Organic chemistry
Overview
 
Organic chemistry is a subdiscipline within chemistry
Chemistry
Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

 involving the scientific
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

 study of the structure, properties, composition, reactions
Chemical reaction
A chemical reaction is a process that leads to the transformation of one set of chemical substances to another. Chemical reactions can be either spontaneous, requiring no input of energy, or non-spontaneous, typically following the input of some type of energy, such as heat, light or electricity...

, and preparation (by synthesis
Organic synthesis
Organic synthesis is a special branch of chemical synthesis and is concerned with the construction of organic compounds via organic reactions. Organic molecules can often contain a higher level of complexity compared to purely inorganic compounds, so the synthesis of organic compounds has...

 or by other means) of carbon
Carbon
Carbon is the chemical element with symbol C and atomic number 6. As a member of group 14 on the periodic table, it is nonmetallic and tetravalent—making four electrons available to form covalent chemical bonds...

-based compounds, hydrocarbon
Hydrocarbon
In organic chemistry, a hydrocarbon is an organic compound consisting entirely of hydrogen and carbon. Hydrocarbons from which one hydrogen atom has been removed are functional groups, called hydrocarbyls....

s, and their derivatives. These compounds may contain any number of other elements, including hydrogen
Hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

, nitrogen
Nitrogen
Nitrogen is a chemical element that has the symbol N, atomic number of 7 and atomic mass 14.00674 u. Elemental nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and mostly inert diatomic gas at standard conditions, constituting 78.08% by volume of Earth's atmosphere...

, oxygen
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

, the halogens as well as phosphorus
Phosphorus
Phosphorus is the chemical element that has the symbol P and atomic number 15. A multivalent nonmetal of the nitrogen group, phosphorus as a mineral is almost always present in its maximally oxidized state, as inorganic phosphate rocks...

, silicon
Silicon
Silicon is a chemical element with the symbol Si and atomic number 14. A tetravalent metalloid, it is less reactive than its chemical analog carbon, the nonmetal directly above it in the periodic table, but more reactive than germanium, the metalloid directly below it in the table...

, and sulfur
Sulfur
Sulfur or sulphur is the chemical element with atomic number 16. In the periodic table it is represented by the symbol S. It is an abundant, multivalent non-metal. Under normal conditions, sulfur atoms form cyclic octatomic molecules with chemical formula S8. Elemental sulfur is a bright yellow...

.

Organic compounds are structurally diverse. The range of application of organic compounds is enormous.
Encyclopedia
Organic chemistry is a subdiscipline within chemistry
Chemistry
Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

 involving the scientific
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

 study of the structure, properties, composition, reactions
Chemical reaction
A chemical reaction is a process that leads to the transformation of one set of chemical substances to another. Chemical reactions can be either spontaneous, requiring no input of energy, or non-spontaneous, typically following the input of some type of energy, such as heat, light or electricity...

, and preparation (by synthesis
Organic synthesis
Organic synthesis is a special branch of chemical synthesis and is concerned with the construction of organic compounds via organic reactions. Organic molecules can often contain a higher level of complexity compared to purely inorganic compounds, so the synthesis of organic compounds has...

 or by other means) of carbon
Carbon
Carbon is the chemical element with symbol C and atomic number 6. As a member of group 14 on the periodic table, it is nonmetallic and tetravalent—making four electrons available to form covalent chemical bonds...

-based compounds, hydrocarbon
Hydrocarbon
In organic chemistry, a hydrocarbon is an organic compound consisting entirely of hydrogen and carbon. Hydrocarbons from which one hydrogen atom has been removed are functional groups, called hydrocarbyls....

s, and their derivatives. These compounds may contain any number of other elements, including hydrogen
Hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

, nitrogen
Nitrogen
Nitrogen is a chemical element that has the symbol N, atomic number of 7 and atomic mass 14.00674 u. Elemental nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and mostly inert diatomic gas at standard conditions, constituting 78.08% by volume of Earth's atmosphere...

, oxygen
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

, the halogens as well as phosphorus
Phosphorus
Phosphorus is the chemical element that has the symbol P and atomic number 15. A multivalent nonmetal of the nitrogen group, phosphorus as a mineral is almost always present in its maximally oxidized state, as inorganic phosphate rocks...

, silicon
Silicon
Silicon is a chemical element with the symbol Si and atomic number 14. A tetravalent metalloid, it is less reactive than its chemical analog carbon, the nonmetal directly above it in the periodic table, but more reactive than germanium, the metalloid directly below it in the table...

, and sulfur
Sulfur
Sulfur or sulphur is the chemical element with atomic number 16. In the periodic table it is represented by the symbol S. It is an abundant, multivalent non-metal. Under normal conditions, sulfur atoms form cyclic octatomic molecules with chemical formula S8. Elemental sulfur is a bright yellow...

.

Organic compounds are structurally diverse. The range of application of organic compounds is enormous. They either form the basis of, or are important constituents of, many products including plastic
Plastic
A plastic material is any of a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic solids used in the manufacture of industrial products. Plastics are typically polymers of high molecular mass, and may contain other substances to improve performance and/or reduce production costs...

s, drug
Drug
A drug, broadly speaking, is any substance that, when absorbed into the body of a living organism, alters normal bodily function. There is no single, precise definition, as there are different meanings in drug control law, government regulations, medicine, and colloquial usage.In pharmacology, a...

s, petrochemical
Petrochemical
Petrochemicals are chemical products derived from petroleum. Some chemical compounds made from petroleum are also obtained from other fossil fuels, such as coal or natural gas, or renewable sources such as corn or sugar cane....

s, food
Food
Food is any substance consumed to provide nutritional support for the body. It is usually of plant or animal origin, and contains essential nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, or minerals...

, explosives, and paint
Paint
Paint is any liquid, liquefiable, or mastic composition which after application to a substrate in a thin layer is converted to an opaque solid film. One may also consider the digital mimicry thereof...

s. They form the basis of almost all earthly life
Carbon-based life
Carbon forms the backbone of biology for all of life on Earth. Complex molecules are made up of carbon bonded with other elements, especially oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen, and carbon is able to bond with all of these because of its four valence electrons. Carbon is abundant on earth...

 processes (with very few exceptions).

History

Before the nineteenth century, chemists generally believed that compounds obtained from living organisms were too complex to be synthesized. According to the concept of vitalism
Vitalism
Vitalism, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is#a doctrine that the functions of a living organism are due to a vital principle distinct from biochemical reactions...

, organic matter was endowed with a "vital force". They named these compounds "organic" and directed their investigations toward inorganic materials that seemed more easily studied.

