Organic chemicals are chemical compounds that contain carbon as part of their molecular structure. Other elements that commonly make up these compounds are hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur, and chlorine.

Organic chemicals can be either natural or synthetic. Most organic chemicals, being carbon based, are natural meaning they can be produced by plants or animals. Others, however, are organic-synthetic chemicals meaning they require a chemical reaction in order to be generated.

Types of Organic Chemicals

Organic chemicals are classified according to chemical makeup and structure. Organic chemicals may be divided into aromatic hydrocarbons, aliphatic (non-aromatic) hydrocarbons, and carbon compounds with various functional groups including carbonyls, halocarbons, nitriles, amines, diazo compounds, sulfonic acids, mercaptans, alcohols, etc.

The GlobalSpec SpecSearch database contains these types of organic chemicals.

  • Aliphatics include both alkanes and alkenes. Most aliphatics are flammable and thus many are used as various types of fuels (propane, pentane).
  • Aromatics include classical arenes, heterocyclic arenes, and polycyclic arenes. Many are used as industrial solvents for nonpolar compounds and as derivatives for organic synthesis.
  • Carbonyls include carboxylic acids, acid anhydrides, acyl halides, acid amides, and esters. Resins, solvents, pharmaceuticals, polymers, and food additives are among the many products created from carbonyl compounds.
  • Other functional groups include halocarbons, nitriles, amines, diazo compounds, sulfonic acids, mercaptans, and alcohols. Applications include detergents and surfactants, pharmaceuticals, dyes, beverages, fuel, synthesis intermediates, odorants, glues, and pollution reduction.

Material Properties

The GlobalSpec SpecSearch Database includes some important chemical, thermal, and physical properties of organic chemicals.

  • Chemical properties include pH and charge which reveal how a chemical interacts with other materials. Concentration and pH should be accessed to establish if corrosive resistant equipment is necessary to prevent degradation.
  • Thermal properties include freezing point, boiling point, and flash point which establish temperature limitations. High temperature operations should consider the chemical’s flash point and the oxygen index of the surrounding air for safety concerns to prevent combustion.
  • Physical properties include state of matter, viscosity, vapor pressure, purity, and concentration which determine how a chemical can be handled. Viscosity should not be overlooked if the material is pumped, mixed, or flowed through a system to ensure flow-resistance does not impede operations.

Applications

Organic chemicals are used in many different industries. Some are suitable as feedstock for medical, pharmaceutical, biochemical, or bioengineering applications. Others are used as ingredients in polymer and plastics production, as solvents for cleaning agents, and as various additives.

When purchasing organic chemicals, buyers should consider specialized application requirements. Common organic chemicals such as methanol, ethanol, and benzene are produced and purchased in bulk form. For many commercial uses, however, specific material properties are required.

Though bulk materials produced in large quantities may cost less on a unit basis, custom production in a laboratory is often necessary in tailoring to the needs of the user, ensuring a safe work environment, or in meeting certification criteria (USP).

References

Understanding the Names of Organic Compounds

Purdue University – Structure and Nomenclature of Hydrocarbons