The uses and applications of organic chemistry range from life-saving pharmaceutical discoveries to the vibrant colors of fruits and vegetables we see daily.
In this article, we will discuss the various applications of organic chemistry in different sectors of life in detail.
So, without any further delay, dive into the article and start reading!
What are some real-life examples of organic chemistry applications?
- It is through organic chemistry that scientists convert raw materials such as metals, coal, oil, natural gas, water and minerals into valuable organic chemicals, fiber, coatings, food additives and numerous other consumable products.
- Organic chemistry helps synthesize agrochemicals such as pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides.
- Alcohols, the hydroxyl (OH) group-containing organic compounds, are predominantly used in beverages (beer, wine, rum), disinfectants, personal care products (perfumes, deodorants, nail polish removers, aftershaves, etc.), anesthetics and preservatives.
- Carboxylic acids (such as acetic, citric, and lactic acid) are naturally found in fruits and dairy products. Additionally, they can be added artificially to enhance the flavor and regulate the acidity of synthetic food items.
- Alkyl halides are organic compounds used to prepare propellants, refrigerants and coolants in air conditioning systems.
5 uses of organic chemistry in Medicine
The uses and applications of organic chemistry in the medicinal/pharmaceutical industry are unprecedented.
i) Drug Synthesis
Almost all pharmaceutical drugs are composed of organic molecules.
For example, popular antibiotics such as penicillin, streptomycin and ciprofloxacin are all organic compounds.
Moreover, organic compounds are also used as solvents and active pharmaceutical ingredients (API), i.e., raw materials in preparing antibiotics. In this way, organic chemistry is used in drug discovery, formulation and synthesis.
ii) Natural product isolation and modification
Natural organic compounds, such as terpenes, terpenoids, flavonoids, etc., are extracted from plant-based sources. These are then checked for their therapeutic potential and even modified to synthesize herbal medicines possessing desired properties.
iii) Synthesis of medicinal analogs and pro-drugs
Researchers exploit the principles of organic chemistry to prepare biologically inactive compounds that get converted into active drugs inside the human body. Such chemical compounds are called prodrugs, useful for enhancing medicinal drug delivery, bioavailability and tissue targeting. These are usually superficially coated with organic polymers that open up and release the drug only at reaching the targeted site.
iv) Designing drug delivery systems
Organic chemistry contributes to designing and developing efficient drug-delivery systems, such as nanoparticles, liposomes, and micelles that encapsulate the medicinal drug for targeted drug delivery and controlled release.
v) Structure determination
Organic spectroscopy helps determine the chemical structure and properties of newly synthesized pharmaceutical drugs and therapeutic agents. It is essential for quality control and understanding drug-target interactions. IR spectroscopy can differentiate between the structural isomers of a pharmaceutical drug.
Conversely, mass spectrometry helps in the identification and characterization of volatile plant bioactive.
Organic chemistry applications in the industry
Other than the pharmaceutical industry, organic chemistry is also an integral part of other commercial industries such as:
Biotechnology largely depends on developing new products with the aid of living organisms or biological processes. The bioprocesses involve chemical reactions that take place via organic compounds as reactants and products. Thus, organic chemistry is applied in the biotech industry for synthesizing disease-resistant crops, drought-resistant plants, biodegradable plastics, biofuels, implant biomaterials, growth hormones, etc.
Organic chemistry involves refining petroleum into various products such as fuel, lubricants and solvents. It is through the pyrolysis of long-chain saturated molecules such as alkanes that medium and short-chain hydrocarbons (alkanes, alkenes, alkynes) are produced.
Flavor and fragrance industry
It is due to the pleasant taste and fragrance of esters and aromatic organic compounds that they are used as flavor enhancers in the food industry. Conversely, organic compounds are also used to prepare perfumes, scented candles and colognes. The luxuriously bright colors of food pigments come from azo dyes, another versatile organic compound.
Benzene is particularly important in polymer manufacturing. It is used as a solvent to dissolve fat, oils, and waxes, thus being a part of the polyester, polystyrene and nylon manufacturing processes.
Paper and pulp industry
Organic reactions and organic compounds (both natural and synthetic) play a vital role at all stages of paper making. For instance, in the pulping process, the principles of organic chemistry are applied to extract cellulose fiber from wood or other plant materials. In the later stages, organic solvents are also used as bleaching, coating agents, and additives.
What do organic chemists do?
Organic chemistry is a highly creative science. The scientists who are specialists in this branch of science are called organic chemists.
They create and explore new organic compounds and molecules.
Their primary tasks include:
- Research & Development: Organic chemists study pre-existent molecules and their synthetic routes, aiming to improve their efficiency and selectivity.
- Synthesis: Organic chemists continuously strive to find better ways to synthesize important pharmaceutical drugs, medicines, polymers, agrochemicals, etc.
- Analysis: After synthesis, the main task of organic chemists is to analyze the structure, composition and properties of organic compounds. They apply various analytical spectroscopic and chromatographic techniques to do so.
- Industrial-level scaling: Once a product is synthesized in the organic lab, the chemists introduce it at the industrial scale, ensuring quality control and product optimization to meet industry demands.
- Teaching & Education: Organic chemists also work in academia to convey their knowledge and skills for training new scientists and researchers.
An important thing to keep in mind is that even after all the details about the uses and applications of organic chemistry given above, covering its ever-growing possibilities in one article is near to impossible.
This proves that the potential of organic chemistry as a subject and a science is unmatched!
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