During the first half of the nineteenth century, scientists realized that organic compounds can be synthesized in the laboratory. Around 1816 Michel Chevreul
Michel Eugène Chevreul
Michel Eugène Chevreul was a French chemist whose work with fatty acids led to early applications in the fields of art and science. He is credited with the discovery of margaric acid and designing an early form of soap made from animal fats and salt...

 started a study of soap
Soap
In chemistry, soap is a salt of a fatty acid.IUPAC. "" Compendium of Chemical Terminology, 2nd ed. . Compiled by A. D. McNaught and A. Wilkinson. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford . XML on-line corrected version: created by M. Nic, J. Jirat, B. Kosata; updates compiled by A. Jenkins. ISBN...

s made from various fat
Fat
Fats consist of a wide group of compounds that are generally soluble in organic solvents and generally insoluble in water. Chemically, fats are triglycerides, triesters of glycerol and any of several fatty acids. Fats may be either solid or liquid at room temperature, depending on their structure...

s and alkali
Alkali
In chemistry, an alkali is a basic, ionic salt of an alkali metal or alkaline earth metal element. Some authors also define an alkali as a base that dissolves in water. A solution of a soluble base has a pH greater than 7. The adjective alkaline is commonly used in English as a synonym for base,...

s. He separated the different acids that, in combination with the alkali, produced the soap. Since these were all individual compounds, he demonstrated that it was possible to make a chemical change in various fats (which traditionally come from organic sources), producing new compounds, without "vital force". In 1828 Friedrich Wöhler
Friedrich Wöhler
Friedrich Wöhler was a German chemist, best known for his synthesis of urea, but also the first to isolate several chemical elements.-Biography:He was born in Eschersheim, which belonged to aau...

 produced the organic chemical urea
Urea
Urea or carbamide is an organic compound with the chemical formula CO2. The molecule has two —NH2 groups joined by a carbonyl functional group....

 (carbamide), a constituent of urine
Urine
Urine is a typically sterile liquid by-product of the body that is secreted by the kidneys through a process called urination and excreted through the urethra. Cellular metabolism generates numerous by-products, many rich in nitrogen, that require elimination from the bloodstream...

, from the inorganic ammonium cyanate
Cyanate
The cyanate ion is an anion with the chemical formula written as [OCN]− or [NCO]−. In aqueous solution it acts as a base, forming isocyanic acid, HNCO. The cyanate ion is an ambidentate ligand, forming complexes with a metal ion in which either the nitrogen or oxygen atom may be the electron-pair...

 NH4CNO, in what is now called the Wöhler synthesis
Wöhler synthesis
rightThe Wöhler synthesis is the conversion of ammonium cyanate into urea. This chemical reaction was discovered in 1828 by Friedrich Wöhler in an attempt to synthesize ammonium cyanate. It is considered the starting point of modern organic chemistry. Although the Wöhler reaction concerns the...

. Although Wöhler was always cautious about claiming that he had disproved the theory of vital force, this event has often been thought of as a turning point.

In 1856 William Henry Perkin, while trying to manufacture quinine
Quinine
Quinine is a natural white crystalline alkaloid having antipyretic , antimalarial, analgesic , anti-inflammatory properties and a bitter taste. It is a stereoisomer of quinidine which, unlike quinine, is an anti-arrhythmic...

, accidentally manufactured the organic dye
Dye
A dye is a colored substance that has an affinity to the substrate to which it is being applied. The dye is generally applied in an aqueous solution, and requires a mordant to improve the fastness of the dye on the fiber....

 now known as Perkin's mauve. Through its great financial success, this discovery greatly increased interest in organic chemistry.

The crucial breakthrough for organic chemistry was the concept of chemical structure, developed independently and simultaneously by Friedrich August Kekulé and Archibald Scott Couper
Archibald Scott Couper
Archibald Scott Couper was a Scottish chemist who proposed an early theory of chemical structure and bonding...

 in 1858. Both men suggested that tetravalent
Valence (chemistry)
In chemistry, valence, also known as valency or valence number, is a measure of the number of bonds formed by an atom of a given element. "Valence" can be defined as the number of valence bonds...

 carbon atoms could link to each other to form a carbon lattice, and that the detailed patterns of atomic bonding could be discerned by skillful interpretations of appropriate chemical reactions.

The history of organic chemistry continued with the discovery of petroleum
Petroleum
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

 and its separation into fraction
Fraction (chemistry)
A fraction in chemistry is a quantity collected from a sample or batch of a substance in a fractionating separation process. In such a process, a mixture is separated into fractions, which have compositions that vary according to a gradient. A fraction can be defined as a group of chemicals that...

s according to boiling ranges. The conversion of different compound types or individual compounds by various chemical processes created the petroleum chemistry leading to the birth of the petrochemical
Petrochemical
Petrochemicals are chemical products derived from petroleum. Some chemical compounds made from petroleum are also obtained from other fossil fuels, such as coal or natural gas, or renewable sources such as corn or sugar cane....

 industry, which successfully manufactured artificial rubber
Rubber
Natural rubber, also called India rubber or caoutchouc, is an elastomer that was originally derived from latex, a milky colloid produced by some plants. The plants would be ‘tapped’, that is, an incision made into the bark of the tree and the sticky, milk colored latex sap collected and refined...

s, the various organic adhesive
Adhesive
An adhesive, or glue, is a mixture in a liquid or semi-liquid state that adheres or bonds items together. Adhesives may come from either natural or synthetic sources. The types of materials that can be bonded are vast but they are especially useful for bonding thin materials...

s, the property-modifying petroleum additives, and plastics.

The pharmaceutical industry began in the last decade of the 19th century when acetylsalicylic acid (more commonly referred to as aspirin
Aspirin
Aspirin , also known as acetylsalicylic acid , is a salicylate drug, often used as an analgesic to relieve minor aches and pains, as an antipyretic to reduce fever, and as an anti-inflammatory medication. It was discovered by Arthur Eichengrun, a chemist with the German company Bayer...

) manufacture was started in Germany by Bayer
Bayer
Bayer AG is a chemical and pharmaceutical company founded in Barmen , Germany in 1863. It is headquartered in Leverkusen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany and well known for its original brand of aspirin.-History:...

. The first time a drug was systematically improved was with arsphenamine
Arsphenamine
Arsphenamine, also known as Salvarsan and 606, is a drug that was used beginning in the 1910s to treat syphilis and trypanosomiasis...

 (Salvarsan). Numerous derivatives of the dangerously toxic atoxyl
Atoxyl
Arsanilic acid is the organoarsenic compound also called p-aminophenylarsonic acid. This colourless solid was used as a drug in the late 19th and early 20th centuries but is now considered prohibitively toxic. Arsanilic acid is a derivative of phenylarsonic acid with an amine in the 4-position...

 were examined by Paul Ehrlich
Paul Ehrlich
Paul Ehrlich was a German scientist in the fields of hematology, immunology, and chemotherapy, and Nobel laureate. He is noted for curing syphilis and for his research in autoimmunity, calling it "horror autotoxicus"...

 and his group, and the compound with best effectiveness and toxicity characteristics was selected for production.

Although early examples of organic reactions and applications were often serendipitous
Serendipity
Serendipity means a "happy accident" or "pleasant surprise"; specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful without looking for it. The word has been voted as one of the ten English words hardest to translate in June 2004 by a British translation company. However, due to its...

