Graphite is used in 'lead' pencils and in lubricants, contact brushes in electric motors/dynamos.

(iii) Diamonds are used in cutting tools, jewellery - lustrous, usually colourless?, but attractive sparkling effects in light.

(iv) Buckminster Fullerenes 'bucky balls' can 'cage' other molecules and may be used in drug delivery systems, sun creams. Carbon nanostructures: Nanotubes are used as semiconductors in the electronic industry (part of an electrical circuit), sun creams, textiles, sports equipment e.g. reinforce graphite/carbon fibres in tennis rackets (strong and light), single crystal nanowires for computer processors, mobile phone batteries, catalysts attached to nanotubes which have a very large surface area (rates of reaction factor).

More details on giant covalent structures, allotropes of carbon and large organic molecules


CO2 molecules

Small covalent molecule of carbon and oxygen. Colourless, odourless gas that doesn't support combustion.

O=C=O is a slightly acidic gas when dissolved in water - moderately soluble.

Uses of carbon dioxide: Fire extinguishers, carbonated 'fizzy' drinks, dry ice (solid blocks at -78oC) to create smoke effects on stage.


CO molecules

Small covalent molecule. Toxic colourless odourless gas. Uses of carbon monoxide: Formed from coke in the blast furnace and acts as a reducing agent to free the iron from iron oxide ore. The excess can be burned as fuel. It is used in the synthesis of the alcohol methanol by combining it with hydrogen.

CO + 2H2 ==> CH3OH

CARBOXYLIC ACIDS (compounds, 'fatty acids')

contains -COOH group

Covalent molecules belonging to a homologous series of organic molecules. Uses of carboxylic acids : Uses of fatty acids: Carboxylic acids have some direct uses but they are usually converted into a more useful chemical form e.g. they combine with alcohols to form esters used in perfumes-fragrances and food flavourings.

The analgesic/pain killer aspirin is a carboxylic acid See GCSE Extra Organic Chemistry Notes

CATALYSTS (elements, compounds or mixtures) A huge variety of substances and structures which speed up chemical reactions. They are obviously important from the chemical economics of industry to the functioning of our bodies. Examples of uses of catalysts: Iron, Fe atoms, catalyses the combination of hydrogen and nitrogen to make ammonia. Vanadium pentoxide, V2O5 ionic compound, is used in the conversion of sulphur dioxide to sulphur trioxide in the manufacture of sulphuric acid. All enzymes are protein molecules and they control all the chemistry of living systems and are used for chemical synthesis in industry e.g. the fermentation of sugar to alcohol.
CEMENT (mixture of compounds) Made by heating limestone and clay at a high temperature in a rotary kiln. Chemically it is a mixture of calcium silicates and calcium aluminosilicates. Uses of cement: ingredient in concrete, plaster (Portland cement) and mortar.
CERAMICS (mixtures of compounds) They have giant covalent structure and are all high melting point, low thermal/electrical conductivity i.e. good heat/electrical insulators. Ceramics covers a wide range of materials such as pottery, glasses, cement, concrete. Uses of ceramics: Pottery from pots to tiles, panes of glass, glass fibres, cement in concrete in the construction industry. Need to look up individual materials e.g.
CFCs CHLOROFLUOROCARBONS (compounds) e.g. CCl3F, CCl2FCClF2 molecules in which all the H atoms of an alkane are replaced with Cl or F atoms CFC chlorofluorocarbons - organic covalent molecules made of a combination of chlorine, fluorine and carbon atoms. They are colourless gases or low boiling point liquids. They are chemically quite stable, non-toxic and non-flammable i.e. quite safe to use (or so we thought!). Uses of CFCs: Until recently they have been used extensively in refrigeration units, air conditioning units, bubbles in expanded plastics like polystyrene and insulating foams, the propellant gas in aerosols of deodorants, insecticides etc. They are good solvents for dry cleaning and cleaning grease off electrical equipment, but because of ozone layer destruction they are being replaced by HFCs and HCFCs.
CHLORINE (element)

Cl2 molecules

and many chlorine compounds

Covalent diatomic molecules. Green gas, highly toxic and slightly soluble in water to give a weakly acid and strongly oxidising/bleaching solution. A very reactive element, readily combining with many metals and non-metals. Look up individual compounds like sodium chloride. Uses of chlorine: PVC plastic manufacture, water sterilisation, chlorinated hydrocarbons (organo-chlorine compounds) are used as solvents, pesticides and disinfectants like TCP (trichlorophenol). It is combined with hydrogen to make hydrogen chloride which is dissolved in water to manufacture hydrochloric acid. Chlorine is used in the manufacture of household bleach, industrial bleaches for cotton, linen, wood pulp and domestic cleaners. Used in making CFCs and HCFCs.

C2H3Cl, CH2=CHCl


Small covalent gaseous unsaturated hydrocarbon molecule known as an alkene (C=C double bond). Colourless gas that can be polymerised to form poly(chloroethene) by virtue of having a double bond. Uses of chloroethene: Polymerising to make poly(chloroethene) = PVC = polyvinyl chloride which is a very useful thermoplastic that is tough and a very good electrical insulator.
CITRIC ACID (organic compound)

Contains three acidic -COOH carboxylic acid functional groups

A naturally occurring organic molecule classified as a carboxylic acid. Uses of citric acid: Found in citrus fruits e.g. lemon juice. Used in sherbet powders with sodium hydrogencarbonate to make fizzy drinks - they react together to form carbon dioxide gas. Used in baking powders containing sodium hydrogencarbonate - they also react together to form carbon dioxide gas which produces the rising action in the bread dough or cake mix etc.
COKE See CARBON Uses of coke: See CARBON
COLOURINGS compounds and mixtures of all sorts of materials A huge variety of materials, often organic molecules, natural or manmade to bring colour to materials. See also DYES. Examples of colourings: Tartrazine is used as an orange food colouring. Iron oxide as haematite is a red-brown pigment (was used by prehistoric man!). Synthetic colours are used to make textiles (clothing, curtains, carpets etc.) and plastic materials more attractive. Transitional metal oxides are used to colour ceramics from tiles to glass e.g. cobalt oxide to give the cobalt blue colour.
COMPOSITE MATERIALS (mixtures) A wide variety of structures, but the idea is to combine different materials with different characteristics to produce a 'composite' with the desired properties for a particular purpose. Any component on its own would not meet the required specification. Examples of uses of composite materials: glass fibre in reinforced plastic (boats, car bodies), reinforced glass (windows), reinforced concrete with steel rods (beams-bridges, buildings etc.), glass reinforced and bone, carbon fibres/nanotubes in sports equipment like clubs, racquets, bicycle frames and also in protective equipment like body armour (strong and light).
CONCRETE (mixture of compounds) Prepared by mixing  cement, sand, gravel and water. The mixture becomes hydrated and the components bond together to form a hard tough material we call concrete. Uses of concrete: An important structural material for bridges and buildings etc. etc.
COPPER (element)

Cu atoms

Quite a strong malleable metal with excellent thermal (heat) and electrical conduction properties. Metal structure & properties notes and  GCSE/IGCSE notes on Transition Metals and Advanced Level 3d-block Transition Metal Notes Uses of copper: Copper wiring, alloyed with zinc to make brass, piping for plumbing e.g. central heating systems, hot water cylinders. Used in coinage - alloyed with nickel for coins,

CuSO4 or


An ionic compound of copper(II) and sulfate ions. Anhydrous copper sulphate is white, but you normally encounter it as the hydrated blue crystals containing water of crystallisation of formula

CuSO4.5H2O which readily dissolves in water to give a blue solution.

Uses of copper(II) sulfate: Copper sulphate solution is the electrolyte in the purification of copper by electrolysis and in copper plating conducting objects (an example of the technique known as electroplating - see GCSE notes on the Extraction of Metals). Copper is a trace element in our/plants diet and copper sulfate is a soluble means of delivering it. Used as a wood preservative. Fungicide??

COSMETICS See Fragrances and perfumes Uses of cosmetics: See Fragrances and perfumes
COTTON A natural organic polymer fibre. Uses of cotton: Textile industry for sheets and clothing etc.


