What Are Inorganic Compounds? - Definition, Characteristics & Examples

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  • 0:00 What Are Inorganic Compounds?
  • 1:05 Characteristics
  • 2:40 Applications and Examples
  • 4:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Marauo Davis

Marauo has taught both chemistry and mathematics in the high school and college setting and has a Ph.D. degree in chemistry.

In this lesson, we'll learn what makes a compound inorganic, discuss some typical characteristics of inorganic compounds, and provide several examples from everyday life.

What Are Inorganic Compounds?

Simply put, an inorganic compound is the opposite of an organic compound. In order to better understand how inorganic compounds are defined, it helps to know what makes other compounds organic in the first place. An inorganic compound can be considered as a compound that does not contain a carbon-to-hydrogen bond, also called a C-H bond. Moreover, inorganic compounds tend to be minerals or geologically-based compounds that do not contain carbon-to-hydrogen bonds. Not all, but most inorganic compounds contain a metal. That said, there are countless compounds that fall under the realm of inorganic. In fact, the majority of all compounds in this universe are inorganic in nature. For this reason, inorganic compounds have an overwhelming amount of applications and practical uses in the real world. Since most of the compounds in this world are inorganic, these compounds can take on a host of forms and possess many different characteristics.

Characteristics

Since many inorganic compounds contain some type of metal (alkali, alkaline, transition, etc.), they tend to be able to conduct electricity. For example, while in the solid state, inorganic compounds are poor conductors of electricity. However, in the liquid phase, inorganic compounds are highly conductive. In this phase, inorganic compounds' electrons are able to move very freely, and this movement of electrons is noted as electricity.

Due to ionic bonding typically found in inorganic compounds, they are held together very rigidly and possess extremely high melting and boiling points. Another distinct characteristic of inorganic compounds is their color. Transition metal inorganic compounds, even sitting on a bench-top, are usually highly colored, and this is, again, due to the configuration of the 'd-block' electrons. The bright and beautiful colors that one sees when fireworks explode is due to the inorganic metal (usually an alkali or alkaline one) present in the compound. Because inorganic compounds display a unique color when burned, this can be used as a 'marker' to identify the metal involved. Also, inorganic compounds are typically highly soluble in water. That is to say, they can 'disappear' when placed into water since they will simply dissolve. Yet another revealing characteristic of inorganic compounds is their ability to form crystals. The nature of the bonding found in inorganic compounds lend them to be able to grow crystals in saturated solutions.

Applications and Examples

Think now about one of the most abundant molecules in the entire world. This particular molecule takes up two-thirds of the planet and makes up 70% of the human body. Can you guess what this molecule is? If you guessed water, then you're correct! This molecule is an inorganic compound! Due to the uniqueness of inorganic compounds, they have many uses and applications in the real world. Most of the foods that we consume on a daily basis have been treated with some pesticide during the farming process, and this pesticide is another example of an inorganic compound.

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