Theoretical chemistry is the branch of chemistry which develops theoretical generalizations that are part of the theoretical arsenal of modern chemistry: for example, the concepts of chemical bonding, chemical reaction, valence, the surface of potential energy, molecular orbitals, orbital interactions, and molecule activation.
Theoretical chemistry unites principles and concepts common to all branches of chemistry. Within the framework of theoretical chemistry, there is a systematization of chemical laws, principles and rules, their refinement and detailing, the construction of a hierarchy. The central place in theoretical chemistry is occupied by the doctrine of the interconnection of the structure and properties of molecular systems. It uses mathematical and physical methods to explain the structures and dynamics of chemical systems and to correlate, understand, and predict their thermodynamic and kinetic properties. In the most general sense, it is explanation of chemical phenomena by methods of theoretical physics. In contrast to theoretical physics, in connection with the high complexity of chemical systems, theoretical chemistry, in addition to approximate mathematical methods, often uses semi-empirical and empirical methods.
In recent years, it has consisted primarily of quantum chemistry, i.e., the application of quantum mechanics to problems in chemistry. Other major components include molecular dynamics, statistical thermodynamics and theories of electrolyte solutions, reaction networks, polymerization, catalysis, molecular magnetism and spectroscopy.
Modern theoretical chemistry may be roughly divided into the study of chemical structure and the study of chemical dynamics. The former includes studies of: electronic structure, potential energy surfaces, and force fields; vibrational-rotational motion; equilibrium properties of condensed-phase systems and macro-molecules. Chemical dynamics includes: bimolecular kinetics and the collision theory of reactions and energy transfer; unimolecular rate theory and metastable states; condensed-phase and macromolecular aspects of dynamics.
Historically, the major field of application of theoretical chemistry has been in the following fields of research:
Hence, theoretical chemistry has emerged as a branch of research. With the rise of the density functional theory and other methods like molecular mechanics, the range of application has been extended to chemical systems which are relevant to other fields of chemistry and physics, including biochemistry, condensed matter physics, nanotechnology or molecular biology.