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Classifying compounds

Why learn to classify compounds? Millions of chemical compounds are known. Just as biologists group plants and animals to show their fundamental similarities, chemists group compounds to show patterns and trends in chemical properties. These groupings help chemists understand how a material's molecular structure determines its chemical and physical properties. Learning to classify compounds will help you see some underlying order in the hundreds of compounds you're likely to encounter in general chemistry.

How is compound classification used? Each class of compounds has a chemical naming scheme that allows the compound's complete structure and formula to be worked out from its name. In order to learn and use these chemical names you'll have to learn which class a compound belongs in. You will also find compound classification useful in devising methods for separating mixtures and for choosing solvents.

How are compounds classified? These pages outline some of the more useful schemes for classifying most common compounds.

  • Classify by building block. Some compounds are built from ions*; others are made of molecules*.
  • Classify by acidity. Bases* capture hydrogen ions; acids* release them.
  • Classify by carbon content. Organic* compounds contain chemically bound carbon and hydrogen; inorganic* compounds don't.
  • Classify by polarity. Polar* compounds are usually soluble in solvents like water; nonpolar compounds aren't.
  • Classify by electrical conductivity Solutions of electrolytes conduct electricity; nonelectrolytes don't.
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General Chemistry Online! Classifying compounds

Copyright © 1997-2005 by Fred Senese
Comments & questions to fsenese@frostburg.edu
Last Revised 06/11/07.URL: http://antoine.frostburg.edu/chem/senese/101/compounds/compound-classify.shtml