Chemistry is typically defined as the study of substances, how substances interact with each other, and how substances change. There are many fields and subfields within the subject and innovation occurs in all of them. The problems vary from the highly practical to extremely theoretical and from highly general to exceedingly specific. The approach to problems varies from mathematical modelling to outright experimentation.
The area of research with which I am most familiar involves the use of thin layer chromatography to find a more efficient way to determine the concentration of pain relievers. Pharmaceutical companies have to confirm the concentrations of their products before sale, but many of the current methods are slow, imprecise, or expensive. What this research is doing is trying to tinker with the current methods to find a way that is more desirable. Thin layer chromatography is a process in which a sample of pain reliever in this case is placed on a thin skinny plate coated in a aluminum compound. The plate is put in a shallow amount of liquid and the liquid slowly rises to the top, bringing the different compounds with it at different speeds.
Much of this innovation involves tinkering with different aspects of the process already in place and then experimenting to see if the tinkering had the desired effect. Sometimes, however, changing some aspect has undesired effect that reveals new information.
The inductive process occurs when deciding what exactly to tinker with. Lots of information is known about how different solvents effect to speed and success of a separation of different compounds and about how various chemicals can affect the results, but it is rarely totally clear how changing these factors will affect the experiment. Usually this is quite a large leap of faith and deductive experimental processes are needed to confirm the change was useful and the leap of faith was valid. Recently, it was found that putting five microliters of a compound on the plate resulted in an ineffective analysis of concentration at the end of the experiment. Other pieces of data, however, suggested that spots of compound with higher concentration could be analyzed more accurately than spots with fewer compounds. Based on this information, it was generalized that spots with more concentration would often be analyzed more easily. From that generalization, an experiment was devised that would put five...