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C3 Organic Chemistry

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Organic Chemistry
Topic Quiz


Organic Chemistry

The study of carbon. All organic molecules contain carbon, and usually form the backbone of the molecule.

Homologous Series

A 'family' of chemicals that share the same functional group, and react in a similar way.

Functional Group

A group of atoms that have a specific arrangement, that cause a compound to react in a certain way.


  • Alcohols are a homologous series of organic compounds that contain the functional group -OH
  • Alcohol names end with "-ol", for example: ethanol
  • Naming of alcohols follows the same rules as for alkanes
  • The shorter chain alcohols (that contain 1-3 carbon atoms) are good solvents and fuels
  • Alcohols are colourless liquids that dissolve in water to form neutral solutions
  • Alcohols react with sodium to produce hydrogen and a salt (like sodium would with water)
  • Alcohols burn in air to produce carbon dioxide and water (combustion)

Alcohols can be oxidised to make a carboxylic acid in one of two ways:

  • a chemical oxidiser is added, such as acidified potassium dichromate is added
  • microbes in the air can ferment alcohol into a carboxylic acid

Carboxylic Acids

  • Carboxylic acids are a homologous series of organic compounds that contain the functional group -COOH
  • Carboxylic acid names end with "-oic acid", for example: ethanoic acid
  • Naming of carboxylic acids follows the same rules as for alkanes
  • This group of chemicals are weak acids as the functional group is only partly ionised in solution
  • Carboxylic acids dissolve in water to produce acidic solutions
  • Carboxylic acids react with carbonates to produce carbon dioxide, a salt, and water
  • All carboxylic acids react with alcohols (in the presence of acid as a catalyst) to produce esters


You need to know the difference between a strong and a weak acid. Carboxylic acids are weak acids. The following video is for the new AQA course, so after the explanation of the difference between strong and weak acids the information isn't necessary for your GCSE, but it might be useful to know what pH means!


  • Esters are a homologous series of organic compounds that contain the functional group -COO-
  • Ester names are a little more complicated, and are named after the alcohol and carboxylic acid used (in that order). The alcohol part of the name ends with "-yl", and the carboxylic acid part ends with "-anoate", for example: ethyl ethanoate
  • Esters usually have a very distinctive smell - many smell fruity
  • Esters are very volatile - they evaporate easily

Esters have properties that make them good for food flavourings and for making perfumes smell nice.

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Page last updated: 14/04/2017