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Organic Chemistry: Definition, Importance & Topics in Organic Chemistry

Organic chemistry is the study of organic molecules. These are chains or rings of carbon atoms linked together to create various shapes and sizes. This branch of chemistry has many applications in our everyday lives, including pharmaceuticals, food production, electronics manufacturing, and more. The field covers everything from how these complex molecules form to their chemical properties and reactions with other substances. Organic chemistry studies these compounds to determine how they react and what substances can be synthesized from them. The word “organic” simply means “living.” In this article, we will discuss the definition, importance, and topics in organic chemistry!

What is Organic Chemistry?

Organic Chemistry studies chemical compounds with carbon atoms as their basic structural unit and hydrogen and oxygen as the most common functional groups. It can be broken down into sub-disciplines, including alkaloids, carbohydrates, amino acids, and lipids.

Organic Chemistry is a branch of chemistry that studies organic compounds containing carbon atoms bonded to hydrogen and other carbon atoms. Friedrich Wöhler founded the field in 1828 after he successfully synthesized urea from ammonium cyanate. It led to a paradigm shift for chemists at the time who thought organic substances could only be derived from living organisms.

what is organic chemistry

What Are The Importance of Organic Chemistry?

1) Organic chemistry is a vital science, as it deals with the majority of biomolecules that make up all living organisms. It’s also useful in many other fields, such as drug design and synthesis. Many important drugs have been synthesized using organic techniques. They include aspirin, penicillin, and morphine, among others! Another great example would be polypeptides or proteins. These molecules form part of our genetic material (DNA) but can also power muscles by acting like molecular motors when linked into chains known as acting filaments.

2) The importance of organic chemistry is not just limited to living organisms! Many compounds such as metal complexes and transition metals are vital in industrial processes such as water purification.

3) Organic chemists might make up less than 20% of the workforce, but their work underpins many other fields. Without them, there would be no antibiotics or cancer-curing drugs, among thousands if not millions of more applications. It’s unlikely that any future technology could come close to matching what has been achieved by this small group – which highlights how vital they are within the society!

4) Organic chemistry can make a wide variety of chemicals that are important in everyday life. As well as medicines and industrial products, this branch is also crucial in producing plastics, dyes, food additives, etc.

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5) Many plastics used in everyday life contain carbon-carbon bonds, which organic chemists can readily form. Carbon-carbon single bonds are also found within polyunsaturated fatty acids, which form the basis of all cell membranes on Earth! Other compounds that would not exist without these chemists include many food additives such as sweeteners and preservatives.

6) Organic chemistry is vital in the production of renewable energy via photosynthesis. This process uses light to drive water molecules (HOH) into oxygen (O) and hydrogen (H). The two primary sources for this renewable energy would be sugar or carbon dioxide, which organic chemists can produce valuable products. Carbon dioxide naturally occurs as a waste product from industrial processes such as steel smelting, and it’s also produced when we exhale! Alternatively, sugars react with sunlight, forming free radicals that release hydrogen ions. These protons flow through special membranes containing enzymes, splitting H20 into H+ and OH-. The freed electrons go on to reduce CO₂ back down again while the protons flow through a circuit to produce electricity! Sugar and CO² are just two examples of molecules that organic chemists can use. There are countless others, meaning they’re vital in many renewable energy technologies such as solar cells.

Specialties Under Organic Chemistry

Just like all science, there are many branches of Organic Chemistry that can be broken down into smaller specialties. These are areas you can branch off to specialize at any point upon completing your B.Sc. degree programme as listed below;

a) Bioorganic Chemistry: This field is primarily concerned with studying biologically important organic compounds. A good example would be amino acids, which can link together to form proteins – these molecules allow for all processes within our cells and bind them together as tissues.

The most common way is linking carbon atoms from an amine group (combination of a nitrogen atom bonded to two hydrogen atoms) on one molecule, or functional group, with a carboxylate group (comprising carbonyl oxygen double-bonded to a hydroxide ion), via a peptide bond on another functional group. There are many different variations for amino acids to chain up into dozens or even hundreds; however, it depends on what they’re needed for.

b) Chemical Biology: This is a relatively new branch of Organic Chemistry. It entails the design of molecules to study biological processes, such as apoptosis (programmed cell death) or autophagy (recycling of cellular components). A good example would be small molecule drugs that mimic the action of natural signaling chemicals, which can stop cells from multiplying uncontrollably in cancer patients! The most famous drug on this list would probably be thalidomide, used to treat morning sickness until its devastating side effects were revealed.

