The synthesis of a chemical species is a chemical transformation in the course of which reagents put into play make it possible, under very particular conditions, to obtain a product which is the desired chemical species, or of several products, among which find this chemical species.

For reagents, we also speak of raw materials for custom organic synthesis. The reagents are usually from the chemical industry, which manufactures them from a natural product such as oil.

The different syntheses:

The synthesis to satisfy the demand:

The smell, the color, the flavor of a natural product is due to one or more chemical species. When the demand for this product is huge, it is imperative to synthesize it so as not to deplete natural resources.

Ex: synthetic vanillin, chemical fertilizers, synthetic rubber

Synthesis to preserve natural resources:

In order not to see disappear some natural products, synthetic products are created.

Ex: synthetic sponges replace natural sponges, ivory billiard balls have been replaced by celluloid balls.

Synthesis to create more efficient materials:

New products with superior physical and mechanical properties replace traditional natural products.

Ex: ski boots made of synthetic materials, carbon fibers.

Synthetic products in our daily life:

Synthetic chemistry has allowed and still allows significant progress in the areas of health and nutrition. It helps to improve comfort in everyday life.

Antibiotics, for example, used to treat bacterial diseases, have helped fight against such dreadful diseases as typhoid, plague or tuberculosis. Pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers have enabled developed countries to increase agricultural production and solve chronic famine problems.

Synthetic chemistry also produces substances that are useful for our well-being: artificial textiles, dyes, flavors, cosmetics, plastics, insulators, glues, detergents, materials for high technologies.

Need for synthetic chemistry:

  • All the chemical species necessary to man cannot be taken from nature alone, because the quantities needed have become enormous and nature cannot be overexploited. Chemical synthesis is often cheaper than extraction of the natural product. This is the case for example indigo, the dye used to dye jeans, whose culture was abandoned in the early twentieth century in Europe.
  • Synthetic chemistry also produces original chemical species, which are not found in nature.
  • Synthetic chemistry makes it possible to create substances adapted to the needs of man or the environment, more “performing” than those found in nature.

The conventional soap, for example, is obtained by treatment with soda of natural fats such as tallow. Its “washing powers” are limited in “hard” waters, that is to say rich in calcium ions in particular. Chemists had to design a synthetic alternative. But the abuse of poorly designed and misused detergents has caused ecological disasters. The chemists were able to react and offer detergents that are effective and less harmful to the environment.

By Skyler West

Piper Skyler West: Piper, a sports medicine expert, shares advice on injury prevention, athletic performance, and sports health tips.