What are Simple Organic Compounds in Chemistry? - Types, Groups & Examples Video

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  • 0:04 Organic Compounds
  • 1:16 Types and Groups
  • 2:28 Alkanes, Alkenes, and Alkynes
  • 4:18 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has taught high school and college biology and has a master's degree in cancer biology.

We are going to learn about some of the simple organic compounds that exist in our world. This lesson covers the types, groups and general formulas of simple organic compounds.

Organic Compounds

What are some of the first thoughts that pop into your mind when you hear the word 'organic?' You probably have thoughts of wholesome or pure foods. Now if you were to ask that same question to a chemist, the thoughts would likely be of organic compounds, which are any molecules that are composed of the element carbon. Carbon is the main element in all organic compounds. Not sure what we're talking about yet? Well, let's see if I can help out with that. Ladies, what are your best friends? Diamonds! Diamonds are a pure, crystalline carbon. What did you use on every scantron test you ever took? A pencil! The graphite in pencils is pure carbon as well. I think you get the picture now.

Organic compounds are the basis of the carbon cycle of Earth. The carbon cycle includes various biogeochemical processes that transfer carbon between living and non-living systems. The carbon cycle has existed for billions of years and is crucial to the continuity of life as we know it. That means that carbon is a very important element and organic compounds are very important compounds. But why exactly are they so important? The main reason for the value of carbon is that it can form four bonds at once, allowing it to form complex, flexible molecules.

Types and Groups

Let's discuss the simpler types of organic compounds. Simple organic compounds are usually the chemical byproducts of life. Many of these simple organic compounds react strongly with oxygen, causing them to burn rapidly and at a high temperature. Most are even combustible.

You know more about these organic compounds than you think you do. Any time you let one rip, you know, pass gas, especially the really smelly ones, you're emitting methane, which is a simple organic compound. Every time you put gas in your car, you're filling the tank with highly refined waste from organisms that lived and died hundreds of millions of years ago. Gasoline is a mixture of various organic molecules. The kinds of molecules found in methane and gasoline contain only hydrogen and carbon. Organic compounds that contain only hydrogen and carbon are called hydrocarbons.

There are many different groups of hydrocarbons. The three main groups of hydrocarbons are based on whether the carbon of the compound has single, double, or triple bonds. The names of the hydrocarbon groups are similar and may be easily confused. You may find it helpful to create flashcards with the name of the group on one side and the main details about the group on the other side. Study these often.

Alkanes, Alkenes, and Alkynes

Our first group of hydrocarbons, alkanes, have single covalent bonds between carbon atoms. Covalent bonds are bonds where electrons are shared between bonding atoms. Hydrogen atoms also bond with the carbon atoms, so the general molecular formula of alkanes is CnH2n+2, where n represents the number of carbon atoms. The simplest alkane and, in fact, the simplest organic compound, is methane. Methane contains one carbon atom, so the number of hydrogen atoms must be (2 x 1 + 2 = 4). So methane's chemical formula is CH4.

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