See OIL Uses of crude oil: See OIL
D uses of materials - elements, compounds and mixtures


DDT is a chlorinated aromatic organic compound that is soluble in organic solvents but not water. It is a harmful chemical which unfortunately is chemically very stable in the environment! Uses of DDT: Used as a powerful insecticide e.g. mosquito control in countries where malaria is problem, but now banned in many countries because it builds up in food chains and affects the life of animals at or near the top of a food chain because it is stored in fatty tissues causing poisoning and genetic defects in offspring.
DETERGENTS (compounds)

which are all surface active agents - so called 'surfactants'

Detergents are usually organic molecules with both a hydrophilic ('water liking') and a hydrophobic ('water hating') molecular groups. The hydrophilic group is a neutralised acidic group and is the smallest part of the molecule and strongly interacts with water. The much longer hydrocarbon chain (R in formulae below) interacts with water insoluble materials like fat/grease. Examples: The potassium salt of a long chain carboxylic 'fatty' acid or the sodium salt of a sulphonic acid.

R-COO-Na+ or R-OSO2-Na+

Uses of detergents: Detergents help remove dirt from the surface of materials in combination with water. They are described as surface active materials or surfactants.  They help clean by lowering the surface tension of water so that it wets the surface more thoroughly, separating the grease and dirt from the surface and suspending the dirt in the water so it can be washed/rinsed away. There are two main types of detergent:

Soap detergents ('soapy soaps') are made from reacting animal fats or vegetable oils with a strong base/alkali like sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide.

Soapless detergents ('detergents') are made from hydrocarbon molecules from oil which can be reacted with concentrated sulphuric acid to make sulfonic acids.

Washing powders or liquids are developed into complex formulations and may contain detergents, sequestering/complexing agents to soften hard water, enzymes to break down protein food/blood stains, optical brighteners to give fabrics a bright-white look, an oxygen bleach and finally a dash of perfume to give the washed clothes a distinctive and attractive 'freshness'.

DIAMOND See CARBON Uses of diamonds: CARBON
DISINFECTANTS (elements or compounds which act as sterilising agents) Disinfectants are chemicals like chlorine, ozone, sodium chlorate(I) and are usually powerful oxidising agents. Nano sized particles of silver. They kill micro-organisms like harmful bacteria. Uses of disinfectants: Chlorine/ozone used in water purification. Sodium chlorate(I) is used in toilet cleaning/bleaching agents. Sprays of nano sized particles of silver have powerful antiviral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial action e.g. to sterilise an operating theatre. Unlike antiseptics, disinfectants cannot be used on the skin and any other living tissues because there chemical action is to strong for tissue you do not want to kill.
DNA (compound)

Deoxyribonucleic acid.

Long organic molecules of repeating units of a combination of  base on a sugar-phosphate backbone. Structurally it is described as a double helix of two polynucleotide chains. It carries the genetic code for the whole structure of an organism from a single self-reproducing cell to the most complex of multi-celled organisms. Uses of DNA: DNA is used forensic analysis to identify individuals at a crime scene from traces of body tissue or fluid material. The manipulation of DNA is used in the very controversial subject of genetic engineering with its uses in medicine for identifying and treating potential health problems and in agriculture e.g. to develop GM crops resistant to pests.
DRUGS and MEDICINES (inorganic, and often organic compounds) The 'drug' is a specific molecule with a particular pharmacological action and a medicine is the complete formulation of the means of administering the drug to a patient i.e. the method of delivery. A drug is an externally administered substance which modifies or affects chemical reactions in the body. They may alter incoming sensory sensations, alter mood or emotional state, alter physiological state, alter state of consciousness, activity level or coordination. Most of the medicines you take e.g. aspirin and other analgesics contain an active organic molecule. There are literally thousands of drugs-medicines on the market.

See GCSE notes on Extra Organic Chemistry for the molecular structure of some analgesics.

A few of the thousands of uses of drugs and uses of medicines in the 21st century: Analgesics medicines are painkillers and reduce pain e.g. aspirin, ibuprofen, paracetamol, codeine. Powerful and dangerous pain killing drugs include morphine and molecules derived from heroin. Antibiotics like penicillin are responsible for saving millions of lives from various diseases by denaturing harmful bacteria cells. 'Milk of magnesia' to control excess stomach acidity causing indigestion 'heart burn'.

There are many types or classes of drugs e.g. drugs which act on the central nervous system e.g. analgesics, sedatives, tranquilisers, hypnotics, antidepressants, narcotics, anaesthetics. Drugs which kill bacteria like antibiotics and sulfonamides (sulphonamides), anti-cancer drugs are used in chemotherapy ('chemo') like cis-platin, anti-viral drugs help fight HIV infections, cardiovascular drugs to control blood pressure e.g. lower it, control or stimulate heart beat. Anti-inflammatory drugs suppress the bodies immune system if it overacts to some perceived threat. Drugs used to help maintain a healthy digestion system e.g. antacids, laxatives and drugs to treat ulcers in the stomach and intestines. We have a lot to thank chemistry for providing these treatments, there are always but as ever, with human ingenuity and application of scientific knowledge, there is plenty of scope for self-abuse, excessive profiteering by multi-international drug companies etc.

DYES - DYESTUFFS (compounds)


The original dyes came from plant or animal materials e.g. blue woad, orange-red alizarin and indigo blue from plants and red cochineal from dried insects. These days (in fact from the late 19th century onwards)  most dyestuffs are synthesised organic molecules like the azo dyes. Uses of dyes: Synthetic dyestuffs are used for dyeing fabrics and colouring plastics. Apart from natural wood and stone (not stained/painted) just about everything else around you in the home is coloured with something or other and much of processed food too! - just check out the E numbers!
E uses of materials - elements, compounds and mixtures

ELECTROLYTES (compound or mixture)

Electrolytes are any aqueous (water) solution or molten material containing ions which are free to move and carry an electric current e.g. sodium chloride solution (Na+(aq) and Cl-(aq) ions) or molten aluminium oxide (Al3+ and O2- ions). Uses of electrolytes: Industrial uses include all electrolysis processes like aluminium extraction from molten aluminium oxide (purified bauxite ore), purifying copper using copper electrodes and copper(II) sulphate solution. Revision notes on the Extraction of Metals Electrolytes are used in fuel cells, zinc-carbon batteries (ionic ammonium chloride paste) and sulphuric acid is used in lead-acid batteries, so all battery/cell systems need an electrolyte. For living systems, healthy cell activity requires the presence of certain ions both inorganic and organic e.g. the nervous system works via electrical impulses transmitted by the movement of ions, so sodium, chloride, potassium other ions are needed for this purpose in our diet.
EMULSIFIERS (usually mixtures of organic compounds from natural or man-made sources) An emulsion is usually one liquid/solid dispersed (but NOT dissolved) in another liquid (often water) and an emulsifying agent inhibits the separation of the two main components. Emulsifying agents are surfactant molecules having a 'water loving head' part (hydrophilic) and 'water hating tail' part (hydrophobic) groups in the same molecule i.e. they can interact with different immiscible liquids like oil and water. Uses of emulsifiers and emulsifying agents:  Emulsion paints can be oil or water based and the pigment dispersed in the mixture too. Lecithin, alginates and mustard, egg yolk etc. are used as emulsifying agents in foods. Salad dressings (based on olive oil plus vinegar) and mayonnaise (stabilised with egg yolk) are emulsions but may need a good shake before use! Creamy foods, cosmetic foundation creams and brushless shaving creams are oil-in-water emulsions, cold creams and cleansing creams are water-in-oil emulsions and all of these need an emulsifier to stop the components of the mixture separating out.
ENZYMES (very complex compounds)

Thousands of different organic compounds made of combinations of C, H, O, N, often a metal atom like Fe, Cu or Mg etc. and usually over a 1000 atoms in the molecule.

