Notes On Organic Chemistry

An Introduction to Organic Chemistry

Organic chemistry is the study of carbon containing compounds and their properties. This

includes the great majority of chemical compounds on the planet, but some substances such

as carbonates and oxides of carbon are considered to be inorganic substances even though

they contain carbon.

Organic chemicals are continually released into the environment in large quantities. For

example, global production of mineral oil exceeds 3 billion tonnes a year and the amount of

new organic chemicals made each year in research laboratories and industry is increasing

exponentially. There is a need to understand how these organic molecules will interact with

the environment in order to minimise their impact. To achieve this the type of reactions that

organic molecules undergo needs to be understood.

How do you tell the difference between an Organic and an Inorganic Compound?

Probably the best way is to compare the chemical and physical properties of substances to the

table below. If they concur with those properties on the left column of the table then the

substance is probably organic, whilst if they compare to the properties listed in the right

column then the substance is most likely inorganic.

Organic Compounds Inorganic Compounds

Use mostly covalent bonding Mostly ionic bonding

Are gases, liquids or solids with low melting points Are generally solids with high melting points

Mostly insoluble in water Many are water soluble

Many are soluble in organic solvents such as

petroleum, benzene and hexane

Most are not soluble in organic solvents

Solution in water generally do not conduct electricity When dissolved in water conducts electrical current

Almost all burn Most not combustible

Slow to react with other chemicals Often undergo fast chemical reactions

Table 1: Comparison of the properties of organic and inorganic compounds

The vast majority of organic compounds are typically chains or rings of carbon atoms that

contain other elements such as O, N, P, S, Cl, Br and I. There are over five million of these

compounds known today and an almost infinite number of new compounds could possibly be

synthesized. This can be compared to the total number of inorganic compounds, which is

approximately half a million.


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