The chemical level is the simplest and most basic step in which matter is organized , and it includes what we mean by chemical elements, atoms, molecules, etc. Because it is the most basic level of matter, it is the same for all corners of the Cosmos, applying both on Earth and on other planets and galaxies.
The hydrogen atoms in the body which have, for example, are identical (with respect to the core) that are in the stars as the sun . Likewise, our carbon atoms do not differ from those that are part of the petroleum hydrocarbons , since our being alive does not modify the nuclei or the electronic characteristics (valences) of these atoms.
To speak of the chemical level is to refer to and go through the periodic table, knowing its 118 elements, the atoms of such elements, their unions or interactions to originate small or large molecules, and then their agglomerations and connections at the biological level.
All living beings have in principle the same chemical level, which is based on the carbon atom and water, with small but essential variations that define the phenomenon of life; here on Earth, and also outside of it.
Chemical level characteristics
The level of chemical organization has several characteristics:
The chemical level is characterized by being invariable, since it depends on the atomic nuclei, which are responsible for defining the identity of a chemical element.
Each element has an atom with its own personal or distinctive nucleus; some smaller and lighter (such as hydrogen), and others heavier and more unstable (such as lead or uranium).
The atomic nuclei, and therefore the atoms of the elements, are the same in all parts of the Universe. What does change is the way they combine or come together to form molecules. And yet the molecules, while highly variable, are also the same wherever they are considered.
For example, the water molecules in our body, H 2 O, are exactly the same as those recently discovered on the Moon, or the same ones that are given off as water vapor in the tails of comets.
It is very small
The chemical level can manifest itself in different scales, but its nature will be the same, since it is invariable.
Let’s go back to the water. A drop of pure water, chemically speaking, is identical to a waterfall, a river, an ocean, or an entire planet made up of this same water (if we ignore dissolved salts, microorganisms or marine fauna).
Therefore, since the components of the chemical level (atoms, molecules, neutrons, etc.) are incredibly small, it is always described on very small scales and with units such as nanometers (nm) or picometers (pm).
The chemical level is invariable, small, and also defining. That is, the chemical level is responsible for defining the physical and chemical properties of the substances that we know today. For example, a copper coin (Cu) made up of copper atoms is not the same as a quartz crystal, made up of ordered networks of silica (SiO 2 ).
However, when it comes to life, the situation becomes complex, requiring more appropriate approaches from the biological level (such as DNA and its genes).
And finally, the chemical level, as expected, is everywhere: any manifestation of matter is due thanks to the mass of its atoms.
The chemical level supports life and cells through atoms that interact in an exceptionally strong and stable way. We are talking about carbon atoms, which link together to form chains or CC units that are difficult to break. We also have very stable molecules like that of water, which makes up 60% of our bodies.
Many of the elements of the periodic table are found in living beings, but not all of them play an essential role in its functioning.
For example, in living beings nitrogen (N) is present in proteins and enzymes, as well as calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg) in bones and tissues, or potassium (K) in neurons, phosphorus (P) in ATP molecules, and iron (Fe) in hemoglobin as a facilitator of oxygen transport through the blood.
Examples of the chemical level of organization
Having clarified what the chemical level is and its characteristics, we will proceed to mention its “internal steps” or sublevels, and some examples of each one.
At the subatomic sublevel we have particles smaller than the atom itself. Among them we have protons (positive), neutrons (neutral) and electrons (negative). Protons and neutrons make up the atomic nucleus, while electrons orbit at very high speeds around the nucleus.
At the atomic sublevel we have atoms, and therefore all 118 elements of the periodic table. Thus, for example, an atom with a single proton and an electron corresponds to that of the element hydrogen (H). We also have atoms of helium (He), lithium (Li), beryllium (Be), boron (B), carbon (C), nitrogen, oxygen (O), fluorine (F), neon (Ne), sodium (Na) , etc.
The molecules combine or join each other through covalent bonds in which the electrons of their outermost shells (the valence) participate.
In this way, molecules such as hydrogen, H 2 , oxygen, O 2 (O = O), or nitrogen, N 2 (N≡N) arise. There are millions of molecules, which study different branches of chemistry (such as inorganic and organic).
One of the last seats of the chemical level is the macromolecular sublevel. Here we have the largest molecules, many of which are found within living beings; that is, some can be called biomolecules . Among them we have:
- Polysaccharides, such as glycogen.
- Proteins, like insulin.
- Nucleic acids, such as RNA.
- Lipids, such as phospholipids and glycolipids.
The macromolecules agglomerate to form supramolécules, which in turn build up the different compartments that make up the cells (organelles).
From then on we knock on the doors of the biological level, which is based on the chemical level: they are not divorced, but intertwined, more than one can believe.