These are complex protein molecules that function as highly specific and sophisticated chemical biological catalysts, all extracted plant or animal sources. There are thousands of them and essential to the life of every cell in every organism as they control most of the chemical reactions throughout the structure of an organism. Without these catalyst the chemistry of life would be too slow to continue! The names of enzymes end in ...ase e.g. amylase, protease, invertase, isomerase etc. Uses of enzymes: Enzymes from yeast extract are used in the brewing industry to convert sugars into ethanol, 'alcohol' for the drinks industry, or sugar cane into ethanol for biofuels. Some washing powders contain proteases which are enzyme that break down proteins such blood or egg yolk stains on clothes. Proteases break down proteins and are used to 'pre-digest' the protein in some baby foods. Carbohydrases are used to convert starch syrup into sugar syrup. Invertase is used to make the sugar for soft chocolates. Isomerase is used to convert glucose syrup into fructose syrup, which is much sweeter and therefore can be used in smaller quantities e.g. in slimming foods. Pectinase breaks down insoluble pectin polysaccharides and so is used in clarify fruit juices. Amylases break down carbohydrates and Lipases break down fats. Enzymes are used in genetic engineering and penicillin production. The dairy industry uses enzymes made by microorganisms (bacteria) to produce yoghurt and cheese from milk. The bacteria enzymes convert the sugar in milk (lactose) into lactic acid. Some revision notes on enzymes

Organic compounds - macromolecules or polymers

Polyethers (have a C-O-C linkage) formed by condensing together e.g. 3-chloro-1,2-epoxypropane ('epichlorhydrin') with polyols like bisphenol. The polyethers need a curing agent to convert them to resins. The resins are thermosetting to tough adhesive materials which are chemically resistant and electrical insulating. Uses of epoxy resins: They are used as adhesives, coatings and in composite materials.


organic compounds synthesised by reactions such as:

carboxylic acid + alcohol ==> ester + water

Esters form a homologous series in organic chemistry and prepared by reaction of a carboxylic acid (or derivative) and an alcohol.

R-COO-R' where R- = H-, alkyl e.g. CH3-, CH2CH3- or aryl e.g. C6H5- etc. -R' = alkyl e.g. CH3-, CH2CH3- or aryl e.g. C6H5- etc.

Pleasant smelling, often with a sweetish odour, colourless liquids and generally harmless chemicals.

Uses of esters: Esters are found naturally in fruits (*) but they are now synthetically manufactured on an industrial scale. They are used in the cosmetics industry e.g. perfumes-fragrances, enhancing the smell of household products, 'air fresheners', food additives e.g. fruit flavourings.  They are also useful organic solvents because they dissolve a wide range of compounds and they are used as plasticisers to make polymers more 'plastic'. Some drugs like aspirin are esters and the insecticides malathion and pyrethrin are also esters.

(*) Ethyl butanoate has the odour of pineapple and 3-methylbutylethanoate gives pear drop sweets their taste and smell.

Oils like olive oil, palm oil etc. are esters of an alcohol called glycerol. When heated with sodium/potassium hydroxide they form salts. These are sodium/potassium salts of long chain fatty acids and are used as soaps.

ETHANE (compound)

C2H6 or CH3CH3

A colourless hydrocarbon gas belonging to the homologous series of covalent organic molecules called alkanes. Uses of ethane: It readily burns and so is used as a fuel gas. It can be cracked to make the more useful ethene. It is used in very low temperature refrigeration units but is flammable/explosive with air.
ETHANOIC ACID (compound)


Small covalent organic molecule, strong smelling colourless liquid when pure. It belongs to the homologous series of organic molecules called carboxylic acids. Uses of ethanoic acid (uses of 'acetic acid'): Old name acetic acid, used in the food industry and food preparation e.g. vinegar, pickling vegetables and eggs. It combines with alcohols to make ... ethanoate esters ('acetates') e.g. ethyl ethanoate. Ethanoate esters are used as solvents and in the perfumery-cosmetics/food industry as fragrances/flavourings. It can be converted to ethanoic anhydride which is used to manufacture cellulose ethanoate used for artificial fibres in the textile industry.
ETHANOL (organic compound)


Small covalent molecule, an organic compound of C, H and O atoms belonging to the homologous series of similar molecules called alcohols. Highly toxic colourless liquid. In aqueous solution, the more concentrated - the more dangerous! Uses of ethanol ('ethyl alcohol'): Ethanol is used in alcoholic drinks and beverages, a solvent, a fuel e.g. methylated spirits in a camping cooker and as a biofuel from fermented sugar cane or sugar beet,  the ethanol ('alcohol') is distilled off and it can be blended with petrol. Ethanol is used to manufacture ethyl .. esters used in the perfumery-cosmetics/food industry as fragrances/flavourings. Ethanol is the starting point for the manufacture of other organic chemicals e.g. oxidised to ethanal ('acetaldehyde') or ethanoic acid ('acetic acid') which in term are converted to other useful products.
ETHENE (organic compound)

C2H4 or CH2=CH2


An unsaturated (C=C bond) organic covalent molecule belonging to the homologous series of hydrocarbons called alkenes. Its a colourless smelly gas. Uses of ethene: It doesn't really have any uses as ethene itself BUT it is as the starting molecule in the manufacture of a wide range of products. It is readily polymerised to make the plastic poly(ethene) - 'polythene'. It can be reacted with water to make ethanol,
F uses of materials - elements, compounds and mixtures

FABRICS (compounds/mixtures)

Fabric is a general term for materials used in the clothing or furniture industry Uses of fabrics: Clothing, textile and furniture industry.
FATS (organic compounds) Saturated esters of glycerol and long chain fatty/carboxylic acids. Uses of fats: Hydrogenated fats like margarine used in the food industry and in the home.
FERTILISERS (compounds and mixtures) See AMMONIA and PHOSPHORUS

Mixtures of ammonium salts, nitrate salts, potassium salts and phosphate salts

Uses of fertilisers: Added to land to promote plant growth and increase yields of crops etc. The three most important elements in the mixture of compounds of a fertiliser are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, so fertilisers are often classified by their N P K values.
FIBRE - dietary - large organic molecules in food of plant origin Dietary fibre is can be defined as non-starch polysaccharides, though plant fibre can be defined as food components resisting digestion in the small intestine. Whatever, they are large naturally occurring polymeric organic molecules of C, H and O atoms. Uses of dietary fibre: Important component in a healthy diet and aid food digestion and the smooth functioning of the whole of the digestive track. They are found in plant materials from fruit, grains and vegetables etc. Fibre is added to many breakfast cereals and is automatically present in wholemeal bread.
FIBRES - natural or man-made material (not for food!) Apart from carbon fibres and glass fibres, they are usually long chain organic polymer molecules. Each fibre is relatively high tensile strength and when produced is thicker thread or a bulk composite format, you have a strong and useful material. Uses of fibres: Wide range of materials, including composites, with a wide range of uses e.g. glass fibres in insulation and fibre optics, carbon fibre composites in sports equipment, Nylon and Terylene fibres in the clothing-textile industry.
FLAVOURINGS-FLAVOUR ENHANCERS (compounds-mixtures) Usually salt (sodium/potassium chloride, NaCl/KCl), organic molecules like esters and other organic compound/mixtures from plant or animal extracts which are now widely synthesised to 'mimic nature'.


Uses of flavourings: To enhance the appeal of food. Monosodium glutamate is added to a huge range of foods.

See ESTERS for more examples.

FLUORINE (element)

F2 molecules, but only used in compound form e.g. combined with metals as a fluoride salts or combined with non-metals e.g. organic fluorine compounds.

Fluorine forms ionic salts with metals e.g. potassium fluoride, KCl or K+F-, which is a high melting colourless crystalline solid soluble in water. Fluorine, like chlorine, can replace hydrogen in alkanes to form organo-fluorine compounds. These are covalent molecules, low boiling colourless Uses of fluorine: Fluorine is too reactive and highly toxic for any direct uses so it is used to manufacture other useful fluorine compounds e.g. it is used in making CFCs, HFCs and HCFCs for refrigeration units and the gas in aerosol sprays. CFCs are being replaced by HFCs because as upper atmosphere 'pollutant' they cause destruction of the uv protection ozone layer. Fluoride salts can be added to domestic water supplies i.e. tap water and toothpaste since it is believed to improve dental health e.g. stronger enamel and less tooth decay - but fluorides are potentially harmful and so the treatment is controversial.
FOSSIL FUELS (mixture) See CARBON and OIL Uses of fossil fuels: Coal, coke (made by heating coal), anthracite, lignite, peat and oil products are all burned to release heat energy.
FRAGRANCES - PERFUMES See ESTERS Uses of fragrances and perfumes: See ESTERS
Fullerenes See CARBON Uses of fullerenes: e.g. Buckminster Fullerenes see CARBON
FUNGICIDES They can have a huge range of chemical structures but they are often compounds of sulphur, tin, mercury, nickel and copper. Uses of fungicides: Fungicides inhibit fungal growth which attacks wood or plastic surfaces etc.
G uses of materials - elements, compounds and mixtures

GLASS is a fused mixture made from heating together sand, sodium carbonate and lime/limestone. The proportions can be varied and metal and non-metal oxides added to produce specialised glasses.