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c) Bioinorganic Chemistry: Another fairly young field within organic chemistry. This time, we are looking at metal ions that are important in biology. Metals play very different roles depending on what type they are. Calcium ions are used for signaling between neurons in the brain, whereas iron is critical to our ability to breathe.

d) Carbohydrate Chemistry: Carbohydrates form a large group of biomolecules containing carbon atoms, oxygen, and hydrogen. The most common carbohydrate molecule would be glucose, which provides energy for living organisms via glycolysis. Other carbohydrates include monosaccharides (simple sugars), oligosaccharides, or polysaccharides (chains of simple sugar). These larger molecules can serve as cell signals, structural components, storage units for nutrients (like fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K), or even cell adhesion sites!

e) Toxicology: This branch deals with harmful effects compounds have on living organisms, including humans. Some compounds are carcinogenic, teratogenic, and mutagenic.

Going by the above specialties, you can also read through the professional courses for chemists. This will be very helpful for you with keen interest on the subject matter.

Topics in Organic Chemistry

  1. Carbohydrates

As the name suggests, these are molecules containing carbon (C), hydrogen (H), and oxygen (O). They can be split into monosaccharides, which consist of a single sugar molecule. The most common monosaccharide is glucose, which can be obtained from plants in large quantities when they photosynthesize sunlight during the day. It’s vital for providing energy to living organisms, including us humans! Polysaccharides, on the other hand, contain many sugars linked together via glycosidic bonds. Examples include starch, glycogen, and dextran, and all three play vital roles in biology! One important polysaccharide here is glycogen, and it acts as a store of sugar that your cells can use for fuel whenever required. Other examples that aren’t found within living organisms include cellulose – this is what plants use to create their cell walls while also making them strong enough to support growth. It’s made by linking several hundred D-glucopyranose units together using O-glycosidic bonds.

Other carbohydrate molecules include maltose (two glucose bonded together) and lactose (galactose + glucose). They’re both found within milk, while ribose forms part of RNA. Another very similar molecule called deoxyribonucleic acid makes up DNA instead!

  1. Alkaloids
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Alkanoic acids, which contain a carboxylic acid (-COOH) group, can make alkaloid molecules. These include many important compounds such as amino acids and sugars. There are also several examples of simple hydrocarbons found within living organisms, including fatty alcohols (such as cholesterol) and amino acids. Fermenting yeast produces ethanol from glucose via this process too!

  1. Amino Acid

An amino acid is a molecule containing both amine and carboxylic acid groups. Because of this, they can be used to make proteins and many other molecules, and the latter include neurotransmitters, enzymes, and antibodies.

The most common one found within living organisms is glycine, which forms part of proteins that help maintain their structure. It’s also vital for the synthesis of DNA as well as some carbohydrates such as ribose. Other examples include alanine, glutamic acid, and lysine. All three are essential components in both plants and animals! Lysene contains two methyl groups, while glutamine has four instead. These act like handles allowing different parts to be added to proteins. In other words, they’re used as signals for the cell as well as building blocks!

  1. Lipids

Lipids are made up of fatty acids, which contain long hydrocarbon chains with a carboxylic acid group at one end. They’re used to form both phospholipids and glycolipids and play very different roles in biology! For example, the former occurs within cell membranes while the latter plays a role in the immune system.

Lipids also include steroids, which can be used to build cholesterol and other hormones such as testosterone. Another important one is squalene, which forms part of the skin’s natural moisturizing factor, aids with its regeneration, and may even protect against cancer!

Some lipids are beneficial for energy storage too. For example, triglycerides store fat as a form of triacylglycerol. They contain three fatty acid chains bonded to glycerol, and it’s the ‘backbone’ that ensures they remain rigid and soluble within the water! These include carotene (found in carrots), which produces vitamin A, phosphatidylcholine, which forms part of the membranes within cells, and waxes, including cholesterol. These last two are used to protect against water loss from plant leaves.


Organic chemistry is a critical topic that concerns how living things create their materials! It explains what organic molecules are as well as gives examples of many different types of them. It also details how these are formed and what they’re used for in biology!

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