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Chemistry > Organic Chemistry > General Introduction to Organic Compounds
Organic Chemistry

General Introduction to Organic Compounds

Most of the foodstuffs that we consume every day such as sugar, fats, starch, vinegar, etc are basically organic compounds. Even though the organic compounds have been known to man since prehistoric times, their study practically began from the eighteenth century! The term “organic compound” was coined by Berzelius in 1807. Let’s explore more about these compounds

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Introduction to Organic Compounds

Earlier people thought that compounds which are obtained from plants and animals are organic compounds and compounds which are obtained from minerals, non-living sources are termed as inorganic compounds. However, the modern definition of organic compounds is a bit different to this.

An organic compound is defined as any compound whose molecules contain carbon and hydrogen ( also known as ” hydrocarbons” ) or compound that is the derivative of it. The branch of science which deals with the scientific study of structure, properties and reactions of hydrocarbons and their derivatives is known as organic chemistry.

Browse more Topics under Organic Chemistry

Characteristics of Organic Compounds

The general characteristics of Organic Compounds include:

  • Can be isolated as well as prepared in laboratory
  • Comprise almost 90% of all known compounds.
  • Mostly built up of only three elements- carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Other elements like halogen, nitrogen as well as phosphorous are also present but to a lesser extent.
  • Possess complex structures and high molecular weights
  • Their properties are decided by certain active atom or group of atoms known as the functional group.
  • They are mostly insoluble in water but soluble in organic solvents.
  • They are combustible in nature
  • Chemical reactions involving organic compounds proceed at slower rates.

Characteristics due to Presence of Covalent Bonds

Organic Compounds

A covalent bond is a chemical bond that involves the sharing of electron pairs between atoms that in turn results in a balance of attractive and repulsive forces between the atoms. The presence of a covalent bond renders certain characteristics to the organic compounds. These include:

  • Low melting points and boiling points in comparison to the inorganic compounds.
  • Organic acids and bases are less stronger and thus they have a limited dissociation in an aqueous medium.
  • They exhibit the phenomenon of isomerism in which a single molecular formula represents several organic compounds differing in physical and chemical properties.
  • They are volatile in nature.

Download Organic Chemistry Cheat Sheet by clicking on the button below

Organic Compounds

General Characteristics of Members of Homologous Series

A Homologous Series is a group of organic chemical compounds, usually listed in the order of increasing size, that have a similar structure (and hence, also similar properties) and whose structures differ only by the number of CH2– CH2 units in the main carbon chain. They possess the following general characteristics:

  • A general formula describes the members of the homologous series
  • Successive members differ from each other by CH2CH2
  • Physical properties change regularly with increasing number of carbon atoms.
  • Members have similar chemical properties because they have same functional group.
  • Members of the homologous series can be prepared using the same method.

Importance of Organic Compounds

  • Organic compounds are important because all living organisms contain carbon.
  • While carbohydrates, proteins and fats, the basic structures of life, are organic compounds
  • They are the basic components of many of the cycles that drive the earth. For example, the carbon cycle that includes the exchange of carbon between plants and animals in photosynthesis and cellular respiration.
  • Organic compounds combine with metals to form organometallic compounds. These compounds are important industrially. They are used as catalysts, promoters, analysers as well as stabilizers.

Learn more about Types of Organic Reactions here.

Solved Questions For You

Q 1. Which of these is not a property of organic compounds?

  1. They possess complex structures and high molecular weights
  2. They are combustible
  3. They have high melting as well as boiling points
  4. They have low melting as well as boiling points

Ans: The correct answer is c. They have high melting as well as boiling points.

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