Chemical Properties of Organic Compounds

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  • 0:02 What Is a Chemical Property?
  • 1:28 Chemical Properties
  • 5:18 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Danielle Reid

Danielle has taught middle school science and has a doctorate degree in Environmental Health

What do combustion, halogenation, and the addition reaction have in common? They are all examples of chemical properties of organic compounds. Continue reading to learn about the chemical properties of organic compounds, identifying the most common ones.

What Is a Chemical Property?

Carbon dioxide is a well-known organic compound. We exhale it as our body converts inhaled air into usable oxygen. In our cars, carbon dioxide is released during a combustion process. In addition to coming from a variety of sources, did you know that this compound (and all others) has unique characteristics or qualities? We can refer to this as a property. Properties help us identify one compound (or substance) from another.

In science, there are two different types of properties: physical and chemical. Physical properties are the physical characteristics of a substance. They are observable qualities such as odor and smell.

A chemical property is the quality or behavior of a chemical that is observed during and after a chemical change. Keep in mind that this chemical change means the identity of a compound has changed. It is estimated that more than 10 million organic compounds exist. With so many organic compounds present, we can use their chemical properties (and other qualities) to classify them into functional groups.

A functional group is created by classifying organic compounds according to their structure and similar chemical and physical properties. Here are examples of three common functional groups. Keep in mind that a wide variety of chemical properties and functional groups exist. We will focus on select properties for these three commonly used functional groups.

functional group

Chemical Properties of Three Functional Groups


Commonly referred to as hydrocarbons, alkanes only contain single bonds linking each carbon and hydrogen atom together. In general, alkanes are reactive with other atoms and molecules. One chemical property of an alkane molecule is its ability to be combustible.

When you think of the word combustion, what first comes to mind? Maybe something that burns or explodes? Well, organic compounds can react with oxygen and release heat in the form of energy. This behavior is a type of chemical property called the heat of combustion. One major source of heat energy that we use comes from the combustion of alkanes.

Propane is an alkane commonly used to heat items such as our gas stoves and hot water tanks. When propane reacts with oxygen under certain conditions, the result is the formation of carbon dioxide, water, and heat. If you look at a chemical data sheet, you will see that propane's chemical property for the heat of combustion is 2220 kJ/mol. This number tells you that for every mole of gas burning, 2220 kJ of heat will be released in the form of energy. Mole is a type of scientific unit that helps us measure large volumes of atoms and/or molecules.

A second chemical property of alkanes is halogenation. Halogenation is a chemical reaction used to add a halogen to a compound. Halogens consist of five elements that are chemically related to one another: fluorine, chlorine, bromine, iodine, and astatine.

If we zap ultraviolet light or heat on an alkane molecule in the presence of a halogen, their interaction will cause one or more of the alkane's hydrogen atoms to be replaced with a halogen. By changing the chemical identity of an alkane when adding a halogen, we can classify this reaction as a type of chemical property. Shown is an example using methane and chlorine to form chloromethane.



Alkenes contain double, or two, bonds linking each carbon and hydrogen atom together. When compared to alkanes, these compounds tend to be much more reactive with other substances. Thus, alkenes are very combustible. That is, they are very flammable and can burn quite easily in the air.

Another chemical property of the alkene group is their ability to readily participate in addition reactions. As the name implies, addition reactions involve adding an atom to an alkene functional group when its double bond is broken. This property is commonly observed when alkenes react with water and halogen.

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