What are Organic compounds?

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Organic compounds are complex compounds containing the element carbon and can exist in solid, liquid and gaseous forms. Carbon as an element has an astonishing characteristic to form strong chain like bonds with itself as well as other important elements like hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen which in turn form bonds to transform themselves into related group of compounds like hydrocarbons (C-H bonds) and the aldehydes (C-O bonds) etc. While there is still no clear definition for organic compounds, it can be approximately understood as any compound containing carbon.


What is Carbon molecule?

Carbon has a valency 4 which means it can at the maximum form 4 bonds. While a C-C (carbon-carbon) bonding is considered the strongest bond, Carbon can also easily bond with oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen thereby giving them different molecular structure resulting in unique physical and chemical properties. It is this special valency of carbon which makes it form all the unique organic compounds around us and in us as well.


Organic compounds derive their name from nature. This is because initially it was believed that such compounds were obtained from plants and animals because they contained the basic constituents namely lipids, proteins and carbohydrates. This is why the name Organic was tagged to these compounds and this was essentially what distinguished them from Inorganic compounds too. While carbohydrates were essentially hydrates of carbon, proteins and lipids consisted of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. Inorganic compounds on the other hand were obtained from non-living substances found on Earth. However, the modern day Chemistry has made it possible to create Organic compounds in laboratories and so this difference holds no good anymore.               


How are organic compounds named?

With the invent of numerous organic compounds, the main challenge was naming them. The need of the hour was to develop unique names for each compound which was as unique as their molecular structure. To begin with common compounds were given random names which did not rest on any principles or rules. For example: Methane, Butane, Acetone, Ethyl Alcohol etc. 

What is IUPAC?

Later a rational and systematic nomenclature rule known as the IUPACnomenclature came into practice to reduce problems caused by such arbitrary naming. IUPAC means International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.  The IUPAC system was developed in such a way that one could easily write the nomenclature if the molecular structure was given or the molecular structure could be deciphered on reading the nomenclature. Such a transparency was possible only because naming a compound was arrived after considering three factors viz. the type of bonding amongst carbon atoms in the compound, the functional groups present in the compound and other functional groups or elements present in the compound. Such simple rules were easy to understand and follow and hence today we find clear names for each organic compound, no matter how complicated its molecular structure might be.

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