Organic Chemical Reactions: Redox, Esterification & Fermentation

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  • 0:03 Organic Connections
  • 0:37 Redox
  • 3:48 Esterification
  • 5:27 Fermentation
  • 6:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Julie Zundel

Julie has taught high school Zoology, Biology, Physical Science and Chem Tech. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Education.

There are many different types of reactions that occur in organic chemistry. This lesson will highlight three reactions, explaining which organic molecules are the reactants and which are the products, as well as what occurs during the reaction.

Organic Connections

Welcome back to Organic Connections, a reality show where organic molecules entertain us with various chemical reactions. Tonight you're in for a real treat. We have several special guests who will entertain you with a fire, a transformation and even a cooking segment!

But before we get started, let's fill you in on what you missed last episode:

  • Reactants are the substances that are about to undergo a chemical reaction
  • Products are the results from the chemical reaction
  • Organic refers to molecules that contain carbon (and lots of hydrogen, too)


I'd like to welcome our first guests to the show, both of which are ready to show us why they are experts at playing with fire. Welcome our reactants: methane and oxygen!

Fire Show
image of fire burning

A quick side note before we begin. This fire show can be classified as a redox reaction, where a reduction and oxidation occur. A reduction is when an atom gains electrons, and an oxidation is when an atom loses electrons. But more on all of that later because it looks like methane is about to start!

Strike a match and methane and oxygen create a fire! Amazing! Wow! I can feel the heat!

And now, who are our products? When methane and oxygen undergo a combustion reaction, or a reaction where something burns, the products are carbon dioxide and water.

Let's take a moment to review what just happened. Based on what I told you before, we know some atoms lost electrons, or were oxidized, and some gained electrons, or were reduced. Before I was a game show host, I spent a lot of time studying chemistry, and I used to remember it this way: LEO, which stands for losing electrons oxidation. You see how I took the first letter of each word to make LEO? Pretty clever, huh? And there's another one. Since Leo is a lion, he says GER, which stands for gaining electrons reduction.

In organic reactions, it's usually hard to know who gained or lost electrons, so I have a hint for you. When a carbon atom loses a bond with a hydrogen atom and then bonds with a different type of atom, chances are that carbon has been oxidized. Let's look and see if we can find that in this reaction. Look at the carbon in methane:

chemical structure of methane

It's bonded to four hydrogen atoms.

And now let's look at the carbon in our products:

Redox Products
redox reactants

It looks like the only carbon we have is the one in carbon dioxide, or O=C=O. It looks like the carbon in methane lost its bond to hydrogen (actually a few bonds) and now is bonded to a different atom (in this case, oxygen). So, based on that hint I gave you, it looks like carbon was oxidized.

But what about the reduction? Here's your hint for a reduction: the molecule that ends up getting a hydrogen bond is the molecule that was reduced. Let's look at our reactants to see where the hydrogens are located. It looks like oxygen doesn't have any hydrogen atoms and the carbon in methane has four.

Now, let's look at the products to see if anyone gained hydrogens. Our products are carbon dioxide, O=C=O, and water, H2O. It looks like oxygen is now bonded to two hydrogen atoms, so oxygen was reduced, or gained some electrons.

Wow! Thank you to methane and oxygen for that beautiful redox reaction! That was flame-tastic!


And now it's time for our transformation segment. Let's welcome our reactants to the stage. First, I'd like to introduce handsome methanol, which is a type of alcohol.

You'll notice he has that lovely hydroxyl group, or oxygen bonded to a hydrogen, which makes him an alcohol:

chemical structure of methanol

Next, I'd like to introduce you to the fabulous formic acid, which is a type of carboxylic acid:

Formic Acid
chemical structure of formic acid

We can tell she's a carboxylic acid because she has the carboxyl group attached - just wonderful!

Now these two plan on transforming into an ester through a chemical reaction. This reaction is called an esterification, and it's where an alcohol combines with carboxylic acid to form an ester and water. Remember, in this reaction, the alcohol is methanol and the carboxylic acid is formic acid.

Methyl Formate
chemical structure of methyl formate

Okay, let's get going! Look at this: it looks like methanol and formic acid are combining together! And who's left over? Water! So, they combined by removing water. Very nice!

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