Summarizing Carbon Molecules

Summary of lessons so far

The unique properties of carbon make it a central part of biological molecules. Carbon binds to oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen covalently to form the many molecules important for cellular function. Carbon has four electrons in its outermost shell and can form four bonds.

Recall that carbon and hydrogen can form hydrocarbon chains or rings. Functional groups are groups of atoms that confer specific properties to hydrocarbon (or substituted hydrocarbon) chains or rings that define their overall chemical characteristics and function.

Glossary of Words

Aliphatic hydrocarbon

hydrocarbon consisting of a linear chain of carbon atoms

Aromatic hydrocarbon

hydrocarbon consisting of closed rings of carbon atoms


molecules that share overall structure and bonding patterns, but differ in how the atoms are three dimensionally placed such that they are mirror images of each other

Functional group

group of atoms that provides or imparts a specific function to a carbon skeleton

Geometric isomer

isomer with similar bonding patterns differing in the placement of atoms alongside a double covalent bond


molecule that consists only of carbon and hydrogen


molecules that differ from one another even though they share the same chemical formula

Organic molecule

any molecule containing carbon (except carbon dioxide)

Structural isomers

molecules that share a chemical formula but differ in the placement of their chemical bonds

Substituted hydrocarbon

hydrocarbon chain or ring containing an atom of another element in place of one of the backbone carbons

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