Applications of Organic Chemistry

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Instructor: David Wood Show bio

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

Organic chemistry studies the chemistry of carbon compounds which has numerous practical applications. Identify how polymers, petrochemicals, cleaning products, and medicine have all improved human life due to advancements in organic chemistry. Updated: 12/15/2021

What Is Organic Chemistry?

You might think of the study of organic chemistry as nothing but a list of molecules to memorize and long names that go on forever. Learning the difference between 1-bromo-3-chlorobenzene and triethyleneglycol is not exactly riveting stuff. However, as abstract as it might seem, organic chemistry is a part of science that has enormous implications and applications in everyday life.

Organic chemistry is the study of substances found in living organisms. Or in other words, primarily the study of carbon compounds. That definition isn't perfect, because there are molecules like carbon dioxide, which are found outside of living things so often that they're not considered to be organic. The truth is a lot more complex than we used to think, though this definition remains a good place to start.

If we understand organic molecules and how they work, then we can better understand how humans and other animals work. It's the part of chemistry that focuses on the building blocks of life. Since life is kind of important to us humans, it's probably not surprising that organic chemistry has a lot of applications to our everyday lives. Every food that we eat is made of organic molecules. That's why our bodies need it. Many of the man-made products we take for granted today exist thanks to organic chemistry.

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  • 0:00 What Is Organic Chemistry?
  • 1:23 Polymers
  • 2:06 Petrochemicals
  • 2:47 Cleaning Products
  • 3:13 Medicine
  • 3:42 Lesson Summary
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The key thing to realize about organic chemistry is that a lot of the products we use in our lives come from plants and animals. Remember, something doesn't have to be currently alive to be an application of organic chemistry. For example, polymers are molecules with long chains. There are lots of polymers in our lives, from plastics to nylon to polycarbonate and acrylic. The structure of these man-made materials originally came from the natural world. Polymers are considered to be organic molecules. Rubber is probably the most famous natural polymer, which comes from the rubber trees. But even fully man-made plastics usually contain hydrocarbon molecules that originally came from plants and animals.


Then there is perhaps the most important things to human and the modern economy: petrochemicals. Oil and its products are really important in modern society. Oil gives us fuel for our cars, chemicals to make plastics, detergents, medicines, and dyes. So how is crude oil an example of organic chemistry?

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