In This Chapter
Recognizing functional groups
Understanding the properties of functional groups
Finding functional groups in nature
Consider this: Millions of reactions of organic molecules are currently known, and that number is getting bigger by the day. That’s probably a scary thought. Can you imagine trying to learn all of them? The good news is that you don’t have to learn all the reactions of specific molecules because organic molecules often react in predictable ways based on what kinds of groups a particular molecule contains.
Alkanes (molecules containing just singly bonded hydrogen and carbon atoms) are pretty much inert under most conditions. Carbon, though, is unique among the elements in that it has the capability of forming stable compounds that have multiple bonds to other carbons, in addition to stable bonds to other non-carbon atoms, forming reactive centers. These reactive centers are called functional groups and are the reactive portions in an organic molecule. Chemists organize organic compounds based on what functional groups are present in a particular molecule.
One reason learning the functional groups is important ...