What is Ketone? - Definition, Structure, Formation & Formula

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  • 0:01 Background of Ketone
  • 1:31 Structure & Formula
  • 1:56 Environmental Uses
  • 3:00 Ketone Formation
  • 5:09 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

This lesson will introduce you to the functional group ketone, explaining its structure and use in the environment, how it is synthesized and the molecular formula.

Background of Ketone

Did you know that our friend aldehyde has a very close relative named ketone? By definition, a ketone is an organic compound that contains a carbonyl functional group. So you may be wondering if aldehydes and ketones are relatives, what makes them different? Well, I am glad you asked because all you have to remember is this little guy: hydrogen. While aldehyde contains a hydrogen atom connected to its carbonyl group, ketone does not have a hydrogen atom attached.

There are a few ways to know you are encountering a ketone. The first is by looking at the ending of the chemical word. If the suffix ending of the chemical name is '-one,' then you can be sure there is a ketone present in that compound. Want to know another way to tell if a ketone is lurking around the corner? By its physical property. Ketones have high boiling points and love water (high water solubility).

Let's dig a little deeper with the physical property of a ketone. The oxygen in a ketone absolutely loves to take all the electrons it can get its hands on. But, by being an electron-hogger, oxygen's refusal to share creates a sticky situation where some atoms on the ketone have more or less charge than others. In chemistry, an electron-hogging atom is referred to as being electronegative. An electronegative atom is more attractive to other compounds. This attractiveness, called polarity, is what contributes to ketones' physical properties.

Structure & Formula

Ketones have a very distinct look to them; you can't miss it if you see them. As shown in Diagram 1, there are two R groups attached to the carbonyl group (C=O). Those R groups can be any type of compound that contains a carbon molecule. An example of how the R group determines ketone type is illustrated in this diagram here. The molecular formula is written as RCOR.

Diagram 1: Molecular structure of a ketone
Ketone structure

Environmental Uses

You may be surprised, but ketones are widely found in nature. Remember what we discussed earlier regarding nomenclature? It makes sense that several hormones circulating in our body are ketones. Think about our hormone friend testosterone or its distant relative progesterone. They both contain ketones. Test your knowledge by seeing if you can identify where the ketone group is located in the hormonal structure as shown in these two diagrams that you've been looking at.

Molecular structure of the hormone testosterone

Molecular structure of the hormone progesterone

Besides being located in the human body, ketones are naturally found in plants and widely used in industry. In industry, ketones are found in products ranging from solvents in paints to nylon fabric. Additionally, there are two familiar places where a ketone is found: (1) in that minty piece of gum containing spearmint and (2) that handy bottle of nail polish remover. Ketones are contained in the molecular structure for both spearmint oil (formal name: carvone) and nail polish remover (formal name: acetone). This is illustrated in these diagrams on your screen.

Spearmint oil molecular structure (carvone)

Nail polish remover molecular structure (acetone)

Ketone Formation

So you have decided you want to make a ketone? Well before you put on those goggles and get to work, keep in mind: (1) what molecules are interacting with each other and (2) what machinery (i.e solutions, heat, etc) is required to complete the reaction. For a ketone, there are a number of reactions that can be used for synthesis. Reactions can be a Friedel-Crafts acylation where the starting compound involves the use of an aromatic group and acyl chloride, an alkyne hydration reaction where the starting compound is an alkyne compound, or host of other reactions.

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