1 - Chapter 1 Dissecting an organic reaction Learning...

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1 Chapter 1 – Dissecting an organic reaction Learning organic chemistry is a daunting challenge, but one that you can effectively overcome with continued practice, effort and critical thinking. Limiting your strategy to memorization alone will likely prove of little benefit to you. Rather, you should develop a logical and systematic approach to problem-solving utilizing a handful of key, fundamental concepts. The first is that of dissecting a chemical reaction. This approach is introduced at the very onset of your studies, in an effort to begin training you to think in the way that will benefit you the most. This approach is general and thus is applicable to all of the reactions encountered in this course; therefore, we encourage you to work through this process whenever a reaction is first introduced. The approach involves analyzing and classifying the components of the reaction, and then predicting their chemical behavior. An example of this process is illustrated below featuring the reaction that converts ammonium cyanate into urea. The discovery of this reaction in 1828 is said to be the starting point for the discipline of organic chemistry, so it is only appropriate that it represents the starting point of your studies as well. The purpose of presenting this reaction in so much detail is not to indicate any particular importance, but rather to provide a sense of the logical, systematic manner in which you should approach your study of organic chemistry. H 2 NC NH 2 O heat NH 4 OCN ammonium cyanate urea Analysis of a reaction The first step of the process involves analyzing the components of the reaction in great detail in order to better understand the chemical changes that take place. You should begin this process by examining the structures of the individual reaction components and considering what bonding changes must take place during the transformation of reactants into products. Structure examination requires the ability to draw correct Lewis structures for all of the reaction components: the ammonium cation, the cyanate anion, and the urea, as shown below.
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2 The ability to draw Lewis structures is essential to your study of organic chemistry and the topic will be covered in detail in the next chapter. For now, recognize that care is taken to display formal charges and lone pairs of each atom. Notice that two different electron configurations are written for cyanate, one in which the oxygen is negatively charged and one in which the nitrogen is negatively charged. Correctly depicting a molecule with alternative Lewis structures will be an invaluable tool in your study of organic chemistry. Before proceeding, verify that the stoichiometry for your equation is balanced. If not, add the necessary small molecule (e.g., water) to bring the elemental composition in line. Once all the components are carefully drawn and the stoichiometry is balanced, next identify the bond changes that take place. What bonds are made? What bonds are broken?
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This note was uploaded on 10/02/2008 for the course CHEM 232 taught by Professor Vanderdonk during the Fall '08 term at University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.

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1 - Chapter 1 Dissecting an organic reaction Learning...

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