Glass is a curious substance! Technically it is a supercooled liquid forming a transparent non-crystalline solid with a giant covalent structure. It is relatively high melting and a very poor conductor of heat and electricity i.e. a good insulator. It is chemically resistant to chemical attack and is effectively an insoluble substance. Uses of glass: Glass is extensively used for window panes, laboratory glassware, decorative objects ('glass-china'). Glass fibres, thin filaments of glass, are combined with resins to produce composite materials for 'fibre-glass' boat hulls and car bodies. Glass fibres are used in optical systems in medicine for internal body examinations and decorative displays in the home. Soda glass is cheap but more expensive heat resistant glasses e.g. Pyrex are used for cooking bowls and laboratory apparatus.
GLUCOSE (compound)

C6H12O6 molecules

A covalently bonded organic molecule and a member of the carbohydrate family of sugars. Uses of glucose: It is widely used in the confectionery and food industry e.g. sweetener in food, chocolate etc. It can be fermented by yeast to make ethanol. It is the sugar of the blood system and so is added to high energy drinks to provide a rapid and easily digested source of energy.
GOLD (element)

Au atoms and gold salts/complex ion compounds.

Gold has the typical properties of a metal e.g. good electrical conductivity, high melting point, malleable etc., except it is yellowish in colour and apart from copper, all the other metals are white-silver-silvery grey. It is a very unreactive metal. Uses of gold: Gold bars are used in monetary systems, jewellery because of its attractive untarnished look, an infra-red surface reflector, electrical contacts, tooth fillings. Its compounds are used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

Gore-Tex is a composite mixture of several compounds

Goretex consists of nylon laminated with a poly(tetrafluoroethene)/PTFE or polyurethane membrane. So it is a composite mixture of polymers. Uses of GORETEX: Waterproof fabrics with breathability e.g. anoraks and other sports/outdoor activities gear. The holes in the PTFE/polyurethane membrane are too small to let liquid water through but big enough for the vapour of individual water molecules to pass through ('breathable'). A PTFE/polyurethane laminate is not strong enough on its own so it needs the nylon base too.
GRANITE An igneous rock consisting of a mixture of silica based minerals formed from the slow cooling of magma/lava in the earth's crust. Uses of granite: A fine and expensive building stone which is highly resistant to weathering - unlike limestone!


see CARBON Uses of graphite: see CARBON
H uses of materials - elements, compounds and mixtures


See IRON OXIDES Uses of haematite: A principal ore for the extraction of iron.
HALOGENS (elements)

e.g. Cl2, Br2, I2 molecules

Group 7 elements of the periodic table. Group 7 The Halogens GCSE Revision Notes Uses of halogens: Best to look up individual elements and their compounds e.g. fluorine compounds, chlorine, sodium chloride and iodine,

e.g. CH3CCl2F and CH2FCF3

HCFC Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (combination of H, Cl, F and C atoms) and HFC hydrofluorocarbons (combination of H, F and C atoms). These are organic compounds produced from alkanes by replacing some of the hydrogen atoms with chlorine or fluorine atoms. Uses of HCFCs and uses of HFCs: Until recently they have been used extensively in refrigeration units, air conditioning units, bubbles in expanded plastics like polystyrene and insulating foams, the propellant gas in aerosols of deodorants, insecticides etc. They are good solvents for dry cleaning and cleaning grease off electrical equipment, but because of ozone layer destruction they are the use of CFCs.
HELIUM (element)

He atoms

Colourless chemically unreactive gas ('inert') belong to the 'Noble Gases' Group 0 of the Periodic Table. Its density is much less than air. Uses of helium: Balloons (much safer than explosive hydrogen), oxygen-helium breathing mixtures for divers.
HERBICIDES (compounds acting as weed killers) They have a range of chemical structures, though most are synthetic organic compounds. Uses of herbicides: Herbicides are basically weedkillers or growth regulators and are usually selective in their effect on plants.
HYDROCARBONS (compounds)

CxHy, huge range of the values of x and y e.g. butane C4H10, ethene C2H4, benzene C6H6 etc.

Covalent molecule organic compounds made up of combinations of carbon and hydrogen. They form several homologous series e.g. the saturated alkanes like butane, unsaturated alkenes like ethene and aromatic compounds based on benzene. Uses of hydrocarbons: Alkanes are used as fuels but they, along with alkenes and aromatics form the starter molecules to make a wide range of useful products, so need to look up individual compounds like methane, ethene, propane or butane and the homologous series of  alkanes or alkenes to which they belong.

HCl(aq) aqueous solution

A strong mineral acid solution of hydrogen ions, H+ or H3O+ and chloride ions, Cl-. It is manufactured by dissolving the gas hydrogen chloride in water. Uses of hydrochloric acid: Widely used in the chemical industry. Reacts with bases to form chloride salts. Its a catalyst for hydrolysing sugar cane to glucose.
HYDROGEN (element)

H2 molecules

Colourless gas, very flammable and explosive if ignited in air. Uses of hydrogen: rocket fuel (mixed with an oxidant - oxygen supplier), meteorological balloons (cheaper than helium), potential to be a clean fuel if it can be economically produced on a large scale - on combustion just burns to form 'non-polluting' water only, fuel cells, hydrogenation of unsaturated vegetable oils to make 'solid' margarine. Combined with chlorine to form hydrogen chloride which is dissolved in water to make hydrochloric acid.

HCl molecules

Colourless, choking,  acidic corrosive gas. Uses of hydrogen chloride: It is dissolved in water to make hydrochloric acid and is used in the manufacture of organo-chlorine compounds.
I uses of materials - elements, compounds and mixtures

IODINE (element)

I2 molecules and ionic compounds

IODINE is a diatomic covalent molecule. It is an almost black solid that readily sublimes on gentle heating to give a brilliant purple vapour. It is virtually insoluble in water but does dissolve in ethanol (alcohol) and potassium iodide solution. Uses of iodine: Iodine solution is an antiseptic to sterilise wounds ('tincture of iodine'), silver iodide (AgI) is used in photography in the 'old fashioned' light sensitive emulsion film format.
ION EXCHANGE RESINS/MINERALS - usually complex naturally occurring minerals or synthetic polymers. Ion exchange materials can be naturally occurring minerals or synthetic polymers. Within their structure they have either, immobile positive cationic groups that can weakly hold onto negative anions from a surrounding solution, or, immobile negative anionic groups that can weakly hold onto positive cations from a surrounding solution (usually aqueous media). In the process of adsorption on the material, one ion is exchanged for another. Uses of ion exchange resins which are held in a column and the aqueous solution passed through: They can soften water by removing calcium and magnesium ions from the water so a scum does not form with soap. Using a mixture of a cationic and anionic ion exchange materials you can deionise water to make pure water (well at least remove all ions, any non-ionic impurity molecules will not be removed). Examples off ion exchangers include naturally occurring zeolite minerals and permutit is synthetic zeolite used to soften water by exchanging sodium ions on the permutit for calcium ions from the tap water (sodium ions do not form a scum with soap). Some washing powders contain permutit powder.
IRON (element)

Fe atoms and STEEL ALLOYS - mixture of Fe atoms plus carbon and other metals and non-metals

Iron is a typical metal, high melting, strong and malleable (particularly when alloyed with other elements) and a good conductor of heat. Metal structure & properties notes and  GCSE/IGCSE notes on Transition Metals and Advanced Level 3d-block Transition Metal Notes Uses of iron and uses of steel alloys: Iron is made into the alloy steel by mixing it with carbon and other metals like nickel, chromium etc. It can be used directly for cast iron objects. Iron and steel have a huge range of uses e.g. car bodies, cookers, nails, iron catalyst ammonia manufacture, cast iron gates, important element for living systems e.g. iron ions in haemoglobin molecules in red blood cells for respiration. Mild steel - car bodies, machinery. Stainless steel (alloy with chromium) - cutlery, surgical instruments, chemical plant reactor vessels.
IRON OXIDES (compounds) Found naturally as Fe2O3 iron(III) oxide, haematite ore and Fe3O4 magnetite ore. Uses of iron oxides: Both haematite and magnetite are important mineral ores used as source for extracting iron. Revision notes on the Extraction of Metals
J uses of materials - elements, compounds and mixtures
K uses of materials - elements, compounds and mixtures


Kevlar is a very strong, flexible and fire resistant polymer. It is a aromatic polyamide and the rigid linear polymer chains line up to form strong 2D sheets which strongly adhere to each other at the molecular level. It is much less dense than metals so has a much higher strength/weight ratio compared to e.g. steel. Uses of Kevlar: Bullet proof vests form a strong protective layer. Bicycle tyre composites containing Kevlar are less likely to puncture. Kevlar 'rope' is much stronger than the equivalent weight of steel so it can be used to reinforce car tyres instead of steel wire.

