We explain what organic compounds are, what their composition and classification are like. Also, its characteristics and examples.

What are organic compounds?

Organic compounds are understood to be those substances made up of various elements , in which their main structure is based on carbon and hydrogen , although they may also have other elements associated with the chemistry of life (biochemistry) and play a primary role such as constituents.

The molecules and organic compounds occur spontaneously in nature , but can also be synthesized in a laboratory.

The distinction between organic and inorganic compounds is complex and has been the subject of many controversies among the specialized community. Even so, an obvious apparent point of organic nature is the predominance of carbon atoms bonded with other carbon atoms and with hydrogens.

However, not all molecules that contain carbon and hydrogen are, in fact, organic . Rather, this differentiation lies in its proximity to biochemistry, that is, the chemistry of known life .

Organic compounds can contain a wide variety of elements , but carbon (C) and hydrogen (H) predominate , as well as oxygen (O), nitrogen (N), sulfur (S), phosphorus (P), boron (B ) and halogens . The presence of these elements does not guarantee that a compound is organic, but there are no organic compounds that lack carbon and hydrogen.

Characteristics of organic compounds

Characteristics of organic compounds

The most characteristic physical and chemical properties of organic compounds are: combustibility, covalence, isomerism, solubility, and polymerization.

  • Combustibility . One of the main characteristics of organic compounds is their ability to burn, that is, their flammable nature. This capacity, derived from its high presence of carbon, is used by living beings to obtain biochemical energy (ATP). Man also uses the fossils of ancient living beings, in which this potential fuel is at its best. This is how oil , coal or natural gas are used for various energy production tasks .
  • Covalence . Organic compounds are covalent in nature, that is, non-ionic (they respond poorly to electrical conduction and solubility in polar solvents). This is because most of their atomic bonds are covalent (they share electrons between atoms) and do not bond through electrostatic attraction, as in the case of metallic ions with non-metallic ions to form ionic compounds.
  • Solubility . One of the principles of chemistry states that substances dissolve into a similar substance (of similar polarity). Hence, some organic compounds are soluble in water , the most polar, because water is polar. On the other hand, depending on the similarity of their polarities, other organic compounds can be soluble in alcohols, ethers or solvents made with substances of a similar nature.
  • Polymerization . The polymerization process is unique to organic compounds and results in a high molecular weight macromolecule (polymer). It is carried out using smaller molecules called monomers, which are linked by certain chemical synthesis processes to form long chains. The plastic , for example, is a polymer which has proved to be the material flexible and resistant organic industrial uses incalculable. Polymerization is one example of the many applications that knowledge of organic chemistry has.
  • Isomerism . Many organic compounds present isomerism, that is, the ability to have identical formulas in the number and type of elements involved, but organized in a different way, which translates into a totally different final compound.

Origin of organic compounds

Origin of organic compounds

Organic molecules can come from natural or artificial sources:

  • Natural . They are synthesized by living beings, although they can also occur as a result of natural processes in which no living being intervenes (such as hydrocarbons from oil).
  • Artificial . They are manufactured from artificial processes in a laboratory, where organic compounds that do not even exist in nature are obtained.

Types of organic compounds

There are several types of organic compounds:

  • Aliphatic . They are made up of carbon and hydrogen atoms. They can be linear, branched or cyclic, but never aromatic.
  • Aromatics . Also called arenes, it is the broadest class, initially thought for derivatives of benzene and mineral tar. They are characterized by having a greater molecular stability product of single and double bonds (between carbon atoms) that alternate in their structure.
  • Heterocyclic . They are compounds of a cyclic (non-linear) nature whose structure has at least one carbon atom replaced by one atom of another element.
  • Organometallic . They are organic compounds that are attached to metal atoms through covalent bonds . Some chemists consider them a group apart from organic and inorganic.
  • Polymers . They are organic macromolecules of high molecular mass, which are kept together forming long chains and giving rise to more complex substances such as proteins or DNA.

Examples of organic compounds

Examples of organic compounds

Examples of organic compounds are:

  • Protein
  • Carbohydrates
  • Hydrocarbons (gases such as methane and propane)
  • Petroleum
  • Nucleic acids
  • Lipids
  • Benzene
  • Soaps
  • Organic colorants
  • Natural gas
  • Alcohols
  • Ketones
  • Esters
  • Amino acids

The above content published at Collaborative Research Group is for informational and educational purposes only and has been developed by referring reliable sources and recommendations from experts. We do not have any contact with official entities nor do we intend to replace the information that they emit.


Abubakr Conner brings a diverse skill set to our team, and covers everything from analysis to the culture of food and drink. He Believes: "Education is the most powerful weapon that exists to change the world." .

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