Discover the 10 key characteristics of organic chemistry and understand its significance in the world of science. Learn what organic chemistry is and why it plays a crucial role in understanding life processes, materials, and the development of medicines and technologies.
Organic chemistry or carbon chemistry is the branch of chemistry that focuses its interests on the study of organic substances and compounds, that is, those that combine combinatorial carbon and hydrogen, and that constitute the essential chemical elements for life.
Organic chemistry is interested in the structure, behavior, properties, uses and origin of this type of chemical compounds, fundamental not only for our understanding of life and the processes that sustain it, but also for most of the energy and industrial processes that humanity has developed over the centuries.
The origin of its name comes from certain theories in vogue until the 19th century that supposed that all organic compounds were necessarily residues of living beings, a theory that assumed the existence of a “vital force”.
Characteristics Of Organic Chemistry
Organic chemistry constitutes an important branch of chemistry in the 20th century, when new methods of research into substances of plant and animal origin were possible.
However, already in 1828 the German chemist Friedrich Wöhler had realized that an inorganic substance such as ammonium cyanate could be converted into an organic substance such as urea, present in the urine of many animals, thus contravening the theory that Organic compounds required the compulsory intervention of a living being.
2. Differences between organic and inorganic chemistry
The fundamental difference between these two branches of science lies in the type of substances in which each one is interested:
Organic chemistry focuses on the compounds with carbon and hydrogen as main constituents, fundamental for the chemistry of life.
Inorganic chemistry deals with the rest of the elements, whose participation in the vital substances is possible, but not as their essential elements. Thus, there are inorganic compounds that contain carbon and hydrogen, of course, but there is no organic compound that lacks them.
Therefore, inorganic chemistry explores the junction of atoms through electrical exchanges, while the organic focuses on covalent bonds (sharing electrons).
3. Organic elements
Modern chemists consider organic elements that most often appear in this type of compounds, such as carbon (C), hydrogen (H), sulfur (S), oxygen (O), nitrogen (N) and all halogens. This does not mean that organic and non-organic elements do not have presence in organic substances.
In general, organic elements are poor conductors of heat and electricity, are soluble in lipids and water, and are combustible.
4. Classification of organic compounds
The substances in which organic chemistry is interested can be classified into:
Aromatic hydrocarbons. Cyclic and stable organic compounds, which share electrons in one of their layers generating a particle in the form of a ring.
Aliphatic hydrocarbons. Simple non-aromatic hydrocarbons, that is, in a linear chain.
Heterocyclic Organic compounds in whose cyclic structure one of its carbon atoms has been displaced by atoms of other elements, such as nitrogen, sulfur or oxygen.
Organometallic. Organic compounds whose carbon atoms are covalently bound to a metal atom.
Polymers Large macromolecular chains consisting of smaller units (monomers) and linked together by hydrogen bonds, covalent bonds or Van der Waals forces.
5. Relationship with biology
Organic chemistry is one of the branches of chemistry that most closely collaborates with biology, thus giving rise to biochemistry. The main focus of this collaboration is related to metabolisms, that is, to the molecular processes that take place in the body of living beings.
6. Origin of organic compounds
There are various forms of production of organic substances, which are:
In-vivo This term means “inside living beings”, and refers to those compounds and substances that living organisms synthesize to carry out their different processes of nutrition, reproduction, growth and regulation.
Geological processes. Some sedimentary processes can maintain organic matter under specific conditions of pressure and temperature for a sufficient time to form more complex organic compounds, such as with oil or natural gas.
Planetary synthesis. Organic substances such as formic acid have been found in the tail of some comets, which leads us to believe that the conditions for their spontaneous formation were once favorable in the solar system.
Laboratory. Many organic substances would not exist without the manipulation of the human being, capable of creating or recreating them in specialized laboratories.
One of the peculiarities of organic compounds that is most fundamental for its chemical study, has to do with the possibility that the same organic molecule, with the same atoms in the same proportion, is ordered structurally in a different way and gives rise to a different compound. These compounds that share elements but not structure are known as “isomers”.
8. Importance of organic chemistry
Organic chemistry offers humanity not only a greater understanding of the dynamics of the formation of life, including its own body, but also the possibility of manufacturing medicines and of taking advantage of the unique properties of organic compounds for various purposes. industrial processes, from textiles, plastics, solvents, to the energy industry and petrochemicals, which have a central place in the contemporary world.
9. Examples of organic compounds
Some possible examples of organic compounds are:
the lactic acid (C3H6O3),
10. Examples of organic chemistry
There are several everyday examples of processes that involve organic chemistry, such as:
The manufacture of soaps from animal and vegetable fats.
The fermentation and distillation of sugars (carbohydrates) to obtain alcohols and thus manufacture beverages, solvents and various products.
The manufacture of starches by plants during their photosynthesis.
The very diverse petroleum derivatives, such as plastic, gasoline, benzene or nylon.
The creation of specific antibiotics for certain types of bacteria.