L uses of materials - elements, compounds and mixtures

LEAD (element)

Pb atoms

and lead compounds

LEAD is very malleable and relatively unreactive metal, typical metallic properties, though too soft for most structural purposes Uses of lead: Lead roofing, electrodes in lead-acid batteries, the alloy solder used for making electrical connections in circuits. Lead compounds are used as 'ant-knock' agents in petrol (being reduced as leaded petrol replaced by less polluting unleaded petrol), red lead is used in
LEATHER Tough hard wearing fabric material made from cows skin. Uses of leather: Clothing and furniture industry competing with cheaper PVC 'artificial leather' materials.


M uses of materials - elements, compounds and mixtures

MAGNESIUM (element)

Mg atoms

Magnesium is a metallic element with all the typical properties of a metal but quite a low density. However, it is quite reactive, so it is no good on its for construction purposes. Uses of magnesium: Low density ('light') high strength aluminium alloys for aircraft parts. Its capacity to burn brightly sees its use in distress flares and fireworks - burns with intense bright white flame. Being so reactive, it is used to extract other (but less) reactive metals from their ores in an exothermic displacement reaction. Its higher than iron reactivity allows it to be used as a sacrificial anode electrode to protect e.g. steel pipes underground or ships hulls from rusting, i.e. it stops iron corroding.


Ionic compound of the magnesium and hydroxide ions. A white powder, slightly soluble in water to give a mild alkaline solution and neutralises acids. Uses of magnesium hydroxide: Purchased for the home as the ant-acid mixture 'Milk of Magnesium' to neutralise excess stomach acid, a cause of indigestion.
MELAMINE and MELAMINE-FORMALDEHYDE RESINS (compounds) Melamine is an organic colourless solid, melting point 354oC. When polymerised with methanal ('formaldehyde') and other substances it forms thermosetting resins which are very stable to heat and light. Uses of melamine resins: Malamine resins are used for hard wearing table tops, plastic plates, composite worktops, ...
MERCURY (element)

Hg atoms

and compounds

Relatively low melting/boiling (for a metal) silvery liquid at room temperature and an excellent conductor of electricity and heat. It is a poisonous metal and mercury compounds are potentially toxic and cause great harm to the central nervous system. These toxins also build up in animals higher up a food chain. Uses of mercury: Older thermometers used mercury in the capillary tube, but mercury thermometers are being replaced by electronic devices or cheaper safer ethanol ('alcohol') filled thermometers. Mercury vapour is used in some types of fluorescent lamps. Mercury is a component in amalgam for 'teeth filling' in dentistry. Mercury compounds are used as fungicides e.g. in seed dressing to prevent mould growth. Some types of batteries contain mercury compounds causing a recycling headache. Other mercury compounds are used as pesticides.
METALS (elements or alloy mixtures) Usually high tensile strength, good thermal conductivity, hard-tough, yet flexible too, some excellent electrical conductors. Uses of metals: Best to look up individual metals e.g. aluminium, brass, bronze, cadmium, copper, gold, iron, lead, mercury, nickel, platinum, silver, solder, steel, tin, titanium, vanadium, zinc
METHANE (compound)

CH4 molecules

A colourless pungent petrol like smelling hydrocarbon gas belonging to the homologous series of organic covalent molecules called alkanes. Uses of methane: Natural gas consists of a high % of methane and it is also obtained in the refining of crude oil. It is used as a fuel ('natural gas') and is reacted with chlorine to make chloromethanes. It is a source of hydrogen for the synthesis of ammonia.
METHANOL (compound)


Small covalent molecule, an organic compound of C, H and O atoms belonging to the homologous series of alcohols. Colourless toxic liquid that causes blindness. Uses of methanol ('methyl alcohol'): It can be oxidised to methanal ('formaldehyde') which is used to make thermosetting polymers like melamine resins. It is a useful solvent for both inorganic and organic compounds.
MINERALS - all sorts of naturally occurring materials


The word 'minerals' might mean rocks, metal ores etc. or essential components in a healthy diet like calcium and iron compounds. Uses of minerals: Need to look up individual materials.
N uses of materials - elements, compounds and mixtures


Structures 1-200 nm size.

Nanoparticles in general have different properties to the bulk material and their structures are manufactured by building them molecule-by-molecule or by 'stripping' a material down to nanoscale size and characteristics. Uses of nano particles and uses of nanocomposites: Nano-sized particles of silver used in sterilising sprays and wound dressing. Nanoparticles used ins sunscreens.

For carbon nanotubes see CARBON

NATURAL GAS See METHANE Uses of natural gas: See METHANE
NEON (element)

Ne atoms

Colourless chemically unreactive gas ('inert') belong to the 'Noble Gases' Group 0 of the Periodic Table. Uses of neon: Used in fluorescent tubes - red neon lights, gas lasers.
NICKEL (element)

Ni atoms

A typical transition metal, high density, high melting/boiling point, high tensile strength and good conductor of heat and electricity. See also Metal structure & properties notes and  GCSE/IGCSE notes on Transition Metals Uses of nickel: Nickel metal is a catalyst for the hydrogenation of alkenes i.e. unsaturated to saturated fats in margarine manufacture. Catalyst in catalytic converter in vehicle exhausts. A component of many alloys e.g. coinage metals, steels, ... Batteries - NiCad Cells. The ferromagnetic alloy Alnico in permanent magnets.
NITINOL/NiTi (mixture) A shape memory alloy mixture of the transition metals nickel and titanium. If deformed an object made of nitinol regains its shape on heating or release from a physically stressed situation. Uses of nitinol: They are used as thermostats in electric kettles, coffee pots etc., superelastic spectacle frames, stents for veins, ...
NITRIC ACID, NITRATES and NITRO... (compounds)

HNO3 in aqueous solution

Nitrate salts (ionic) and also nitro-organic covalent compounds

Nitric acid (HNO3) is usually in aqueous solution form and contain hydrogen ions, H+, and nitrate ions, NO3-. It reacts with bases/alkalis to form nitrate salts (e.g. potassium nitrate, KNO3). Concentrated nitric acid reacts with organic compounds e.g. benzene forms nitrobenzene (C6H5NO3) Uses of nitric acid - uses of nitrates: Making 'artificial' nitrate fertilisers e.g.  ammonium nitrate and potassium nitrate. Explosives like nitroglycerine which is in gelagnite/dynamite is manufactured by reacting glycerol with concentrated nitric acid. Nitro-organic compounds are important intermediates in the manufacture of synthetic dyestuffs.  GCSE notes on Ammonia and Nitric Acid
NITROGEN (element)

N2 molecules

Colourless, relatively unreactive gas BUT NOT inert. Uses of nitrogen: Obtained from air. Used to synthesise ammonia by combining with hydrogen. Liquid nitrogen is a VERY low temperature coolant (-196oC !). It is used in food packaging to inhibit oxidation of food, it replaces air as oxygen will e.g. oxidise fats and make them rancid

He, Ne, Ar etc. atoms

Group 0 of the Periodic Table. All colourless, odourless and chemically VERY unreactive gases. Uses of noble gases: Look up individual gases: helium, neon and argon.

NYLON Nylon is a polyamide class of synthetic fibres and thermosoftening plastics. It is made by a condensation polymerization reaction between aliphatic diamines and aliphatic dicarboxylic acids. When processed into fibres the molecules neatly line up giving strong intermolecular forces (hydrogen bonding) giving a light material of high tensile strength. Uses of nylon: An important synthetic fibre for the textile industry - clothing, curtain materials, parachutes, sleeping bags. The fibres are strong are used for fishing lines and climbing ropes. Its tough enough, i.e. hard wearing enough to be used for engineering components.
O uses of materials - elements, compounds and mixtures

OIL - crude petroleum oil - mixture of hydrocarbon molecules

OIL is a thick yellow-brown sticky liquid. The viscous liquid can be fractionally distilled into various fractions.


