Methyl Group: Structure & Formula

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  • 0:00 What is a Methyl Group?
  • 0:52 Behavior and Properties
  • 2:19 Structure and Formula
  • 2:52 Types of Stand-Alone…
  • 3:26 Importance of Methyl Groups
  • 4:15 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

Although small in size, methyl groups can be found in many organic compound structures. In this lesson, learn about the methyl group in chemistry, including its unique structure and formula.

What Is a Methyl Group?

In chemistry, the methyl group is one tiny guy. But what this diminutive group lacks in size, it more than makes up for in popularity: it's not unusual to find it attached to a wide variety of organic molecules.

A methyl group is a molecule that contains one carbon atom surrounded by three hydrogen atoms; it belongs to an organic family called the alkyl group. The alkyl group is a type of functional group where all the members contain carbon and hydrogen atoms. Hence, it makes sense why a methyl group would belong to this particular functional group. In the following diagram, which we will refer to as diagram 1, you'll find a few of methyl group's brothers and sisters in the alkyl family.

Can you spot the methyl group? Hint: it is shaded in green.

Behavior and Properties

The methyl group is commonly found attached to larger organic compounds. For instance, in the following diagram, which we will call diagram two, you'll see that a methyl group is part of two different organic structures. Because of this attachment, the presence of a methyl group may influence the way an organic compound behaves in a solution or even in our bodies. Before we tackle this concept, you may be wondering about the characteristics of the methyl group, such as its classification as a non-polar covalent bond and ability to make organic compounds hydrophobic.

  • A non-polar bond is a type of covalent bond that describes the way two or more atoms share electrons with one another. Covalent bonds involve atoms that are willing to share electrons with each other to stay bonded. A non-polar covalent bond refers to those atoms that share an equal number of electrons with each other. There is no hogging of electrons when atoms have non-polar covalent bonds.
  • Hydrophobicity refers to an atom's or a molecule's extreme dislike for water. In examining the nomenclature, or name, of this term, we see that the prefix of this word, hydro-, means 'water,' and that the suffix ,phobic-, means 'fear.' In relationship to non-polar bonding, a molecule that is hydrophobic is categorized as non-polar. While these molecules love sharing electrons with each other, when placed in a solution containing water, the process of sharing ceases to exist!

Structure and Formula

The molecular formula for a methyl group is very easy to remember: R-CH3. It can also be written simply as Me. The structure of a methyl group is also quite easy to remember, as shown in diagram 2, where both carbon and hydrogen atoms are present.

Whether it is part of a larger organic structure or standing alone, CH3 is always called a methyl. When examining diagrams of chemical compounds, just remember that a methyl group will always contain three hydrogen atoms bonded to one carbon atom.

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