What Is A Physical Chemistry Lab?

Physical chemistry is one of the most advanced and specialized branches of chemistry. The equipment needed to perform physical chemistry analysis and experiments is equally advanced and specialized, and will not be found in a general chemistry lab.

Instead, physical chemistry is a science that requires its own laboratory space that’s customized with the devices needed and the furniture that can support those devices. 

If you’re considering building a physical chemistry lab or renovating an existing space for physical chemistry, you need to account for the field’s complexity and the large amount of space needed for the equipment. 

At OnePointe Solutions, our dedication is to help you build your ideal research facility, no matter what branch of science you work with. We know that all laboratories can’t be built the same, which is why we design and manufacture lab furniture to fit your specific needs.

There’s no need to settle for anything less than a totally custom lab space.

From custom workbenches, lab tables, countertops, and more, we can help you design and build the perfect lab space. But what goes into a good lab space or physical chemistry as a whole.

If you’d like to know more about physical chemistry lab characteristics, then read on.

What Is Physical Chemistry?

Physical chemistry is the branch of chemistry that combines physical and chemical knowledge to study and understand the principles of physics involved in chemical reactions. Physical chemistry investigates the reasons that chemical reactions occur in specific, predictable patterns using a combination of mathematics, physics equations, and chemistry. 

Physical chemistry can be a science that investigates matter at the molecular and atomic level, or at the macroscopic level, looking at the spaces between molecules and larger chemical compounds.

What Is A Physical Chemistry Lab?

Physical chemistry labs are highly advanced, state-of-the-art facilities that contain various types of analytical equipment. It is highly specialized for physical chemistry, so other types of chemistry are not performed in these labs.

Physical chemistry labs also contain computers with a great deal of processing power to handle simulations and the computations needed to develop theoretical models.

What Happens In A Physical Chemistry Lab?

There is a great variety of topics that physical chemistry can cover. These include but are not limited to the following:

  • Intermolecular forces like plasticity, tensile strength, and surface tension
  • How reaction kinetics act upon the rate of a reaction
  • Identifying ions
  • Electrical conductivity 
  • Electrochemistry of cell membranes and other surfaces
  • Thermodynamics
  • Heat transfer
  • Electrochemical cell reactions
  • The colligative properties of the number of chemical types present in a given solution
  • Phase rule
  • Behavior of microscopic systems using quantum mechanics
  • Behavior of macroscopic systems using statistical thermodynamics

All of these topics are unified by the use of physics and math to explain chemical properties. Computational physics and advanced mathematical equations are used to come to an understanding of the various properties of chemicals. 

Which Industries Use Physical Chemistry?

Physical chemistry has an untold number of applications. Any industry that uses chemistry in any way relies on the research done by physical chemists to inform their chemical usage and explain why and how reactions occur the way that they do. 

Academic Research 

A great deal of physical chemistry research is academic. While this often has industrial applications, academic research in physical chemistry seeks to define new chemical principles instead of looking for solutions to industry-specific problems. 


The computing industry is always looking for the next new material that will allow processing chips and other computer parts to work faster and more efficiently. Physical chemistry is used to research these materials for supercomputers.

Since supercomputers use thousands of processors simultaneously, their components must be made of materials that are highly conductive without overheating. Physical chemistry can model the interactions between these parts before the machines are constructed. 

Materials Science

Materials science is one of the most important drivers of physical chemistry research, particularly where superconductors are concerned. Superconductors are materials that, when they reach a certain temperature, lose all electrical resistance and begin to emit magnetic flux fields.

Discovering both the physical and chemical properties of electromagnetic materials that could potentially be superconductors is one of the most prevalent research goals in physical chemistry today. 

Medical Research

Physical chemistry addresses many biological issues at the cellular level, including the properties of cell membranes and the physical workings of the insides of individual cells. Physical chemistry makes many contributions to the medical world by studying how cells work.

These include work that leads to the development of molecular medicine, cancer treatments, and treatments for cell-based disorders among others. 


Metallurgy is another important materials science application of physical chemistry. Chemists working in metallurgy create combinations of different metals called alloys to create better and cheaper materials. These chemists also work on improving the processes for making and cooling metals so they stay strong and don’t crack.


In addition to being able to examine human health at the cellular level, physical chemistry research can be applied to health on a larger scale. The pharmaceutical industry’s interest in physical chemistry overlaps with other industries, like materials science.

Physical chemistry is used to design new materials for the pharmaceutical industry, like synthetic skin and other membranes.

Research and Development.

The field of physical chemistry is an important part of research and development. Understanding the properties of chemicals and their interactions helps manufacturers choose materials and make decisions about the most basic aspects of their construction.

Additionally, the advanced modeling produced by physical chemistry allows researchers to accurately predict how chemicals will behave and interact before combining them, making the research and development process more streamlined and materially efficient. While these researchers aren’t always involved in the finished product, 

What’s In A Physical Chemistry Lab?

Physical chemistry lab instruments are often quite large due to the sizable amount of equipment necessary to conduct research and experimentation. 

Standard Scientific Equipment

Some of the equipment that you’ll find in a physical chemistry laboratory is common to any research facility. This includes lab glassware and basic equipment such as:

  • Centrifuges
  • Desktop computer workstations
  • Fridges and freezers
  • pH meters
  • Scales and weighing stations
  • Standard light microscopes

Physical Chemistry Equipment

Most of the equipment in a physical chemistry laboratory is a suite of analytical instruments that are needed to understand the physical properties of chemicals. These may include, but are not limited to: 

  • Atomic force microscopes
  • Confocal laser scanning microscopes
  • Evaporators with e-beams
  • Mass spectrometers
  • Nuclear magnetic resonance instruments
  • Photolithography equipment
  • Plasma cleaners
  • Scanning electron microscopes
  • Spectroscopic ellipsometers
  • Steady-state fluorescence spectrometers
  • Tensiometers
  • Thermal evaporators
  • UV photopolymerization chambers
  • Vacuum Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometers

Lab Furniture

The equipment used in physical chemistry is large, heavy, and often very sensitive to vibrations. This means that for the best results in a physical chemistry lab, heavy-duty, custom equipment is needed to house and support the various instruments. 

Are You Designing A Physical Chemistry Lab?

If you’re thinking about designing, expanding, or remodeling an existing physical chemistry laboratory, then it’s time to call the team at OnePointe Solutions. Our team of expert lab designers, installers, and contractors knows exactly what you need to truly optimize your research space.

No matter the size or layout of your physical chemistry laboratory, the OnePointe Solutions design team can help. Contact us today!


Questions? Concerns? Want to start today? Get in touch. 866.612.7312

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