Uses of oil: Huge range of uses as fuels for different purposes e.g. methane ('natural gas'), propane, butane, LPG, petrol, diesel, paraffin, candle wax (also used as water-proofing material, bitumen - road surfacing and waterproofing material. Some fractions can be 'cracked' to make alkenes which can be made into polymers and alcohols etc. Best to consult GCSE notes on Oil and its useful products for more details.
OXYGEN (element)

O2 molecules


  Uses of oxygen: Oxygen cylinders in hospital to aid patient respiration. The oxidant for welding using ethyne (acetylene) fuel and the oxidant for the fuel of rocket engines. Used in steel making to burn off impurities. Used in the oxidation of ammonia to nitric acid.
P uses of materials - elements, compounds and mixtures


See ESTERS Uses of perfumes/fragrances: See ESTERS
PESTICIDES - INSECTICIDES They can have a huge range of chemical structures, some are natural products, but most are synthetic organic molecules. Uses of pesticides: Insecticides are designed to kill insects by poisoning e.g. on plant protection or an insect repellent agent e.g. on holiday with the 'midges'!
PETROLEUM OIL See OIL Uses of petroleum oil:

P atoms and compounds like the phosphorus oxyacids and their salts

Phosphorus is a non-metallic low melting solid element and with only a few uses as the element, but it is widely encountered in one of its many important compounds such as phosphate salts. Phosphoric(V) acid (H3PO4) forms phosphate salts with bases/alkalis e.g. dihydrogen potassium phosphate KH2PO4. Uses of phosphorus: Phosphorus compounds are used in matches. Phosphate compounds are used in fertiliser salts, e.g. ammonium phosphate and potassium phosphate by neutralising phosphoric acid with bases-alkalis. Phosphates are used as flameproofing agents. Other phosphorus compounds are used in pesticides, special glass and china ware, alloys such as steels and phosphor bronze, detergents.


Photochromic/photochromatic compounds change colour on exposure to uv light, usually from sunlight. The molecules change structure on absorption of uv photons ('packets of light energy') and the different molecular structures create different colours. This behaviour is reversible. Uses of photochromics: Photochromic pigments are used in transitions eyeglasses e.g. sunglasses that increasingly darken with increasing sunlight intensity, so reducing sunlight glare. Photochromic paints are used in several novelty applications e.g. on toys, cosmetics and T-shirts where the most colourful of patterns show up more clearly the brighter the sunlight.
PLASTICS - See POLYMERS Look up individual plastic or polymer by name. Uses of plastics: Look up individual plastic or polymer by name e.g. poly...., PVC, Nylon etc.
PLASTICISERS (compounds)

plasticizer compounds

A high boiling organic liquid. Uses of  plasticizers: Plasticisers are added to thermosoftening plastics to make them more 'plastic' or pliable e.g. PVC covering of electric cables. They also make the plastic more 'workable' i.e. to mould or extrude into a particular shape.
PLATINUM (element)

Pt atoms

and compounds

A typical transition metal and a very unreactive element i.e. doesn't corrode easily but it, and its compounds, have powerful catalytic properties. Uses of platinum: Jewellery. Catalyst in catalytic converter in vehicle exhausts (platinum-rhodium alloy).

Cis-platin (cisplatin) [PtCl2(NH3)2 and similar compounds using organic bidentate ligands are anti-cancer (anticancer) drugs used in chemotherapy.

POLYAMIDES See NYLON and PROTEINS Uses of polyamides:

polyvinyl chloride (PVC, PVCu = uPVC = PVC-U)

 -(CHCl-CH2)n- where n = is big i.e. >1000

Made from polymerising chloroethene ('vinyl chloride'). A strong tough hard wearing thermosoftening plastic material with excellent electrical insulation properties. PVC contains a plasticiser to make it more flexible. PVCu does not contain a plasticiser i.e. an unplasticised plastic but, like PVC, it still contains stabilisers and other additives. Uses of poly(chloroethene)/polychloroethene:  Plasticized PVC is used for artificial/fake leather fabrics for the clothing and furniture industry e.g. hand bags, sports bags, sofa coverings etc. It is used for the cable sheathing covering electrical wire which needs to be a bit flexible.  Unplasticised PVC, which is harder and tougher  is used electrical fittings like plugs and sockets, window frames, guttering, drain pipes, door handles etc. It has the advantage of not rotting, weather resistant, hard wearing and keeps its shape through daily/seasonal temperature changes.
POLYESTERS (compound) Polyesters are polymers made by condensing together a diol and a dicarboxylic acid. They are usually manufactured as fibres e.g. Terylene (commercial name). The most common one was called polyethylene terephthalate, known in the business as PET! Uses of polyesters: Terylene is used in the textile industry for clothing, curtain materials, fishing lines, parachutes, sleeping bags and as Lycra for sports clothing. It is also manufactured as film form for ...
POLY(ETHENE) (compound)

'polythene', -(CH2-CH2)n- where n = is big i.e. >1000

Organic polymer-plastic made from polymerising ethene. These long organic molecule is a white 'waxy' solid with a low density, flexible, low thermal and electrical conductivity (insulators) and cheap to manufacture. Uses of poly(ethene): It is a cheap but very useful plastic used for plastic bags, buckets, bowls, clingfilm and bottles. Its old or commercial names include polyethylene, polythene and polyethene. Tiny cellulose particles are used as a filler in polythene to make biodegradable bags.
POLYMER GELS e.g. hydrogel materials have a cross-linked polymer structure which is inflated in contact with a solvent. They can swell and shrink by a factor of up to a 1000 times in volume due to changes in temperature or pH. Uses of polymer gels: Hydrogels have the potential to be used as artificial muscles, robot actuators, absorbers of toxic chemicals.

POLYMERS - PLASTICS Long organic molecules usually with low density, flexible, low thermal and electrical conductivity (insulators), but quite a range of properties and uses these days. They are made by polymerising small molecules called monomers into long chain molecules called polymers. Uses of polymers: Huge variety of polymers and uses, so best to look up individual plastic or polymer by name e.g. poly...., PVC, Nylon etc.

POLY(PHENYLETHENE) See POLYSTYRENE Uses of poly(phenylethene)
POLY(PROPENE) (compound)

'polypropene', -[CH2-CH(CH3]n- where n = is big i.e. >1000

Organic polymer-plastic made from polymerising the monomer propene. These long organic molecule is a white 'waxy' solid with a low density, flexible, low thermal and electrical conductivity (insulators) and cheap to manufacture. Uses of poly(propene): It is stronger and more hard wearing than poly(ethene) and is used for making crates, fibres and ropes (old or commercial names: polypropylene, polyprene and polypropene).

correct systematic name poly(phenylethene)

-[CH2-CH(C6H5]n- where n = is big i.e. >1000

This polymer-plastic is made by polymerising the monomer phenylethene (old name styrene). Uses of polystyrene: In expanded form (bubble filled) damage protection material used in packaging products, heat insulation material, toys and models.

PTFE, -(CF2-CF2)n- where n = is big i.e. >1000

This polymer-plastic is made by polymerising the monomer tetrafluoroethene. It is a very tough hard wearing thermoplastic. Commercial names include PTFE, Teflon and Fluon. It has a high softening point ~320oC, excellent chemical resistance, low coefficient of friction and good electrical insulating properties. Uses of poly(tetrafluoroethene)/uses of PTFE:Teflon/Fluon coating for non-stick pans. Electrical fittings.

POLYTHENE see POLY(ETHENE) Uses of polythene: see POLY(ETHENE)
POLYURETHANE Polyurethanes are condensation polymers made from polyhydroxy compounds and polyisocyanates. Expanded polyurethane means it is had an inert gas blown in it on formation to make polyurethane foam. Uses of polyurethane: Mainly used in foam form e.g. cushion fillers, thermal insulation, ...
PRESERVATIVES food. A variety of chemicals are used e.g. ethanoic acid (vinegar), SO2?, benzoic acid Uses of preservatives: They are used to inhibit the decline in quality of stored-packaged processed food.
PROPANE (compound)

C3H8 molecules

A colourless pungent petrol like smelling hydrocarbon gas belonging to the homologous series of covalent organic molecules called alkanes. Uses of propane: Bottled fuel gas, liquefies under the high pressure inside the steel cylinder (red-orange cylinders in the UK).