, the latter half of the 19th century witnessed highly systematic studies of organic compounds. Beginning in the 20th century, progress of organic chemistry allowed the synthesis of highly complex molecules via multistep procedures. Concurrently, polymers and enzymes were understood to be large organic molecules, and petroleum was shown to be of biological origin. The process of finding new synthesis routes for a given compound is called total synthesis. Total synthesis
Total synthesis
In organic chemistry, a total synthesis is, in principle, the complete chemical synthesis of complex organic molecules from simpler pieces, usually without the aid of biological processes. In practice, these simpler pieces are commercially available in bulk and semi-bulk quantities, and are often...

 of complex natural compounds started with urea
Urea
Urea or carbamide is an organic compound with the chemical formula CO2. The molecule has two —NH2 groups joined by a carbonyl functional group....

, increased in complexity to glucose
Glucose
Glucose is a simple sugar and an important carbohydrate in biology. Cells use it as the primary source of energy and a metabolic intermediate...

 and terpineol
Terpineol
Terpineol is a naturally occurring monoterpene alcohol that has been isolated from a variety of sources such as cajuput oil, pine oil, and petitgrain oil. There are three isomers, alpha-, beta-, and gamma-terpineol, the last two differing only by the location of the double bond...

, and in 1907, total synthesis was commercialized the first time by Gustaf Komppa
Gustaf Komppa
Gustaf Komppa was a Finnish chemist best known for a world-first in commercializing total synthesis, that of camphor in 1903....

 with camphor
Camphor
Camphor is a waxy, white or transparent solid with a strong, aromatic odor. It is a terpenoid with the chemical formula C10H16O. It is found in wood of the camphor laurel , a large evergreen tree found in Asia and also of Dryobalanops aromatica, a giant of the Bornean forests...

. Pharmaceutical benefits have been substantial, for example cholesterol
Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a complex isoprenoid. Specifically, it is a waxy steroid of fat that is produced in the liver or intestines. It is used to produce hormones and cell membranes and is transported in the blood plasma of all mammals. It is an essential structural component of mammalian cell membranes...

-related compounds have opened ways to synthesis of complex human hormones and their modified derivatives. Since the start of the 20th century, complexity of total syntheses has been increasing, with examples such as lysergic acid
Lysergic acid
Lysergic acid, also known as D-lysergic acid and -lysergic acid, is a precursor for a wide range of ergoline alkaloids that are produced by the ergot fungus and some plants. Amides of lysergic acid, lysergamides, are widely used as pharmaceuticals and as psychedelic drugs...

 and vitamin B12
Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12, vitamin B12 or vitamin B-12, also called cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin with a key role in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system, and for the formation of blood. It is one of the eight B vitamins...

. Today's targets feature tens of stereogenic centers that must be synthesized correctly with asymmetric synthesis.

Biochemistry
Biochemistry
Biochemistry, sometimes called biological chemistry, is the study of chemical processes in living organisms, including, but not limited to, living matter. Biochemistry governs all living organisms and living processes...

, the chemistry of living organisms, their structure and interactions in vitro
In vitro
In vitro refers to studies in experimental biology that are conducted using components of an organism that have been isolated from their usual biological context in order to permit a more detailed or more convenient analysis than can be done with whole organisms. Colloquially, these experiments...

 and inside living systems, has only started in the 20th century, opening up a new chapter of organic chemistry with enormous scope. Biochemistry, like organic chemistry, primarily focuses on compounds containing carbon.

Characterization

Since organic compounds often exist as mixture
Mixture
In chemistry, a mixture is a material system made up by two or more different substances which are mixed together but are not combined chemically...

s, a variety of techniques have also been developed to assess purity, especially important being chromatography
Chromatography
Chromatography is the collective term for a set of laboratory techniques for the separation of mixtures....

 techniques such as HPLC
High-performance liquid chromatography
High-performance liquid chromatography , HPLC, is a chromatographic technique that can separate a mixture of compounds and is used in biochemistry and analytical chemistry to identify, quantify and purify the individual components of the mixture.HPLC typically utilizes different types of stationary...

 and gas chromatography. Traditional methods of separation include distillation
Distillation
Distillation is a method of separating mixtures based on differences in volatilities of components in a boiling liquid mixture. Distillation is a unit operation, or a physical separation process, and not a chemical reaction....

, crystallization
Crystallization
Crystallization is the process of formation of solid crystals precipitating from a solution, melt or more rarely deposited directly from a gas. Crystallization is also a chemical solid–liquid separation technique, in which mass transfer of a solute from the liquid solution to a pure solid...

, and solvent extraction.

Organic compounds were traditionally characterized by a variety of chemical tests, called "wet methods", but such tests have been largely displaced by spectroscopic or other computer-intensive methods of analysis. Listed in approximate order of utility, the chief analytical methods are:
  • Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy
    Nuclear magnetic resonance
    Nuclear magnetic resonance is a physical phenomenon in which magnetic nuclei in a magnetic field absorb and re-emit electromagnetic radiation...

     is the most commonly used technique, often permitting complete assignment of atom connectivity and even stereochemistry using correlation spectroscopy
    Correlation spectroscopy
    Two-dimensional nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy is a set of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy methods which give data plotted in a space defined by two frequency axes rather than one. Types of 2D NMR include correlation spectroscopy , J-spectroscopy, exchange spectroscopy , and...

    . The principal constituent atoms of organic chemistry - hydrogen and carbon - exist naturally with NMR-responsive isotopes, respectively 1H and 13C.
  • Elemental analysis
    Elemental analysis
    Percent Composition is a process where a sample of some material is analyzed for its elemental and sometimes isotopic composition. Elemental analysis can be qualitative , and it can be quantitative...

    : A destructive method used to determine the elemental composition of a molecule. See also mass spectrometry, below.
  • Mass spectrometry
    Mass spectrometry
    Mass spectrometry is an analytical technique that measures the mass-to-charge ratio of charged particles.It is used for determining masses of particles, for determining the elemental composition of a sample or molecule, and for elucidating the chemical structures of molecules, such as peptides and...

     indicates the molecular weight of a compound and, from the fragmentation patterns
    Mass spectrum analysis
    Mass-spectrum analysis is an integral part of mass spectrometry. Organic chemists obtain mass spectra of chemical compounds as part of structure elucidation and the analysis is part of every organic chemistry curriculum.-Basic peaks:...

    , its structure. High resolution mass spectrometry can usually identify the exact formula of a compound and is used in lieu of elemental analysis. In former times, mass spectrometry was restricted to neutral molecules exhibiting some volatility, but advanced ionization techniques allow one to obtain the "mass spec" of virtually any organic compound.
  • Crystallography
    Crystallography
    Crystallography is the experimental science of the arrangement of atoms in solids. The word "crystallography" derives from the Greek words crystallon = cold drop / frozen drop, with its meaning extending to all solids with some degree of transparency, and grapho = write.Before the development of...

     is an unambiguous method for determining molecular geometry
    Molecular geometry
    Molecular geometry or molecular structure is the three-dimensional arrangement of the atoms that constitute a molecule. It determines several properties of a substance including its reactivity, polarity, phase of matter, color, magnetism, and biological activity.- Molecular geometry determination...

