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Solid-state chemistry, also sometimes referred to as materials chemistry, is the study of the synthesis, structure, and properties of solid phase materials, particularly, but not necessarily exclusively of, non-molecular solids. It therefore has a strong overlap with solid-state physics, mineralogy, crystallography, ceramics, metallurgy, thermodynamics, materials science and electronics with a focus on the synthesis of novel materials and their characterization.
Because of its direct relevance to products of commerce, solid state inorganic chemistry has been strongly driven by technology. Progress in the field has often been fueled by the demands of industry, well ahead of purely academic curiosity. Applications discovered in the 20th century include zeolite and platinum-based catalysts for petroleum processing in the 1950s, high-purity silicon as a core component of microelectronic devices in the 1960s, and “high temperature” superconductivity in the 1980s. The invention of X-ray crystallography in the early 1900s by William Lawrence Bragg enabled further innovation. Our understanding of how reactions proceed at the atomic level in the solid state was advanced considerably by Carl Wagner's work on oxidation rate theory, counter diffusion of ions, and defect chemistry. Because of this, he has sometimes been referred to as the father of solid state chemistry.
Given the diversity of solid state compounds, an equally diverse array of methods are used for their preparation. For organic materials, such as charge transfer salts, the methods operate near room temperature and are often similar to the techniques of organic synthesis. Redox reactions are sometimes conducted by electrocrystallisation, as illustrated by the preparation of the Bechgaard salts from tetrathiafulvalene.
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