PROPENE (compound)

C3H6, CH3CH=CH2 molecules

An unsaturated (C=C bond) organic covalent molecule belonging to the homologous series of hydrocarbons called alkenes. Its a colourless smelly gas. Uses of propene: To make the plastic-polymer poly(propene).

See also ENZYMES and SILK

Polyamides/polypeptides are natural polymers formed by the polymerising of amino acids to give a protein. Uses of proteins: Basic food ingredient for supplying amino acids (after digestion) for the building of all body tissues and all enzymes are also protein - those essential catalysts that control so much of a living organisms chemistry.
Q uses of materials - elements, compounds and mixtures


R uses of materials - elements, compounds and mixtures
RARE EARTH METALS All have classical metallic lattice structures and the most commonly used compounds are their oxides. Rare Earths are incredibly important in modern society as the metals themselves, or one of their compounds, is used in many instruments, machines, devices, consumer goods etc. - especially if any device or machine contains an electromagnet. There is concern that the mineral ore resources for these 'rare metals' are quite limited and mainly in China? They could become in short supply giving countries with these resources quite some economic power! and those countries using them (every country!) a potential economic consumer problem! Examples of Rare Earth metal symbols, names and examples of uses of the metal or one of its compounds: La, Lanthanum: High refractive index glass e.g. camera lens Ce, Cerium: Chemical oxidising agent, polishing powder, yellow colors in glass and ceramics, catalyst for self-cleaning oven Pr, Praseodymium: Rare-earth magnets, lasers, green colours in glass and ceramics Nd, Neodymium: Rare-earth magnets, laser, violet colors in glass and ceramics, ceramic capacitor Sm, Samarium: Rare-earth magnets, lasers Eu, Europium: Red and blue phosphors, lasers Gd, Gadolinium: Rare-earth magnets, high refractive index glass or garnets, lasers, x-ray tube, computer memory chips Tb, Terbium: Green phosphors, lasers, fluorescent lamps Dy, Dysprosium: Rare-earth magnets, lasers Ho, Holmium: Lasers Yb, Ytterbium: Infrared lasers, chemical reducing agent, high-temperature superconductors



S uses of materials - elements, compounds and mixtures

SALT (common salt)

See SODIUM CHLORIDE Uses of salt: 'Common salt': See SODIUM CHLORIDE
SALTS Ionic compounds usually prepared by neutralising an acid with a metal, oxide, hydroxide or carbonate. Uses of salts: Need to look up individual salt by name.
SAND Fine grains of mineral granules from weathered rocks including sandstone or granite. Chemically it is mainly silicon dioxide (silica, quartz). Uses of sand: Ingredient in concrete and mortar. Children's play.
SANDSTONE Sedimentary rock. Uses of sandstone: A common building stone.
SHAPE MEMORY ALLOY Shape memory alloys like NiTi or nitinol, (an alloy of the metals nickel and titanium), have the ability to regain their original shape when heated. Uses of shape memory alloys: They are used as thermostats in electric kettles, coffeepots etc., superelastic spectacle frames, stents for veins, ...
SHAPE MEMORY POLYMER A modern plastic material, which when distorted in some way, regains its shape on heating. Uses of shape memory polymers: In the future uses may include biodegradable surgical sutures that will automatically tighten to the correct tension, self-repairing car bodies that will recover their desired stylish shape on gentle heating after a knock-bump causes a dent.
SILICON DIOXIDE sand quartz Uses of silicon dioxide: found as quartz in granite
SILK Silk is naturally occurring protein fibre (polyamide) made from the cocoons of the silk moth. The plastic Nylon was developed as synthetic alternative to silk Uses of silk: Expensive clothing.

SILVER (element)

Ag atoms

and compounds

Silvery solid with typical metallic properties. Doesn't corrode easily and malleable. Uses of silver: Jewellery because it doesn't corrode easily and attractive metallic lustre. Silver plating. Nano-sized particles (1-100nm) of silver have anti-bacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties used in sterilising sprays to clean operating theatres in hospitals and to coat the inner surfaces of refrigerators. Silver chloride (AgCl) is used in photography.
SLATE Naturally metamorphic rock formed from compressed shales and giving a hard rock readily cleaved into thin slabs - slates! Uses of slate: Slates are a very durable roofing material, only weathers very slowly.

e.g. smart alloys

A range of modern materials whose properties change with a change in the surroundings. Uses of smart materials: e.g. the material responds to changes in temperature, light intensity or pH etc. Need to look up individual materials. Smart alloys return to their original shape on gentle heating after being stressed into a different shape.
SODIUM (element)

Na atoms

An unusually soft and low melting metal but an excellent conductor of heat. Uses of sodium: Liquid sodium has been used as a heat transfer agent e.g. in a nuclear reactor. Sodium is a powerful reducing agent and is used in organic synthesis and extracting less reactive metals from their oxides via displacement reactions. There are few uses for the element itself BUT lots of important sodium compounds, some of which are listed below.

Na2CO3 or (Na+)2CO32-

Ionic compound of sodium and carbonate ions, a white powder when anhydrous, soluble in water to give a moderately alkaline solution ~pH 11 Uses of sodium carbonate: Used in the manufacture of glass, soap, detergents and paper. It can be used to soften water because the carbonate ion combines with the calcium ion (causing hardness - forms scum with soaps) precipitating it out as insoluble calcium carbonate. Its usually purchased as hydrated sodium carbonate, commercially called 'washing soda' which has the formula Na2CO3.10H2O

NaCl or Na+Cl-

Ionic compound of sodium and chloride ions. High melting, hard, brittle colourless crystals. Found naturally as rock salt. Uses of sodium chloride: De-icing roads, common table salt for cooking/flavouring food, preservative. It forms the basis of what is called the Chlor-Alkali Industry since it is the raw material for the extraction-manufacture of the elements sodium, chlorine and hydrogen and from these you can further manufacture hydrochloric acid, sodium hydroxide, bleaches, ..

'sodium bicarbonate'

compound NaHCO3

Ionic compound made up of sodium and hydrogencarbonate ions. White powder, slightly soluble in water to give a very mildly alkaline solution ~pH 8 i.e. a weak base. Uses of sodium hydrogencarbonate : uses of 'sodium bicarbonate': Used in 'baking soda' as a cooking agent to bring about the 'rising action' - it readily decomposes on heating to release carbon dioxide gas. An important ingredient in antacid indigestion tablets to neutralise excess hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Used in sherbet powders with citric acid to make fizzy drinks - they react together to form carbon dioxide gas. Used in baking powders containing citric acid or tartaric acid, they react together to form carbon dioxide gas which produces the rising action in the bread dough or cake mix etc.

the compound NaOH

Ionic compound of sodium and hydroxide ion. White solid, very soluble in water to give a strongly alkaline solution, once known as 'caustic soda' because of its highly corrosive nature - particularly to the skin! Uses of sodium hydroxide: Sodium hydroxide solution is known as CAUSTIC SODA and is used in manufacture of oven cleaners and drain cleaners, detergents, soaps, fibres, ...

Making sodium salts from acids including soluble aspirin since aspirin is an insoluble organic acid.

SOLDER Alloy mixture of lead and tin. Uses of solder: Electrical connections on circuit board.
STARCH (compound)

(C6H10O5)n n = a very large number of repeating units.

Starch is a natural carbohydrate polymer based on 'sugar' units linked together by the elimination of water. Starch is made from corn, wheat, potatoes, rice and other cereals by steeping in water, milling and sedimentation. Uses of starch: Thickener in cooking, adhesive for paper and cloth, an inert dilutent in foods and drugs. Starch can be split into amylose and amylopectin. Amylose is used for edible films and amylopectin in textile finishing and as a thickener in food.
STEEL See IRON Uses of steel: See IRON

S atoms and compounds

The element sulphur is a yellow solid with typical non-metal properties i.e. low melting, low density and poor conductor of heat and electricity. There is a huge variety of useful sulphur compounds e.g. polysulphides, organo-sulfur compounds and the two oxides (see below) Uses of sulfur : uses of sulphur: vulcanising of rubber, sulphur compounds are used as fungicides. It can be converted to sulphuric acid by oxidation and reaction with water in the Contact Process.