    , the proviso being that single crystals of the material must be available and the crystal must be representative of the sample. Highly automated software allows a structure to be determined within hours of obtaining a suitable crystal.


Traditional spectroscopic methods such as infrared spectroscopy
Infrared spectroscopy
Infrared spectroscopy is the spectroscopy that deals with the infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum, that is light with a longer wavelength and lower frequency than visible light. It covers a range of techniques, mostly based on absorption spectroscopy. As with all spectroscopic...

, optical rotation
Optical rotation
Optical rotation is the turning of the plane of linearly polarized light about the direction of motion as the light travels through certain materials. It occurs in solutions of chiral molecules such as sucrose , solids with rotated crystal planes such as quartz, and spin-polarized gases of atoms...

, UV/VIS spectroscopy provide relatively nonspecific structural information but remain in use for specific classes of compounds.

Additional methods are described in the article on analytical chemistry
Analytical chemistry
Analytical chemistry is the study of the separation, identification, and quantification of the chemical components of natural and artificial materials. Qualitative analysis gives an indication of the identity of the chemical species in the sample and quantitative analysis determines the amount of...

.

Properties

Physical properties of organic compounds typically of interest include both quantitative and qualitative features. Quantitative information includes melting point, boiling point, and index of refraction. Qualitative properties include odor, consistency, solubility, and color.

Melting and boiling properties

In contrast to many inorganic materials, organic compounds typically melt and many boil. In earlier times, the melting point (m.p.) and boiling point (b.p.) provided crucial information on the purity and identity of organic compounds. The melting and boiling points correlate with the polarity of the molecules and their molecular weight. Some organic compounds, especially symmetrical ones, sublime, that is they evaporate without melting. A well known example of a sublimable organic compound is para-dichlorobenzene, the odiferous constituent of modern mothballs. Organic compounds are usually not very stable at temperatures above 300 °C, although some exceptions exist.

Solubility

Neutral organic compounds tend to be hydrophobic, that is they are less soluble in water than in organic solvents. Exceptions include organic compounds that contain ionizable groups as well as low molecular weight alcohols, amine
Amine
Amines are organic compounds and functional groups that contain a basic nitrogen atom with a lone pair. Amines are derivatives of ammonia, wherein one or more hydrogen atoms have been replaced by a substituent such as an alkyl or aryl group. Important amines include amino acids, biogenic amines,...

s, and carboxylic acids where hydrogen bonding occurs. Organic compounds tend to dissolve in organic solvent
Solvent
A solvent is a liquid, solid, or gas that dissolves another solid, liquid, or gaseous solute, resulting in a solution that is soluble in a certain volume of solvent at a specified temperature...

s. Solvents can be either pure substances like ether
Diethyl ether
Diethyl ether, also known as ethyl ether, simply ether, or ethoxyethane, is an organic compound in the ether class with the formula . It is a colorless, highly volatile flammable liquid with a characteristic odor...

 or ethyl alcohol
Ethanol
Ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol, pure alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol, is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid. It is a psychoactive drug and one of the oldest recreational drugs. Best known as the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, it is also used in thermometers, as a...

, or mixtures, such as the paraffinic solvents such as the various petroleum ether
Petroleum ether
Petroleum ether, also known as benzine, VM&P Naphtha, Petroleum Naphtha, Naphtha ASTM, Petroleum Spirits, X4 or Ligroin, is a group of various volatile, highly flammable, liquid hydrocarbon mixtures used chiefly as nonpolar solvents...

s and white spirit
White spirit
White spirit [CAS 64475-85-0], also known as Stoddard solvent [CAS 8052-41-3] or mineral spirits, is a paraffin-derived clear, transparent liquid which is a common organic solvent used in painting and decorating. In 1924, an Atlanta dry cleaner named W. J. Stoddard worked with Lloyd E...

s, or the range of pure or mixed aromatic solvents obtained from petroleum or tar fraction
Fraction (chemistry)
A fraction in chemistry is a quantity collected from a sample or batch of a substance in a fractionating separation process. In such a process, a mixture is separated into fractions, which have compositions that vary according to a gradient. A fraction can be defined as a group of chemicals that...

s by physical separation or by chemical conversion. Solubility in the different solvents depends upon the solvent type and on the functional groups if present.

Solid state properties

Various specialized properties of molecular crystals
Molecular solid
Molecular solid is a solid composed of molecules held together by the van der Waals forces. Because these dipole forces are weaker than covalent or ionic bonds, molecular solids are soft and have relatively low melting temperature. Pure molecular solids are electrical insulators but they can be...

 and organic polymers
Polymer
A polymer is a large molecule composed of repeating structural units. These subunits are typically connected by covalent chemical bonds...

 with conjugated system
Conjugated system
In chemistry, a conjugated system is a system of connected p-orbitals with delocalized electrons in compounds with alternating single and multiple bonds, which in general may lower the overall energy of the molecule and increase stability. Lone pairs, radicals or carbenium ions may be part of the...

s are of interest depending on applications, e.g. thermo-mechanical and electro-mechanical such as piezoelectricity
Piezoelectricity
Piezoelectricity is the charge which accumulates in certain solid materials in response to applied mechanical stress. The word piezoelectricity means electricity resulting from pressure...

, electrical conductivity (see conductive polymer
Conductive polymer
Conductive polymers or, more precisely, intrinsically conducting polymers are organic polymers that conduct electricity. Such compounds may have metallic conductivity or can be semiconductors. The biggest advantage of conductive polymers is their processability, mainly by dispersion. Conductive...

s and organic semiconductor
Organic semiconductor
An organic semiconductor is an organic material with semiconductor properties. Single molecules, short chain and organic polymers can be semiconductive. Semiconducting small molecules include the polycyclic aromatic compounds pentacene, anthracene, and rubrene...

s), and electro-optical (e.g. non-linear optics) properties. For historical reasons, such properties are mainly the subjects of the areas of polymer science
Polymer science
Polymer science or macromolecular science is the subfield of materials science concerned with polymers, primarily synthetic polymers such as plastics...

 and materials science
Materials science
Materials science is an interdisciplinary field applying the properties of matter to various areas of science and engineering. This scientific field investigates the relationship between the structure of materials at atomic or molecular scales and their macroscopic properties. It incorporates...

.

