Introduction to the Different Categories of Chemical Reactions in Organic Chemistry

An organic reaction is a chemical reaction in which at least one of the participating species is an organic compound, i.e. a chemical compound that contains at least one carbon atom.  Common classes of organic reactions include addition reactions, substitution reactions, elimination reactions, coupling reactions, photochemical reactions (the chemical reactions that are facilitated by the presence of light), and redox reactions. A brief introduction to some of the different categories of chemical reactions in the field of organic chemistry is provided in this article.

Addition Reactions

In the field of organic chemistry, the term ‘addition reactions’ refers to a chemical reaction in which two or more reactant species combine to afford a single product species. Typically, these reactions feature alkenes, alkynes, and other organic compounds containing double bonds or triple bonds.

Elimination Reactions

In the field of organic chemistry, the term ‘elimination reaction’ is used to denote a chemical reaction in which substituent groups are removed from a reactant molecule via a one-step mechanism or a two-step mechanism. Elimination reactions featuring single-step mechanisms are also known as E2 reactions and those featuring two-step mechanisms are often referred to as E1 reactions.

Substitution Reactions

In the field of organic chemistry, the term ‘substitution reaction’ is used to refer to the class of organic reactions in which the functional group of a reactant species is replaced by another functional group. It is important to note that such organic substitution reactions are also known as single substitution reactions or as single displacement reactions. Several different types of substitution reactions exist in organic chemistry. Common examples of such reactions include:

  • Nucleophilic substitution reactions
  • Electrophilic substitution reactions
  • Radical-substitution reactions
  • Organometallic substitution reactions

In nucleophilic substitution reactions, the attacking reagent that triggers the reaction is a nucleophile (electron-rich species). On the other hand, electrophilic substitution reactions feature the use of electron-deficient ‘electrophilic’ species as attacking reagents.

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