SULFUR DIOXIDE/ SULPHUR DIOXIDE compound of SO2 molecules Sulphur dioxide, a covalent molecule, is a choking harmful acidic gas. It is formed on burning sulphur or a by-product of metal extraction of metals from metal sulphide ores. Uses of sulfur dioxide : uses of sulphur dioxide: bleaching agent, preservative - kills bacteria, fungicide. It is oxidised to sulphur trioxide in the Contact Process for manufacturing sulfuric acid.
SULFUR TRIOXIDE/ SULPHUR TRIOXIDE compound of SO3 molecules Sulphur trioxide, a covalent molecule, colourless gas/white solid, is a highly corrosive dangerous substance. Uses of sulphur trioxide : uses of sulfur trioxide: Most is converted into sulphuric acid in the Contact Process.

compound H2SO4

When pure it is a dangerous oily liquid. The covalent molecules dissolves in water to give an aqueous solution of hydrogen ions, H+, and sulfate ions, SO42-. It reacts with metals, oxides, hydroxides and carbonates to form sulphate salts. Uses of sulphuric acid: Sulfuric acid solution is used in lead-acid batteries, detergent manufacture, fibres, pigments e.g. used in making white titanium dioxide, in acid baths to clean metal surfaces, fertilisers e.g. the salt ammonium sulphate. Concentrated sulphuric acid is used in making dyestuffs, explosives.
SURFACTANTS compounds which act as surface active agents A surfactant is a type of chemical that lowers the surface tension of water, which is particularly high due to the strong hydrogen bonding intermolecular forces. Uses of surfactants: Soaps and detergents form the biggest use, they allow surfaces to be 'wetted' and interact with both water and grease/dirt etc. to dislodge them to give the washing action.


A synthetic or naturally occurring compound that is used to sweeten the taste of food. Uses of sweeteners: Sugar is used in many recipes and products fro cakes to breakfast cereals. Aspartame  ...
T uses of materials - elements, compounds and mixtures

TARTARIC ACID an organic compound containing the acidic COOH functional group

A naturally occurring organic molecule classified as a carboxylic acid. Uses of tartaric acid: Used in baking powders containing sodium hydrogencarbonate, they react together to form carbon dioxide gas which produces the rising action in the bread dough or cake mix etc.
TEXTILES See FIBRES Uses of textiles: See FIBRES


Thermochromic/thermochromatic compounds change colour when heated or cooled. When sufficient heat is absorbed i.e. a high enough temperature is reached, the molecule changes structure. The two different structures create different colours. The process is reversed on cooling. Uses of thermochromic paints : uses of thermochromic pigments: The change in colour with change in temperature by thermochromics is put to use in 'flat thermometer strips' used in aquariums or on the forehead! Thermochromic pigments can be used for novelty effects e.g. on coffee mugs so that they change colour when filled with the hot liquid.
THERMOSOFTENING PLASTICS/THERMOPLASTICS Type of plastic that softens when heated and can be reshaped in a mould or an extrusion machine. Uses of thermosoftening plastics : uses of thermoplastics: See individual materials e.g. e.g. poly...., PVC, Nylon,... etc.
THERMOSETTING PLASTICS/THERMOSETS Type of plastic that sets to give a giant covalent structure that is tough, strong and heat resistant. Uses of thermosetting plastics : uses of thermosets: See individual materials e.g. bakelite, melamine resins, ...
THINSULATE Thinsulate is an artificial synthetic fibre made from mixtures of plastics-polymers like PET, poly(propene), acrylics and others. Uses of thinsulate: Thinsulate is a commercial name for fibres (thin) used for thermal insulation (insulate) in clothing e.g. outdoor gear. Duck down is considered a high quality traditional natural insulation material, but thinsulate is at least as good, and is less water absorbent more crush resistant.
TIN (element)

Sn atoms

A typical metal in many of its properties e.g. high density and good heat and electrical conductor, but has low tensile strength and brittle when pure. Uses of tin: Tin plating and a component of alloy solder used for making electrical connections.
TITANIUM (element)

Ti atoms and compounds

Titanium is a typical Transition Metal in many ways. Titanium(IV) oxide, TiO2, is chemically very stable brilliant white ionic compound. Uses of alloys: Titanium alloys are light and strong and used in the aircraft construction industry and reactor vessels in chemical plants - both contexts require strength and good anti-corrosion properties. Titanium(IV) oxide, 'titanium dioxide' is a white powder used as a white pigment in paints.

Fe, cu atoms etc. and many compounds

Blocks of metals which are characterised by high density, high melting points, high tensile strength, good heat and electrical conductors. The metals and their compounds have good catalytic properties and many of the compounds are highly coloured. See also Metal structure & properties notes and  GCSE/IGCSE notes on Transition Metals and Advanced Level 3d-block Transition Metal Notes Uses of transition metals: Cobalt compounds give a blue colour to stained glass and are useful catalysts.  Chromium is used in stainless steels and chromium plating to prevent corrosion chromium oxides and chromates give orange and green colours to glass.  Need to look up other individual metals and their compounds e.g. copper, iron, titanium,
U uses of materials - elements, compounds and mixtures

UREA compound

CH4N2O or (H2N)2C=O

Urea is simple organic nitrogen containing covalent molecule. It occurs naturally in the urine of all mammals. Uses of urea: It is mainly used as a fertiliser due to its high nitrogen content. It is also used in the manufacture of adhesives, pharmaceutical products and dyes.
V uses of materials - elements, compounds and mixtures

VANADIUM (element)

V atoms and compounds

VANADIUM is a typical Transition Metal. Metal structure & properties notes and  GCSE/IGCSE notes on Transition Metals and Advanced Level 3d-block Transition Metal Notes Uses of vanadium: Vanadium is major component in many alloys like steel (iron alloy) and vanadium-aluminium alloys. Vanadium(V) oxide, 'vanadium pentoxide',  is the catalyst in the Contact Process for the manufacture of sulphuric acid.
VEGETABLE OILS Unsaturated polyunsaturated monounsaturated Uses of vegetable oils: An important food e.g. in cooking, salad dressing, conversion to margarine, biofuel, soap
VINEGAR and ACETIC ACID See ETHANOIC ACID Uses of vinegar/acetic acid: See ETHANOIC ACID
W uses of materials - elements, compounds and mixtures


Specially designed detergent formulations. Uses of washing powders: Mainly designed to be used for washing clothes and sheets in a washing machine.
WATER (compound)

H2O molecules

A simple covalent molecule. A colourless liquid freezing at 0oC and boiling at 100oC. Uses of water: What would we do without it! Its a very useful solvent and reaction medium. Essential for life. Huge quantities are used in industrial processes as a solvent, reactant and coolant (as it is in a car radiator).
WOOD (complex mixture of compounds) Wood is a complex, primarily organic substance, with cell walls containing large carbohydrate polymer molecules including cellulose and lignin which is a phenylpropene polymer, together smaller amounts of a variety of inorganic and organic compounds. Uses of wood: A structural material for building construction, furniture, carved objects, doors etc. Paper is made from wood. Wood is roasted with most air excluded to make its carbonised form we call charcoal.
WOOL (complex mixture of compounds)


Wool is a natural protein fibre called keratin mainly obtained from sheep. Uses of woollen fleece: The clothing and textile industry
X uses of materials - elements, compounds and mixtures

Xenon (element)

Colourless gas of single atoms only Uses of Xenon: fluorescent bulbs, flash bulbs and lasers.
Y uses of materials - elements, compounds and mixtures
Z uses of materials - elements, compounds and mixtures

ZINC (element)

Zn atoms and compounds.

ZINC is a typical metal. Important compounds include zinc oxide, ZnO, zinc sulphide, ZnS. See also Metal structure & properties notes and  GCSE/IGCSE notes on Transition Metals Uses of zinc: prevent iron/steel rusting - galvanising coating and blocks for sacrificial corrosion attached to underground pipes or ships hulls. It is mixed with copper to make the attractive hard wearing alloy brass. One of the electrodes of a zinc-carbon battery. Zinc oxide is used in paints, rubber and plastic additives and as inert filler in electrical components. Zinc sulphide is used in luminous paint, X-ray and TV screens and fluorescent lights. Basic zinc carbonate is used medicinally as an external application called calamine lotion for treating sunburn, sore skin and dermatitis.


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