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Chemistry LibreTexts

2.9: Some Simple Organic Compounds

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  • Learning Objectives

    • To be familiar with the classes of basic organic chemistry compounds

    Approximately one-third of the compounds produced industrially are organic compounds. All living organisms are composed of organic compounds, as are most foods, medicines, clothing fibers, and plastics. The detection of organic compounds is useful in many fields. In one recently developed application, scientists have devised a new method called “material degradomics” to monitor the degradation of old books and historical documents. As paper ages, it produces a familiar “old book smell” from the release of organic compounds in gaseous form. The composition of the gas depends on the original type of paper used, a book’s binding, and the applied media. By analyzing these organic gases and isolating the individual components, preservationists are better able to determine the condition of an object and those books and documents most in need of immediate protection.

    The simplest class of organic compounds is the hydrocarbons, which consist entirely of carbon and hydrogen. Petroleum and natural gas are complex, naturally occurring mixtures of many different hydrocarbons that furnish raw materials for the chemical industry. The four major classes of hydrocarbons are the following: the alkanes, which contain only carbon–hydrogen and carbon–carbon single bonds; the alkenes, which contain at least one carbon–carbon double bond; the alkynes, which contain at least one carbon–carbon triple bond; and the aromatic hydrocarbons, which usually contain rings of six carbon atoms that can be drawn with alternating single and double bonds. Alkanes are also called saturated hydrocarbons, whereas hydrocarbons that contain multiple bonds (alkenes, alkynes, and aromatics) are unsaturated.