Science & Education

, Volume 22, Issue 7, pp 1723-1740

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Idealization in Chemistry: Pure Substance and Laboratory Product

  • Manuel Fernández-GonzálezAffiliated withUniversity of Granada Email author 


This article analyzes the concept of idealization in chemistry and the role played by pure substance and laboratory product. This topic has evident repercussions in the educational contexts that are applied to the science classroom, which are highlighted throughout the text. A common structure for knowledge construction is proposed for both physics and chemistry with particular emphasis on the relations between two of the levels: the ideal level and the quasi-ideal level. The ideal level is crucial for operations related to theoretical constructions and explanations, whereas the quasi-ideal level is of special importance in the verification of propositions. In chemistry, the ideal level and the quasi-ideal level include the entities, pure substance and laboratory product, respectively. This article provides an in-depth discussion of the concept of pure substance, an idealized entity whose empirical correlate is laboratory product. The study of the link between the two is a very significant part of the problem of the relations between theory and reality in chemistry. These entities are used to analyze and interpret different situations and contexts in research as well as teaching. The article concludes by using classroom examples to illustrate the didactic implications of the issues addressed.