Carbon Bonding

All compounds can be classified in two broad categories: organic compounds and inorganic compounds. Organic compounds are made primarily of carbon atoms. Most matter in living organisms that is not water is made of organic compounds. Inorganic compounds, with a few exceptions, do not contain carbon atoms.

A carbon atom has four electrons in its outermost energy level. Most atoms become stable when their outermost energy level contains eight electrons. A carbon atom therefore readily forms four covalent bonds with the atoms of other elements. Unlike other elements, however, carbon also readily bonds with other carbon atoms, forming straight chains, branched chains, or rings, as shown in Figure 3-1. This tendency of carbon to bond with itself results in an enormous variety of organic compounds.

In the symbolic shorthand of chemistry, each line shown in Figure 3-1 represents a covalent bond formed when two atoms share a pair of electrons. A bond formed when two atoms share one pair of electrons is called a single bond.

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