Strong, stable bonds between carbon atoms produce complex molecules containing chains, branches, and rings. The chemistry of these compounds is called organic chemistry. Hydrocarbons are organic compounds composed of only carbon and hydrogen. The alkanes are saturated hydrocarbons—that is, hydrocarbons that contain only single bonds. Alkenes contain one or more carbon-carbon double bonds. Alkynes contain one or more carbon-carbon triple bonds. Aromatic hydrocarbons contain ring structures with delocalized π electron systems.
Many organic compounds that are not hydrocarbons can be thought of as derivatives of hydrocarbons. A hydrocarbon derivative can be formed by replacing one or more hydrogen atoms of a hydrocarbon by a functional group, which contains at least one atom of an element other than carbon or hydrogen. The properties of hydrocarbon derivatives are determined largely by the functional group. The –OH group is the functional group of an alcohol. The –R–O–R– group is the functional group of an ether.
Functional groups related to the carbonyl group include the –CHO group of an aldehyde, the –CO– group of a ketone, the –CO2H group of a carboxylic acid, and the –CO2R group of an ester. The carbonyl group, a carbon-oxygen double bond, is the key structure in these classes of organic molecules: Aldehydes contain at least one hydrogen atom attached to the carbonyl carbon atom, ketones contain two carbon groups attached to the carbonyl carbon atom, carboxylic acids contain a hydroxyl group attached to the carbonyl carbon atom, and esters contain an oxygen atom attached to another carbon group connected to the carbonyl carbon atom. All of these compounds contain oxidized carbon atoms relative to the carbon atom of an alcohol group.
The addition of nitrogen into an organic framework leads to two families of molecules. Compounds containing a nitrogen atom bonded in a hydrocarbon framework are classified as amines. Compounds that have a nitrogen atom bonded to one side of a carbonyl group are classified as amides. Amines are a basic functional group. Amines and carboxylic acids can combine in a condensation reaction to form amides.