Difference Between Organic and Inorganic Compounds

Main Difference – Organic vs Inorganic Compounds

Organic and inorganic compounds are the two broad categories of compounds in chemistry. Almost all the theories, laws and hypotheses in chemistry are made based on organic and inorganic compounds. Both types are composed of matter in any physical state: solid state, liquid state or gaseous state. The main difference between organic and inorganic compounds is that organic compounds essentially have one or more carbon atoms in their structure whereas inorganic compounds may or may not have carbon atoms.

Key Areas Covered

1. What are Organic Compounds
      – Definition, Structure, Properties
2. What are Inorganic Compounds
      – Definition, Structure, Properties
3. What is the difference between Organic and Inorganic Compounds
      – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms: Organic, Inorganic, Chemistry, Solid, Liquid, Gas, Covalent Bonds, Ionic Bonds, HydrophobicityDifference Between Organic and Inorganic Compounds - Comparison Summary

What are Organic Compounds?

An organic compound is any compound essentially having one or more carbon atoms, covalently bonded with other elements. Most commonly, these carbon atoms are bonded to hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen atoms. The concept of organic compounds may be confusing at some points such as in the case of carbon dioxide (CO2). Although CO2 has a carbon atom bonded to two oxygen atoms, it is not considered as an organic compound due to historical reasons. Compounds like carbonates, cyanides, CO and CO2 were discovered before the discovery of organic compounds. At that time, these were considered as inorganic compounds, and this practice still continues.  

Organic chemistry is the branch of chemistry that explains the structure, properties, reactions and other important facts about organic compounds. Organic chemistry is a complicated subject and scientists use it for the creation of a number of valuable products. Since almost all organisms are composed of organic molecules, organic compounds are essential for life on earth.

Since there are a number of various compounds included in the category of organic compounds, these compounds can be further classified in a variety of ways. The most common type of organic compounds is hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons can also be classified in various ways as these compounds have different structures, properties and show different reactions.

Polymers are another type of important organic compounds. Although some polymers are composed of inorganic backbones, they also contain organic groups and are called hybrid polymers. Polymers are used in various applications and processes which are important in day to day life.

Organic compounds such as hydrocarbons can be classified as aliphatic and aromatic according to the presence or absence of aromatic ring structures. Organic compounds are found in all three physical states in room temperature. For example,

Solid phase – some amides

Liquid phase – alcohols like  ethanol 

Gas phase – gases like methane 

Key Difference - Organic vs Inorganic Compounds

Figure 1: An aliphatic Organic Compound

Difference Between Organic and Inorganic Compounds - 3

Figure 2: An Aromatic Organic Compound

What are Inorganic Compounds?

An inorganic compound is any compound that is not an organic compound. In other words, inorganic compounds are not essentially composed of carbon atoms. There can be either carbon atoms present or absent.

Inorganic chemistry is the branch of chemistry which explains the structures, behavior, properties, and characteristics of inorganic compounds. Inorganic compounds are mainly found as minerals, metal bound compounds or organometallic compounds.

Since many inorganic compounds are composed of metal or metal ions, they are able to conduct electricity. Some inorganic compounds can conduct electricity even without a metal such as graphite. Most inorganic compounds hold ionic bonds and covalent bonds. Many inorganic compounds are also very colorful due to the presence of d-block elements. Most of the inorganic compounds are water soluble due to their ionic bonding. These can split into their ions when added to water. Another important property is their ability to form crystals. This ability is also caused by their bonding nature.

Difference Between Organic and Inorganic Compounds

Figure 3: Structure of Silane (left) is similar to the structure of Methane (right). But Silane is an inorganic compound and Methane is an organic compound.

Difference Between Organic and Inorganic Compounds

Definition

Organic compounds: Organic compounds are compounds essentially having carbon atoms in the structure along with atoms like hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen.

Inorganic Compounds: Inorganic compounds are compounds that do not essentially have carbon atoms in their structure.

Type of Bonding

Organic compounds: Organic compounds mainly show covalent bonding.

Inorganic Compounds: Inorganic compounds show ionic bonding along with covalent bonding.

Atoms Present

Organic compounds: Organic compounds essentially have C and H hydrogen atoms.

Inorganic Compounds: Inorganic compounds can have any atom except C and H directly bonded together.

Appearance

Organic compounds: Most organic compounds are colorless.

Inorganic Compounds: Most inorganic compounds are colorful.

Solubility in Water

Organic compounds: Most organic compounds do not dissolve in water due to their hydrophobicity.

Inorganic Compounds: Most inorganic compounds can dissolve in water due to the presence of ionic bonds.

Conclusion

Major areas of chemistry include Organic Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, Physical Chemistry and Analytical Chemistry. Among these, organic chemistry accounts for structure, properties, and reactions of organic compounds. Inorganic chemistry is the field explaining the structure, properties, and reactions of inorganic compounds. Thus, the difference between organic and inorganic chemistry stems from the difference between organic and inorganic compounds, which in turn, depends on the presence or absence of carbon atoms in their structure. 

References:

1. Organic Versus Inorganic Compounds.” SoftSchools.com. N.p., n.d. Web. Available here. 12 June 2017. 
2. “Inorganic Chemistry.” American Chemical Society. N.p., n.d. Web. Available here. 12 June 2017. 

Image Courtesy:

1. “Octane-in-full” By (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Olympicene” By Yikrazuul (talk) – Own work, Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
3. “Silane-SiH4-2D” By Ben Mills – Own work (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
4. “Methane-2D-small” (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Madhusha

Madhusha is a BSc (Hons) graduate in the field of Biological Sciences and is currently pursuing for her Masters in Industrial and Environmental Chemistry. Her interest areas for writing and research include Biochemistry and Environmental Chemistry.

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