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What is organic chemistry?

Organic chemistry is the branch of chemistry that deals with organic molecules . An organic molecule is one which contains carbon , and these molecules can range in size from simple molecules to complex structures containing thousands of atoms! Although carbon is present in all organic compounds, other elements such as hydrogen (H), oxygen (O), nitrogen (N), sulfur (S) and phosphorus (P) are also common in these molecules.

Until the early nineteenth century, chemists had managed to make many simple compounds in the laboratory, but were still unable to produce the complex molecules that they found in living organisms. It was around this time that a Swedish chemist called Jons Jakob Berzelius suggested that compounds found only in living organisms (the organic compounds) should be grouped separately from those found in the non-living world (the inorganic compounds). He also suggested that the laws that governed how organic compounds formed, were different from those for inorganic compounds. From this, the idea developed that there was a 'vital force' in organic compounds. In other words, scientists believed that organic compounds would not follow the normal physical and chemical laws that applied to other inorganic compounds because the very 'force of life' made them different.

This idea of a mystical 'vital force' in organic compounds was weakened when scientists began to manufacture organic compounds in the laboratory from non-living materials. One of the first to do this was Friedrich Wohler in 1828, who successfully prepared urea, an organic compound in the urine of animals which, until that point, had only been found in animals. A few years later a student of Wohler's, Hermann Kolbe , made the organic compound acetic acid from inorganic compounds. By this stage it was acknowledged that organic compounds are governed by exactly the same laws that apply to inorganic compounds. The properties of organic compounds are not due to a 'vital force' but to the unique properties of the carbon atom itself.

Organic compounds are very important in daily life. They make up a big part of our own bodies, they are in the food we eat and in the clothes we wear. Organic compounds are also used to make products such as medicines, plastics, washing powders, dyes, along with a list of other items.

Sources of carbon

The main source of the carbon in organic compounds is carbon dioxide in the air. Plants use sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into organic compounds through the process of photosynthesis . Plants are therefore able to make their own organic compounds through photosynthesis, while animals feed on plants or plant products so that they gain the organic compounds that they need to survive.

Another important source of carbon is fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum and natural gas. This is because fossil fuels are themselves formed from the decaying remains of dead organisms (refer to Grade 11 for more information on fossil fuels).

Unique properties of carbon

Carbon has a number of unique properties which influence how it behaves and how it bonds with other atoms:

Questions & Answers

How many industrial processes are there?
Sheron Reply
A homologous group is a group with the same amount of electrons in the outermost shell.
Duncan Reply
What are hydrocarbons
Lindiwe Reply
Its a compound of hydrogen and carbon atoms
do hydrocarbons get unsaturated?
Mandi Reply
they are saturated
what is monomer
Vuyo Reply
which essays are expected in march exams
Qiniso Reply
what do you look at when you want to successfully compare the boiling points of two|three organic molecules
FIN Reply
1-check the homologous group 2-number of carbons or chain length n their intermolecular forces between the bonds
why are alkanes none as primary
Babulele Reply
meant to say known as primary alchols
because there is only 1 OH attached to carbon and carbon
intermoleculer forces
Bwn Reply
what is meaning of le chateliers princeple
Asanda Reply
what's an organic molecule
Samkelo Reply
Is a molecules containing carbon atoms
It is necessary to put a hyphen between names?
Katlego Reply
Thank you
ok thanks
Ok.. I thought we were only allowed to put it between word and a number
what is a carboxylic acid
machawe Reply
is the COOH group
yeah the carbonyl and hydroxyl group
Light with wavelength of 160nm is shone onto a metal plate with a work function of 8,5×10^-19J Determine 1.thr frequency of the light 2.the threhold frequency of the metal 3.Kenetic energy of the released electrons
Desire Reply
An 800 kg car travelling at 15 m.s down a 30° hill needs to stop within 100 m to avoid an accident. using energy calculations only determine the magnitude of the average force that must be applied to the brakes over the 100m.assume that the surface is frictionless
Mihlali Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Siyavula textbooks: grade 12 physical science. OpenStax CNX. Aug 03, 2011 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11244/1.2
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