0
$\begingroup$

How to get or understand a sample in chemistry without knowing its chemical name or compound or formula? I was thinking about whether there is a way to understand what the chemical compound sample that one might have. He/She doesn't know what its formula or its chemical properties or anything .He/She just got that one and was thinking what was that chemical and was interested to know about its structure. Would it be possible?

I am totally new at Stack Exchange so I doesn't know is this the proper way to ask.

And I am 15 year old so I doesn't know if these are taken in my upcoming classes but when I googled it or searched in many websites,I was not able find answers,So I am asking here.I have seen that we can guess the compound using many experiments but so also if the compound has been not found yet in human history would we be able to understand it?

Edit: This question had been closed stating it need to be more focused. I just wanted to clarify that what I wanted to know was whether there is a specific procedure to identify the chemical structure of the compound from just a sample alone.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ It is always possible. If you look at periodic table, all of those elements are found by someone. They were not known before. Same goes to all the existing chemicals (millions of them). Even just now, someone may find a new natural product, which is not known before. $\endgroup$ – Mathew Mahindaratne Aug 4 '20 at 20:03
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ First you analyse the compound, then you know its properties and composition, and can derive the name and formula. And yea, you need to study a lot of chemistry before you can do that, or understand how it works. And, yes, if chemists can get their hands on a substance, they can analyse it well enough to understand its properties, and to be able to recognise it again later. $\endgroup$ – Karl Aug 4 '20 at 20:04
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I wonder how you know compound without knowing compound ;-> This title is really bad. $\endgroup$ – Mithoron Aug 4 '20 at 20:19
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Mithoron What the OP is trying to say is how to know a compound when only a sample is given... $\endgroup$ – Deepak M S Aug 4 '20 at 20:22
  • $\begingroup$ @DeepakMS Yes, I found it out by reading the stuff that's not in title or bold - quite not like it should be. BTW there was enough of q. on this extremely broad topic already. $\endgroup$ – Mithoron Aug 4 '20 at 20:26
3
$\begingroup$

Learning the unknown sample is called analysis and is a subject of analytical chemistry.

But your question is probably not about this. You mean "can i guess something without knowing chemistry at all?"

And answer is yes! Look at the food salt. Do you know it without any knowledge of chemistry? Yes, you do!

But how much?

You know what it looks like,
you know its taste,
you know that it's soluble in water...
and probably that's all.

Now suppose you have a sample of something not found yet in human history. You can easily know it similar to knowing food salt. Just check:

How it looks like?
What it's taste?
Drop it in water - is it soluble?

Now you "know" this substance just like you "know" food salt, without any chemistry!

But I guess you already suspect that there is something wrong with this knowledge. It's very incomplete. Chemist can learn more about food salt or your magic unknown sample. Most of that serious knowledge require understanding of sample structure at microscopic levels, and using theories that connect the structure to properties.

That was all about "knowing the substance". Another question is knowing what a substance is, which is rather philosophy than chemistry. Does a substance exist? What is existance? Does a substance have hidden fundamental purpose? Was it "created" or "appeared by itself"? These questions are probably more important than chemistry, and you may be the one who one day will guess some answers here.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Just a suggestion tasting isn't always the best idea and it might give some wrong ideas to a novice $\endgroup$ – FoundABetterName Aug 5 '20 at 2:03
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I upvoted because it kindly answer the genuine question posed by OP. I would have skipped the philosophical end. $\endgroup$ – Alchimista Aug 5 '20 at 9:25
  • $\begingroup$ Now that our minds is used to working in a certain direction, we would skip this for ourself. But I would like someone to tell me about this when I was 15. $\endgroup$ – sa7 Aug 5 '20 at 11:39

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.