With this lesson, you will learn the definition of inorganic chemistry. You will also learn the types of inorganic compounds, how they react and their applications in several industry sectors.
We hear about organic mostly in terms of food, where it means that whatever you're about to eat was grown without the use of pesticides. But in chemistry, the word organic means you're dealing with carbon compounds. Carbon is an element you might be familiar with. It's an element that is present in all forms of life and is the fourth most abundant element in the universe. Organic chemistry is basically the study of carbon-hydrogen bonds. Inorganic chemistry, on the other hand, is the opposite. It is the study of the formation, synthesis, and properties of compounds that do not contain carbon-hydrogen bonds.
There are around 100,000 known inorganic compounds, while there are around two million known organic compounds. Examples of inorganic compounds include:
Sodium chloride (NaCl): used as table salt
Silicon dioxide (SiO2): used in computer chips and solar cells
Sapphire (Al2O3): a well-known gemstone
Sulfuric acid (H2SO4): a chemical widely used in the production of fertilizers and some household products such as drain cleaners
Common applications of inorganic compounds. A) Table salt. B) Integrated electronic circuits. C) Jewelry. D) Drain cleaners.
Inorganic compounds can be classified as acids, bases, salts, and oxides. Let's talk about them in a little more detail:
Acids are compounds that produce H+ ions when dissolved in water. Examples of acids include sulfuric acid (HSO4), hydrochloric acid (HCl), hydrofluoric acid (HF), ascetic acid or vinegar (HC2H3O2), and citric acid (C6H8O7). Most acids can be dissolved in water and are corrosive, and those that can be ingested have a sour taste. In water, HCl is decomposed in H+ and Cl-
HCl ---- (H+) + (Cl-)
Bases are compounds that produce OH- (hydroxyl ions) when dissolved in water. They are usually found in household products. Some common bases are ammonia (NH3), potassium hydroxide (KOH), calcium hydroxide or caustic lime (Ca2OH), and sodium hydroxide or caustic soda (NaOH). In water, KOH dissociates in K+ and OH- :
KOH ---- (K+) + (OH-)
Salts are compounds that result from the reaction between an acid and a base. They are ionic compounds formed by two oppositely charged ions (atoms that are not electrically neutral because they have lost or gained one or more electrons). For example, table salt or sodium chloride (NaCl) is formed by the bonding an anion (positively charged ion) and a cation (negatively charged ion): Na+ and Cl-.
Some common salts include sodium chloride or table salt (NaCl), calcium chloride (CaCl2), magnesium chloride (MgCl2), and potassium chloride (KCl). Most salts can be dissolved in water to form a solution of the ions. Ions derived from salts like Na+, Mg+2, and K+ are critical for the functioning of the human body. In water, CaCl2 is decomposed in the following way:
CaCl2 ----- (Ca+2) + (Cl-)
Oxides are compounds that contain at least one oxygen atom combined with another element. Oxygen is usually in the form of an anion (O2-). Transition metal oxides such as titanium (III) oxide (Ti2O3) and iron (III) oxide (Fe2O3) have useful magnetic and catalytic properties. Let's go over some examples of reactions.
Examples of Inorganic Chemistry Reactions
The production of inorganic chemicals involves the transformation of compounds and raw materials. Most reactions involving inorganic compounds can be classified as follows:
Combination reactions: two substances react to form a third. For example:
Ba + F2 ----- BaF2
Decomposition reactions: one substance decomposes to form two. For example:
FeS ----- Fe + S
Over 83,000 lessons in all major subjects
Get access risk-free for 30 days,
just create an account.
Single displacement reactions: one element replaces another element in a compound. For example:
Fe + CuSO4 ----- Cu + FeSO4
Double displacement reactions: the anions or cations of two compounds switch places to form two different compounds. For example:
FeS + HCl ----- H2S + FeCl2
Inorganic compounds have a significant impact in the world economy due to their use in important industry processes and products like catalysis, pigmentation, surfactants, medicine, energy, and electronic devices. Inorganic compounds can be used as an 'intermediate' chemical in other industry processes, and they can also be used as additives in the production of consumer products.
This table shows the top five inorganic chemicals produced in the US in 2012 and the industry sector in which each chemical is used (EPA US 2012):
Top Five Inorganic Chemicals Produced in the US in 2012
Production (billion pounds)
Batteries, paper products, water treatment products
Building materials, adhesives
Agriculture, paper production, adhesives
Metal products, building materials, water treatment
Agriculture, plastics, rubber, textiles
Sulfuric acid is the chemical with the highest production in billions of pounds. Moreover, sulfuric acid is also the inorganic chemical that is produced in largest quantities in the world. The production of sulfuric acid is one of the indicators of a country's stage of development due to the multiple industrial processes that require this compound. For example, it is used in the production of ammonium sulfate (a fertilizer), sodium sulfate (used in the production of paper), and aluminum sulfate (used in water treatment). Sulfuric acid can be manufactured from sulfur found in ores. However, sulfur can be extracted also from fossil fuels where it can be found as an impurity.
Inorganic chemistry is the study of the production, reactions, and properties of chemical compounds that do not involve a carbon-hydrogen bond. Inorganic compounds can be classified as acids, bases, salts, and oxides. Reaction between inorganic substances include combination, decomposition, single displacement, and double displacement reactions. Inorganic compounds are important materials used in the production of many goods including household products, paper, fertilizers, building materials, textiles, and electronics.
Did you know… We have over 220 college
courses that prepare you to earn
credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the
first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn
credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.