Organic compounds are chemicals based on carbon. They were given the name "organic" in 1807 by John Jakob Berzelius because these compounds that make life possible, e.g., carbohydrates, fats (lipids), proteins, and nucleic acids, were originally thought to be derived only from living organisms as opposed to those derived from minerals, which are inanimate materials. However, years later it was discovered that urea, a compound excreted by a living organism, could be made in the laboratory by heating a mineral, ammonium cyanate. Today, over 20 million organic compounds have been synthesized in the laboratory from components of fossil fuels such as petroleum distillates and natural gas.

Organic compounds can exist in the gaseous, liquid, or solid states. Unlike most other elements that form compounds by giving up or accepting electrons, carbon forms compounds by sharing electrons with other carbon atoms as well as with a wide variety of other elements, most notably hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen. This sharing of electrons results in the formation of a strong chemical bond called a covalent bond. Thus, organic chemistry is the study of how organic compounds react, i.e., what happens when a covalent bond with carbon forms or breaks.

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Hydrocarbons are organic compounds made up of carbon and hydrogen atoms which have low reactivity and include alkanes, alkenes, alkynes, and cyclic compounds. 

Heterocyclic Compounds

Heterocyclic compounds are cyclic compounds which contain atoms from at least two different elements in the ring, and include nitrogen, oxygen, sulfur, and mixed heterocycles.

Reagents for Organic Synthesis

These are substances, usually inorganic compounds or small organic molecules, used in the synthesis of organic compounds.

Halogen-containing Compounds

Organohalides are organic compounds containing fluorine, chlorine, bromine, and iodine.

Nitrogen-containing Compounds

Nitrogen-containing compounds include, among others, amines and derivatives, nitriles, azides, and hydrazines.

Oxygen-containing Compounds

Oxygen-containing compounds include alcohols, aldehydes, ketones, ethers, and carboxylic acids and derivatives.

Phosphorus-containing Compounds

Phosphorus-containing compounds include esters of organophosphorus acids, phosphonic esters, phosphines, and phosphites.

Sulfur-containing Compounds

Sulfur-containing compounds include thiols, thioethers, thioesters, thioureas, sulfonamides, and sulfoxides.


Organic polymers include polysaccharides, polypeptides, polynucleotides, and synthetic materials such as the common plastics, e.g., polyethylene, polyvinylchloride, and polystyrene.

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Organic Chemistry Resources

Stay up to date with the latest developments in organic synthesis. Browse our collection featuring articles, videos, and posters to help you keep up with the industry trends that matter to your research. Visit our pages on categories of organic reactions for details on the history, applications, and mechanisms of key named reactions.

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Organic Photovoltaics

Photovoltaics are devices that convert light into electrical energy. Organic photovoltaics (OPV) are solar cells that use organic semiconductors, i.e. conductive organic polymers or small organic molecules, for light absorption and charge transport to produce electricity from sunlight. Learn how this new innovative technology brings a new twist to solar cell research.

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