Nomenclature

The names of organic compounds are either systematic, following logically from a set of rules, or nonsystematic, following various traditions. Systematic nomenclature
IUPAC nomenclature
A chemical nomenclature is a set of rules to generate systematic names for chemical compounds. The nomenclature used most frequently worldwide is the one created and developed by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry ....

  is stipulated by specifications from IUPAC. Systematic nomenclature starts with the name for a parent structure
Parent structure
In IUPAC nomenclature, a parent structure, parent compound, parent name or simply parent is the denotation for a compound consisting of an unbranched chain of skeletal atoms , or consisting of an unsubstituted monocyclic or polycyclic ring system.Parent structures bearing one or more functional...

 within the molecule of interest. This parent name is then modified by prefixes, suffixes, and numbers to unambiguously convey the structure. Given that millions of organic compounds are known, rigorous use of systematic names can be cumbersome. Thus, IUPAC recommendations are more closely followed for simple compounds, but not complex molecules. To use the systematic naming, one must know the structures and names of the parent structures. Parent structures include unsubstituted hydrocarbons, heterocycles, and monofunctionalized derivatives thereof.

Nonsystematic nomenclature is simpler and unambiguous, at least to organic chemists. Nonsystematic names do not indicate the structure of the compound. Nonsystematic names are common for complex molecules, which includes most natural products. Thus, the informally named lysergic acid diethylamide is systematically named
(6aR,9R)-N,N-diethyl-7-methyl-4,6,6a,7,8,9-hexahydroindolo-[4,3-fg] quinoline-9-carboxamide.

With the increased use of computing, other naming methods have evolved that are intended to be interpreted by machines. Two popular formats are SMILES and
InChI.

Structural drawings

Organic molecules are described more commonly by drawings or structural formula
Structural formula
The structural formula of a chemical compound is a graphical representation of the molecular structure, showing how the atoms are arranged. The chemical bonding within the molecule is also shown, either explicitly or implicitly...

s, combinations of drawings and chemical symbols. The line-angle formula is simple and unambiguous. In this system, the endpoints and intersections of each line represent one carbon, and hydrogen atoms can either be notated explicitly or assumed to be present as implied by tetravalent carbon. The depiction of organic compounds with drawings is greatly simplified by the fact that carbon in almost all organic compounds has four bonds, oxygen two, hydrogen one, and nitrogen three.

Functional groups

The concept of functional groups is central in organic chemistry, both as a means to classify structures and for predicting properties. A functional group is a molecular module, and the reactivity of that functional group is assumed, within limits, to be the same in a variety of molecules. Functional groups can have decisive influence on the chemical and physical properties of organic compounds. Molecules are classified on the basis of their functional groups. Alcohols, for example, all have the subunit C-O-H. All alcohols tend to be somewhat hydrophilic
Hydrophile
A hydrophile, from the Greek "water" and φιλια "love," is a molecule or other molecular entity that is attracted to, and tends to be dissolved by water. A hydrophilic molecule or portion of a molecule is one that has a tendency to interact with or be dissolved by, water and other polar substances...

, usually form esters, and usually can be converted to the corresponding halides. Most functional groups feature heteroatoms (atoms other than C and H). Organic compounds are classified according to functional groups, alcohols, carboxylic acids, amines, etc.

Aliphatic compounds

The aliphatic hydrocarbons are subdivided into three groups of homologous series
Homologous series
In chemistry, a homologous series is a series of compounds with a similar general formula, possessing similar chemical properties due to the presence of the same functional group, and showing a gradation in physical properties as a result of increase in molecular size and mass...

 according to their state of saturation
Saturation (chemistry)
In chemistry, saturation has six different meanings, all based on reaching a maximum capacity...

:
  • paraffins, which are alkanes without any double or triple bond
    Triple bond
    A triple bond in chemistry is a chemical bond between two chemical elements involving six bonding electrons instead of the usual two in a covalent single bond. The most common triple bond, that between two carbon atoms, can be found in alkynes. Other functional groups containing a triple bond are...

    s,
  • olefins or alkenes which contain one or more double bonds, i.e. di-olefins (dienes) or poly-olefins.
  • alkynes, which have one or more triple bonds.

The rest of the group is classed according to the functional groups present. Such compounds can be "straight-chain", branched-chain or cyclic. The degree of branching affects characteristics, such as the octane number or cetane number
Cetane number
Cetane number or CN is a measurement of the combustion quality of diesel fuel during compression ignition. It is a significant expression of diesel fuel quality among a number of other measurements that determine overall diesel fuel quality.- Definition :...

 in petroleum chemistry.

Both saturated (alicyclic) compounds and unsaturated compounds exist as cyclic derivatives. The most stable rings contain five or six carbon atoms, but large rings (macrocycles) and smaller rings are common. The smallest cycloalkane family is the three-membered cyclopropane
Cyclopropane
Cyclopropane is a cycloalkane molecule with the molecular formula C3H6, consisting of three carbon atoms linked to each other to form a ring, with each carbon atom bearing two hydrogen atoms...

 ((CH2)3). Saturated cyclic compounds contain single bonds only, whereas aromatic rings have an alternating (or conjugated) double bond. Cycloalkane
Cycloalkane
Cycloalkanes are types of alkanes that have one or more rings of carbon atoms in the chemical structure of their molecules. Alkanes are types of organic hydrocarbon compounds that have only single chemical bonds in their chemical structure...

s do not contain multiple bonds, whereas the cycloalkene
Cycloalkene
A cycloalkene or cycloolefin is a type of alkene hydrocarbon which contains a closed ring of carbon atoms, but has no aromatic character. Some cycloalkenes, such as cyclobutene and cyclopentene, can be used as monomers to produce polymer chains. Unless the rings are very large, cycloalkenes are...

s and the cycloalkynes do.

Aromatic compounds

Aromatic hydrocarbons contain conjugated
Conjugated system
In chemistry, a conjugated system is a system of connected p-orbitals with delocalized electrons in compounds with alternating single and multiple bonds, which in general may lower the overall energy of the molecule and increase stability. Lone pairs, radicals or carbenium ions may be part of the...

 double bonds. The most important example is benzene
Benzene
Benzene is an organic chemical compound. It is composed of 6 carbon atoms in a ring, with 1 hydrogen atom attached to each carbon atom, with the molecular formula C6H6....

, the structure of which was formulated by Kekulé
Friedrich August Kekulé von Stradonitz
Friedrich August Kekule von Stradonitz was a German organic chemist. From the 1850s until his death, Kekule was one of the most prominent chemists in Europe, especially in theoretical chemistry...

 who first proposed the delocalization
Delocalized electron
In chemistry, delocalized electrons are electrons in a molecule, ion or solid metal that are not associated with a single atom or one covalent bond....

 or resonance
Resonance (chemistry)
In chemistry, resonance or mesomerism is a way of describing delocalized electrons within certain molecules or polyatomic ions where the bonding cannot be expressed by one single Lewis formula...

 principle for explaining its structure. For "conventional" cyclic compounds, aromaticity is conferred by the presence of 4n + 2 delocalized pi electrons, where n is an integer. Particular instability (antiaromaticity
Antiaromaticity
Antiaromatic molecules are cyclic systems containing alternating single and double bonds, where the pi electron energy of antiaromatic compounds is higher than that of its open-chain counterpart. Therefore antiaromatic compounds are unstable and highly reactive; often antiaromatic compounds...

