27. Introduction to Organic Chemistry

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Session Overview

Modules Organic Materials
Concepts organic chemistry nomenclature, chains, alkanes, alkenes, alkynes, aromatics, functional groups, isomers
Keywords hydrocarbon, radical, sp3 orbital, sp2 orbital, sp orbital, straight chain, branched chain, saturated hydrocarbon, unsaturated hydrocarbon, methylated, conformational isomer, constitutional isomer, stereoisomer, aromatic compound, resonant hybrid structure, combustion, conductivity, IUPAC
Chemical Substances carbon (C), hydrogen (H), isomers of C4H10 (butane, isobutene, 2-methyl propane), methylene radical, ethyl radical, ethyl alcohol, ethylene (aka ethane); butane (C4H8), cis-2-butene, trans-2-butene, propene, propylene, allyl, acetylene, benzene; 1,3 butadiene; gasoline
Applications gasoline automobile engine knocking, octane rating


This session assumes you've completed the Bonding and Molecules module (Session 7 through Session 12), in particular understanding the concepts of

  • hybridization (spx orbitals)
  • different types of bonds (pi bond, double bond, triple bond, resonance)
  • dipole moments

Looking Ahead

This session is the first of six sessions on organic compounds. The next two sessions cover polymers, followed by three sessions applying these concepts to biochemistry.

Learning Objectives

After completing this session, you should be able to:

  • Define what constitutes an organic compound.
  • Apply the naming and drawing conventions to describe different organic compounds.
  • Compare and contrast the three types of hydrocarbons - alkanes, alkenes, and alkynes.
  • Describe the range of molecular structures (e.g. straight vs. branched chains) found among organic compounds.
  • Describe the physical structure of chemical isomers.


Book Chapters Topics
[Saylor] 24.1, "Functional Groups and Classes of Organic Compounds." Overview of five organic compound families: hydrocarbons, halogen-containing, oxygen-containing, carboxylic acid derivatives, and nitrogen-containing; common nomenclature
[Saylor] 24.2, "Isomers of Organic Compounds." Conformational isomers, structural isomers, stereoisomers

Lecture Video

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This resource may not render correctly in a screen reader.Lecture Slides (PDF - 1.6MB)

Lecture Summary

This lecture is a single-session introduction to organic chemistry: the chemistry of hydrocarbon compounds containing both carbon (C) and hydrogen (H), plus other elements. The class begins with a review of what makes carbon special: uniquely capable of forming multiple bonds, capable of self-linking, etc. Most of the session is a survey of three types of hydrocarbons: alkanes, alkenes, and alkynes. A hydrocarbon's properties are determined by characteristics like the type of chain (straight chains vs. branched chains), bond types (pi, double, and triple bonds), and resonance.

Naming and nomenclature conventions receive much attention. Woven throughout the lecture are discussions about:

  • name prefixes (e.g. meth-, eth-) and suffixes (e.g. -ane, -ene)
  • drawing conventions for different bond types
  • IUPAC (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry) nomenclature
  • ways to represent different isomers

Among the applications used for illustration, the lecture describes why acetylene is so energetic as a fuel, why graphite is a good electrical conductor, and the chemical basis of gasoline octane ratings.


No homework is assigned for this session.

For Further Study

As a single-session overview of organic chemistry, this class has limited scope. For instance, it does not introduce every class of organic compounds, leaving aldehydes, ketones, and esters for further study.


August Kekulé

Other OCW and OER Content

Content Provider Level Notes
5.12 Organic Chemistry I MIT OpenCourseWare Undergraduate (second-year) The first of a two-semester sequence on organic chemistry, taken after 3.091 or equivalent


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