Anomers: Definition & Example

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  • 0:00 Introduction to Isomers
  • 1:36 Anomers
  • 2:23 Carbohydrate Examples
  • 3:37 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Erhart

Sarah has taught college physical, organic, and general chemistry and high school biology. She has a master's degree in chemistry.

The different structures with the same building blocks are called isomers. In this lesson, you will learn about a very special class of isomers, anomers. Then you'll be able to test your new knowledge with a quiz!

Introduction to Isomers

Remember when you used to play with LEGOs® and could make many structures out of the same pieces? Imagine that you have three LEGO blocks: a red, a yellow, and a blue. You could make a tower or you could make a sort of flat bridge structure. Although you use the exact same three pieces, you would have to connect them in different ways. In chemistry, we have very similar structures, but we refer to them as structural isomers, also referred to as constitutional isomers. These compounds have the same molecular formula and the same atoms for building, but they are different structures. Now let's imagine that we decide to make a fan from the same three blocks, like in the image you're looking at now.

Figure 1 When the three blocks are connected in a different order, they become unique structures.
Block example

We could make two different fans, and no matter how we rotate the fan, the two fans will never match. We would have to break the connection between the blocks to make two identical fans. Even though the structures are identical, these two fans are still unique. When two structures differ only in orientation or space, like these fans, they are referred to as stereoisomers. Just like the block example, this can occur in molecules. This next image distinguishes these and gives some molecular examples. In chemistry, the atom that is at the center is referred to as a stereocenter.

Figure 2 Isomers can be divided into categories
Isomer examples

Molecules, of course, often have a lot more than three connections. As a result, a molecule can have multiple stereocenters and many stereoisomers.

Anomers

Anomers are a unique type of stereoisomer, and are used when talking about carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are a very special type of organic molecule that are necessary for life, as they provide energy to almost all living organisms. You probably know the term as being associated with breads and grains, but they're present in many different foods we eat. Most carbohydrates can exist as a straight chain molecule or as a cyclic compound. The process of cyclization occurs at the carbonyl group, a C double bonded to an O. Before cyclization, this carbon is not a stereocenter. After cyclization, it is. This carbon is known as the anomeric carbon, and the two possible cyclic structure are anomers.

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