) is conferred by the presence of 4n conjugated pi electrons.

Heterocyclic compounds

The characteristics of the cyclic hydrocarbons are again altered if heteroatoms are present, which can exist as either substituents attached externally to the ring (exocyclic) or as a member of the ring itself (endocyclic). In the case of the latter, the ring is termed a heterocycle. Pyridine
Pyridine
Pyridine is a basic heterocyclic organic compound with the chemical formula C5H5N. It is structurally related to benzene, with one C-H group replaced by a nitrogen atom...

 and furan
Furan
Furan is a heterocyclic organic compound, consisting of a five-membered aromatic ring with four carbon atoms and one oxygen. The class of compounds containing such rings are also referred to as furans....

 are examples of aromatic heterocycles while piperidine
Piperidine
Piperidine is an organic compound with the molecular formula 5NH. This heterocyclic amine consists of a six-membered ring containing five methylene units and one nitrogen atom...

 and tetrahydrofuran
Tetrahydrofuran
Tetrahydrofuran is a colorless, water-miscible organic liquid with low viscosity at standard temperature and pressure. This heterocyclic compound has the chemical formula 4O. As one of the most polar ethers with a wide liquid range, it is a useful solvent. Its main use, however, is as a precursor...

 are the corresponding alicyclic heterocycles. The heteroatom of heterocyclic molecules is generally oxygen, sulfur, or nitrogen, with the latter being particularly common in biochemical systems.

Examples of groups among the heterocyclics are the aniline dyes, the great majority of the compounds discussed in biochemistry such as alkaloids, many compounds related to vitamins, steroids, nucleic acids (e.g. DNA, RNA) and also numerous medicines. Heterocyclics with relatively simple structures are pyrrole (5-membered) and indole (6-membered carbon ring).

Rings can fuse with other rings on an edge to give polycyclic compound
Polycyclic compound
In organic chemistry, a polycyclic compound is a cyclic compound with more than one hydrocarbon loop or ring structures . In general, the term includes all polycyclic aromatic compounds, including the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, the heterocyclic aromatic compounds containing sulfur,...

s. The purine
Purine
A purine is a heterocyclic aromatic organic compound, consisting of a pyrimidine ring fused to an imidazole ring. Purines, including substituted purines and their tautomers, are the most widely distributed kind of nitrogen-containing heterocycle in nature....

 nucleoside bases are notable polycyclic aromatic heterocycles. Rings can also fuse on a "corner" such that one atom (almost always carbon) has two bonds going to one ring and two to another. Such compounds are termed spiro
Spiro compound
A spiro compound is a bicyclic organic compound with rings connected through just one atom. The rings can be different in nature or identical. The connecting atom is also called the spiroatom, most often a quaternary carbon...

 and are important in a number of natural product
Natural product
A natural product is a chemical compound or substance produced by a living organism - found in nature that usually has a pharmacological or biological activity for use in pharmaceutical drug discovery and drug design...

s.

Polymers

One important property of carbon is that it readily forms chain or even networks linked by carbon-carbon bonds. The linking process is called polymerization
Polymerization
In polymer chemistry, polymerization is a process of reacting monomer molecules together in a chemical reaction to form three-dimensional networks or polymer chains...

, and the chains or networks polymers, while the source compound is a monomer
Monomer
A monomer is an atom or a small molecule that may bind chemically to other monomers to form a polymer; the term "monomeric protein" may also be used to describe one of the proteins making up a multiprotein complex...

. Two main groups of polymers exist: those artificially manufactured are referred to as industrial polymers
Plastic
A plastic material is any of a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic solids used in the manufacture of industrial products. Plastics are typically polymers of high molecular mass, and may contain other substances to improve performance and/or reduce production costs...


or synthetic polymers and those naturally occurring as biopolymer
Biopolymer
Biopolymers are polymers produced by living organisms. Since they are polymers, Biopolymers contain monomeric units that are covalently bonded to form larger structures. There are three main classes of biopolymers based on the differing monomeric units used and the structure of the biopolymer formed...

s.

Since the invention of the first artificial polymer, bakelite, the family has quickly grown with the invention of others. Common synthetic organic polymers are polyethylene
Polyethylene
Polyethylene or polythene is the most widely used plastic, with an annual production of approximately 80 million metric tons...

 (polythene), polypropylene
Polypropylene
Polypropylene , also known as polypropene, is a thermoplastic polymer used in a wide variety of applications including packaging, textiles , stationery, plastic parts and reusable containers of various types, laboratory equipment, loudspeakers, automotive components, and polymer banknotes...

, nylon
Nylon
Nylon is a generic designation for a family of synthetic polymers known generically as polyamides, first produced on February 28, 1935, by Wallace Carothers at DuPont's research facility at the DuPont Experimental Station...

, teflon
Polytetrafluoroethylene
Polytetrafluoroethylene is a synthetic fluoropolymer of tetrafluoroethylene that finds numerous applications. PTFE is most well known by the DuPont brand name Teflon....

 (PTFE), polystyrene
Polystyrene
Polystyrene ) also known as Thermocole, abbreviated following ISO Standard PS, is an aromatic polymer made from the monomer styrene, a liquid hydrocarbon that is manufactured from petroleum by the chemical industry...

, polyester
Polyester
Polyester is a category of polymers which contain the ester functional group in their main chain. Although there are many polyesters, the term "polyester" as a specific material most commonly refers to polyethylene terephthalate...

s, polymethylmethacrylate (called perspex and plexiglas), and polyvinylchloride (PVC). Both synthetic and natural rubber
Rubber
Natural rubber, also called India rubber or caoutchouc, is an elastomer that was originally derived from latex, a milky colloid produced by some plants. The plants would be ‘tapped’, that is, an incision made into the bark of the tree and the sticky, milk colored latex sap collected and refined...

 are polymers.

The examples are generic terms, and many varieties of each of these may exist, with their physical characteristics fine tuned for a specific use. Changing the conditions of polymerisation changes the chemical composition of the product by altering chain length
Degree of polymerization
The degree of polymerization, or DP, is usually defined as the number of monomeric units in a macromolecule or polymer or oligomer molecule.For a homopolymer, there is only one type of monomeric unit andthe number-average degree of polymerization is given by...

, or branching
Branching (chemistry)
In polymer chemistry, branching occurs by the replacement of a substituent, e.g., a hydrogen atom, on a monomer subunit, by another covalently bonded chain of that polymer; or, in the case of a graft copolymer, by a chain of another type...

, or the tacticity
Tacticity
Tacticity is the relative stereochemistry of adjacent chiral centers within a macromolecule. The practical significance of tacticity rests on the effects of tacticity on the physical properties of the polymer...

