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To understand chemical analysis, it is important to first understand what chemistry is. Chemistry is the scientific study of matter in all of its forms, and matter is anything that has mass — or weight bearing properties — and occupies space. Scientists called chemists study the chemistry of things: what they are made of, how they behave in certain circumstances as well as on their own, and how to identify certain chemicals. The process by which this is done is called chemical analysis. There are two main types, called qualitative and quantitative.
In qualitative analysis, a chemical assessment is usually performed on one substance at a time. The substance in question is referred to as the analyte. The first step is to figure out what properties are unique to that substance, or the "differentiating characteristic.” Any number of properties can be unique to a substance, including but not limited to solvency (how the substance dissolves in different solutions, as well as what it dissolves in) and whether or not the substance absorbs or reflects light. Once the first step of testing is completed, the scientist performing the analysis must then find a way to identify the unique characteristics and compare the results with other similar or contrasting results.
Once qualitative analysis has been performed, scientists can then perform quantitative analysis, or the process of figuring out how much of one particular chemical is in a mixed substance. This involves another battery of tests that use the results of the quantitative analysis. Scientists identify unique characteristics of chemicals and contrast them with other qualities within the subject in question. These processes are often performed in specialized chemistry laboratories, as the equipment is specialized and handling of certain chemicals can be hazardous.
Analytical chemistry is used by a variety of professions and in a variety of fields. Doctors and others in the medical and forensic fields often use chemical analysis directly. Pharmaceutical companies and cosmetic companies often rely on its results. This process can even be found in unlikely places, such as the manufacturing of household goods, cleaning products and consumer foods. It may also play a role in other day-to-day items, such as when a company would try to emulate other corporations’ products, or when companies measure their own environmental impact.