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What are Organic Reactions?

Author: Vincent Guo

Editor: Viola Chen and Rachel Chen

Artist: Esther Chen

Washing your hair with shampoo, using paper to take notes, and eating food all come from organic reactions. There are four prototypical reactions: addition, substitution, elimination, and acid-base. Addition reactions occur when an element is added to a compound, while elimination is when an element in a compound is removed. Substitution reactions happen when two elements from different compounds exchange places. Lastly, acid-base reactions occur when an acid gives an H+ ion to an acid. Acids release positive H+ ions, while bases accept the H+ ion and have a negative OH- ion. Acids have a pH level approaching 1, and bases are closer to 14. In the middle of the scale is 7, classified as neutrals. If a solution is one on the pH scale, it is very acidic; if a base is 14 on the pH scale, it is very basic. When an acid and a base combine, they form water (H2O) and a salt such as sodium chloride (NaCl), which contains two oppositely charged ions. This occurs when an acid and a base combine, the acid’s H+ ion and the base’s OH- ion combine to create H₂O, and the remainder combine. Additionally, the acid that gives away the H+ ion is called the conjugate base, while the base that accepts the H+ ion is called the conjugate acid. 

Hydrocarbons are organic compounds that are made of only carbon and hydrogen. There are several types of hydrocarbons: alkanes, alkenes, and alkynes. Alkanes have carbon with a single bond to each other, while alkenes have a double bond between two carbon atoms. Alkynes, on the other hand, have a triple bond between two carbon atoms. There are also other vital compounds such as alcohol, ether, ester, carboxylic acids, etc. Alcohol is a hydrocarbon that contains an OH on the end of the compound; for example, CH3OH. Then we have ether, also a hydrocarbon; it has an oxygen atom in the middle of the compound, such as CH3OCH3. Additionally, hydrocarbon has a name that is very close to an ether, and that hydrocarbon is an ester. Esters contain a hydrocarbon with a carbon atom, a double-bonded oxygen atom, and a single-bonded oxygen atom, for example, CH3CH2COOCH3. Aldehydes are hydrocarbons with carbon at the end of the reaction, with oxygen and hydrogen connected to both single bonds. Ketone has a carbon in the middle containing a double-bonded oxygen atom. Carboxylic acids, also known as organic acids, contain carbon at the end of the compound with double-bonded oxygen and OH. Finally, we have amines and amides, which are similar since they both contain nitrogen. However, while amines contain nitrogen in the middle of the compound, amides contain carbon at the end of the reaction, which is connected to a double-bonded oxygen atom and NH. In esterification reactions, alcohol and an organic acid combine to form water and ester. 

All these organic reactions are significant in our everyday lives, as we couldn’t possibly live without any of these reactions. These reactions help make the drugs we use to treat people and also help produce the plastic around us. Did you know that the DNA inside us that makeup who we are is also an organic compound? The organic compound inside the DNA is called nucleotides. Nucleotides are an essential part of DNA, as they are the very building blocks of DNA. Organic compounds are also found in fuel. Fuels like diesel and gasoline are made from hydrocarbon, an organic compound. If you are the type of person who drinks coffee in the morning to stay awake, then you are consuming an organic compound. The organic compound inside coffee is the thing that helps you stay awake and alert. That organic compound is called caffeine. Caffeine enables you to stay awake by blocking a specific receptor, which keeps you awake. Receptors in the brain are how your brain communicates. Organic compounds are also present in Photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is when a plant turns carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and glucose. Plants and animals use glucose for energy; without glucose our body would simply be unable to function.  Organic compounds are also present in items we can find in our local store. Some of those items are cosmetic items, cleaning products, and alcohol. Any cosmetic item that contains waxes, oils, and pigments includes an organic compound. A cleaning product like soap contains an organic compound created by an organic reaction called saponification. Then, for alcohol, the organic reaction is called fermentation, which uses sugar, an organic compound, and adds yeast to create alcohol. Nothing listed above would exist without organic reaction, and no living thing would exist either.



“27.1: Organic Reactions: An Introduction.” Chemistry LibreTexts, Libretexts, 12 July 2023,

Flowers, Paul, et al. “20.4 Amines and Amides - Chemistry 2E.” OpenStax, OpenStax,


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