. With a single monomer as a start the product is a homopolymer. Further, secondary component(s) may be added to create a heteropolymer (co-polymer) and the degree of clustering of the different components can also be controlled. Physical characteristics, such as hardness, density
Density
The mass density or density of a material is defined as its mass per unit volume. The symbol most often used for density is ρ . In some cases , density is also defined as its weight per unit volume; although, this quantity is more properly called specific weight...

, mechanical or tensile strength
Tensile strength
Ultimate tensile strength , often shortened to tensile strength or ultimate strength, is the maximum stress that a material can withstand while being stretched or pulled before necking, which is when the specimen's cross-section starts to significantly contract...

, abrasion resistance, heat resistance, transparency, colour, etc. will depend on the final composition.

Biomolecules

Biomolecular chemistry
Biomolecule
A biomolecule is any molecule that is produced by a living organism, including large polymeric molecules such as proteins, polysaccharides, lipids, and nucleic acids as well as small molecules such as primary metabolites, secondary metabolites, and natural products...

 is a major category within organic chemistry which is frequently studied by biochemists. Many complex multi-functional group molecules are important in living organisms. Some are long-chain biopolymers, and these include peptides, DNA
DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

, RNA
RNA
Ribonucleic acid , or RNA, is one of the three major macromolecules that are essential for all known forms of life....

 and the polysaccharides such as starch
Starch
Starch or amylum is a carbohydrate consisting of a large number of glucose units joined together by glycosidic bonds. This polysaccharide is produced by all green plants as an energy store...

es in animals and cellulose
Cellulose
Cellulose is an organic compound with the formula , a polysaccharide consisting of a linear chain of several hundred to over ten thousand β linked D-glucose units....

s in plants. The other main classes are amino acid
Amino acid
Amino acids are molecules containing an amine group, a carboxylic acid group and a side-chain that varies between different amino acids. The key elements of an amino acid are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen...

s (monomer building blocks of peptides and proteins), carbohydrates (which includes the polysaccharides), the nucleic acids (which include DNA and RNA as polymers), and the lipid
Lipid
Lipids constitute a broad group of naturally occurring molecules that include fats, waxes, sterols, fat-soluble vitamins , monoglycerides, diglycerides, triglycerides, phospholipids, and others...

s. In addition, animal biochemistry contains many small molecule intermediates which assist in energy production through the Krebs cycle, and produces isoprene
Isoprene
Isoprene , or 2-methyl-1,3-butadiene, is a common organic compound with the formula CH2=CCH=CH2. Under standard conditions it is a colorless liquid...

, the most common hydrocarbon in animals. Isoprenes in animals form the important steroid
Steroid
A steroid is a type of organic compound that contains a characteristic arrangement of four cycloalkane rings that are joined to each other. Examples of steroids include the dietary fat cholesterol, the sex hormones estradiol and testosterone, and the anti-inflammatory drug dexamethasone.The core...

 structural (cholesterol
Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a complex isoprenoid. Specifically, it is a waxy steroid of fat that is produced in the liver or intestines. It is used to produce hormones and cell membranes and is transported in the blood plasma of all mammals. It is an essential structural component of mammalian cell membranes...

) and steroid hormone compounds; and in plants form terpene
Terpene
Terpenes are a large and diverse class of organic compounds, produced by a variety of plants, particularly conifers, though also by some insects such as termites or swallowtail butterflies, which emit terpenes from their osmeterium. They are often strong smelling and thus may have had a protective...

s, terpenoids, some alkaloids, and a unique set of hydrocarbons called biopolymer polyisoprenoids present in latex
Latex
Latex is the stable dispersion of polymer microparticles in an aqueous medium. Latexes may be natural or synthetic.Latex as found in nature is a milky fluid found in 10% of all flowering plants . It is a complex emulsion consisting of proteins, alkaloids, starches, sugars, oils, tannins, resins,...

 sap, which is the basis for making rubber
Rubber
Natural rubber, also called India rubber or caoutchouc, is an elastomer that was originally derived from latex, a milky colloid produced by some plants. The plants would be ‘tapped’, that is, an incision made into the bark of the tree and the sticky, milk colored latex sap collected and refined...

.

Peptide Synthesis
See also Peptide synthesis
Peptide synthesis
In organic chemistry, peptide synthesis is the production of peptides, which are organic compounds in which multiple amino acids are linked via amide bonds which are also known as peptide bonds...


Oligonucleotide Synthesis
See also Oligonucleotide synthesis
Oligonucleotide synthesis
Oligonucleotide synthesis is the chemical synthesis of relatively short fragments of nucleic acids with defined chemical structure . The technique is extremely useful in current laboratory practice because it provides a rapid and inexpensive access to custom-made oligonucleotides of the desired...


Carbohydrate Synthesis
See also Carbohydrate synthesis
Carbohydrate synthesis
Carbohydrate synthesis is a sub-field of organic chemistry concerned specifically with the generation of natural and unnatural carbohydrate structures...


Small molecules

In pharmacology, an important group of organic compounds is small molecule
Small molecule
In the fields of pharmacology and biochemistry, a small molecule is a low molecular weight organic compound which is by definition not a polymer...

s, also referred to as 'small organic compounds'. In this context, a small molecule is a small organic compound that is biologically active, but is not a polymer
Polymer
A polymer is a large molecule composed of repeating structural units. These subunits are typically connected by covalent chemical bonds...

. In practice, small molecules have a molar mass
Molar mass
Molar mass, symbol M, is a physical property of a given substance , namely its mass per amount of substance. The base SI unit for mass is the kilogram and that for amount of substance is the mole. Thus, the derived unit for molar mass is kg/mol...

 less than approximately 1000 g/mol.

Fullerenes

Fullerene
Fullerene
A fullerene is any molecule composed entirely of carbon, in the form of a hollow sphere, ellipsoid, or tube. Spherical fullerenes are also called buckyballs, and they resemble the balls used in association football. Cylindrical ones are called carbon nanotubes or buckytubes...

s and carbon nanotube
Carbon nanotube
Carbon nanotubes are allotropes of carbon with a cylindrical nanostructure. Nanotubes have been constructed with length-to-diameter ratio of up to 132,000,000:1, significantly larger than for any other material...

s, carbon compounds with spheroidal and tubular structures, have stimulated much research into the related field of materials science
Materials science
Materials science is an interdisciplinary field applying the properties of matter to various areas of science and engineering. This scientific field investigates the relationship between the structure of materials at atomic or molecular scales and their macroscopic properties. It incorporates...

.

Others

Organic compounds containing bonds of carbon to nitrogen, oxygen and the halogens are not normally grouped separately. Others are sometimes put into major groups within organic chemistry and discussed under titles such as organosulfur chemistry, organometallic chemistry
Organometallic chemistry
Organometallic chemistry is the study of chemical compounds containing bonds between carbon and a metal. Since many compounds without such bonds are chemically similar, an alternative may be compounds containing metal-element bonds of a largely covalent character...

