Organic vs Inorganic Chemistry

I have no idea what organic food is supposed to be (and no one seems able to tell me) but I sure know what Organic Chemistry is.

All of chemistry is divided into two broad classes – Organic and Inorganic.

Now, here’s the weird thing – the periodic table has 103 elements at last count – organic chemistry is based on the chemistry of one of them – carbon – and inorganic chemistry is based on the chemistry of the other 102.

The reason for this is that carbon atoms have a unique ability to link to themselves, forming long chains, rings, lattices, helixes and even balls. It is for example the perfect tetrahedral structure of diamonds that gives it its incredible hardness, and the multiple ring linkages that gives carbon fibre its incredible lightness.

Organic chemistry, also known as carbon chemistry, is the chemistry of life.

Although our body certainly contains some inorganic elements – bones and stuff – we are mostly organic – hence the name: the chemistry of organs.

So it makes sense that any chemical that interacts with our body is also organic – carbohydrates, amino acids, proteins, oils and fats, and of course, pharmaceuticals. And, of course, clothes – whether they be natural or synthetic – are also organic, as are many of the stains that find their way onto them.

In future posts I’ll look a little deeper at some of these interactions, especially as they concern laundry detergents and the like.

 

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