, organophosphorus chemistry and organosilicon chemistry
Organosilicon
Organosilicon compounds are organic compounds containing carbon silicon bonds. Organosilicon chemistry is the corresponding science exploring their properties and reactivity.Like carbon, the organically bound silicon is tetravalent and tetrahedral...

.

Organic synthesis

Synthetic organic chemistry is an applied science
Applied science
Applied science is the application of scientific knowledge transferred into a physical environment. Examples include testing a theoretical model through the use of formal science or solving a practical problem through the use of natural science....

 as it borders engineering
Engineering
Engineering is the discipline, art, skill and profession of acquiring and applying scientific, mathematical, economic, social, and practical knowledge, in order to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes that safely realize improvements to the lives of...

, the "design, analysis, and/or construction of works for practical purposes". Organic synthesis of a novel compound is a problem solving task, where a synthesis is designed for a target molecule by selecting optimal reactions from optimal starting materials. Complex compounds can have tens of reaction steps that sequentially build the desired molecule. The synthesis proceeds by utilizing the reactivity of the functional groups in the molecule. For example, a carbonyl
Carbonyl
In organic chemistry, a carbonyl group is a functional group composed of a carbon atom double-bonded to an oxygen atom: C=O. It is common to several classes of organic compounds, as part of many larger functional groups....

 compound can be used as a nucleophile
Nucleophile
A nucleophile is a species that donates an electron-pair to an electrophile to form a chemical bond in a reaction. All molecules or ions with a free pair of electrons can act as nucleophiles. Because nucleophiles donate electrons, they are by definition Lewis bases.Nucleophilic describes the...

 by converting it into an enolate, or as an electrophile
Electrophile
In general electrophiles are positively charged species that are attracted to an electron rich centre. In chemistry, an electrophile is a reagent attracted to electrons that participates in a chemical reaction by accepting an electron pair in order to bond to a nucleophile...

; the combination of the two is called the aldol reaction
Aldol reaction
The aldol reaction is a powerful means of forming carbon–carbon bonds in organic chemistry.Discovered independently by Charles-Adolphe Wurtz and Alexander Porfyrevich Borodin in 1872, the reaction combines two carbonyl compounds to form a new β-hydroxy carbonyl compound...

. Designing practically useful syntheses always requires conducting the actual synthesis in the laboratory. The scientific practice of creating novel synthetic routes for complex molecules is called total synthesis
Total synthesis
In organic chemistry, a total synthesis is, in principle, the complete chemical synthesis of complex organic molecules from simpler pieces, usually without the aid of biological processes. In practice, these simpler pieces are commercially available in bulk and semi-bulk quantities, and are often...

.

There are several strategies to design a synthesis. The modern method of retrosynthesis, developed by E.J. Corey, starts with the target molecule and splices it to pieces according to known reactions. The pieces, or the proposed precursors, receive the same treatment, until available and ideally inexpensive starting materials are reached. Then, the retrosynthesis is written in the opposite direction to give the synthesis. A "synthetic tree" can be constructed, because each compound and also each precursor has multiple syntheses.

Organic reactions

Organic reaction
Organic reaction
Organic reactions are chemical reactions involving organic compounds. The basic organic chemistry reaction types are addition reactions, elimination reactions, substitution reactions, pericyclic reactions, rearrangement reactions, photochemical reactions and redox reactions. In organic synthesis,...

s are chemical reaction
Chemical reaction
A chemical reaction is a process that leads to the transformation of one set of chemical substances to another. Chemical reactions can be either spontaneous, requiring no input of energy, or non-spontaneous, typically following the input of some type of energy, such as heat, light or electricity...

s involving organic compound
Organic compound
An organic compound is any member of a large class of gaseous, liquid, or solid chemical compounds whose molecules contain carbon. For historical reasons discussed below, a few types of carbon-containing compounds such as carbides, carbonates, simple oxides of carbon, and cyanides, as well as the...

s. While pure hydrocarbon
Hydrocarbon
In organic chemistry, a hydrocarbon is an organic compound consisting entirely of hydrogen and carbon. Hydrocarbons from which one hydrogen atom has been removed are functional groups, called hydrocarbyls....

s undergo certain limited classes of reactions, many more reactions which organic compounds undergo are largely determined by functional groups. The general theory of these reactions involves careful analysis of such properties as the electron affinity
Electron affinity
The Electron affinity of an atom or molecule is defined as the amount of energy released when an electron is added to a neutral atom or molecule to form a negative ion....

 of key atoms, bond strength
Bond strength
In chemistry, bond strength is measured between two atoms joined in a chemical bond. It is the degree to which each atom linked to another atom contributes to the valency of this other atom...

s and steric hindrance. These issues can determine the relative stability of short-lived reactive intermediate
Reactive intermediate
In chemistry a reactive intermediate is a short-lived, high energy, highly reactive molecule. When generated in a chemical reaction it will quickly convert into a more stable molecule. Only in exceptional cases can these compounds be isolated and stored, e.g. low temperatures, matrix isolation...

s, which usually directly determine the path of the reaction.

The basic reaction types are: addition reactions, elimination reactions, substitution reactions, pericyclic reactions, rearrangement reactions and redox reactions. An example of a common reaction is a substitution reaction
Substitution reaction
In a substitution reaction, a functional group in a particular chemical compound is replaced by another group. In organic chemistry, the electrophilic and nucleophilic substitution reactions are of prime importance...

 written as:
Nu + C-X → C-Nu + X


where X is some functional group
Functional group
In organic chemistry, functional groups are specific groups of atoms within molecules that are responsible for the characteristic chemical reactions of those molecules. The same functional group will undergo the same or similar chemical reaction regardless of the size of the molecule it is a part of...

 and Nu is a nucleophile
Nucleophile
A nucleophile is a species that donates an electron-pair to an electrophile to form a chemical bond in a reaction. All molecules or ions with a free pair of electrons can act as nucleophiles. Because nucleophiles donate electrons, they are by definition Lewis bases.Nucleophilic describes the...

.

The number of possible organic reactions is basically infinite. However, certain general patterns are observed that can be used to describe many common or useful reactions. Each reaction has a stepwise reaction mechanism that explains how it happens in sequence—although the detailed description of steps is not always clear from a list of reactants alone.

The stepwise course of any given reaction mechanism can be represented using arrow pushing
Arrow pushing
Arrow pushing or electron pushing is a technique used to describe the progression of organic chemistry reaction mechanisms. In using arrow pushing, "curved arrows" or "curly arrows" are superimposed over the structural formulae of reactants in a chemical equation to show the reaction mechanism...

 techniques in which curved arrows are used to track the movement of electrons as starting materials transition through intermediates to final products.

See also

  • Important publications in organic chemistry
  • List of organic reactions
  • Molecular modelling
    Molecular modelling
    Molecular modelling encompasses all theoretical methods and computational techniques used to model or mimic the behaviour of molecules. The techniques are used in the fields of computational chemistry, computational biology and materials science for studying molecular systems ranging from small...


External links

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