Organic vs Inorganic Compounds: 14 Key Difference (With Examples)


A chemical compound is made up of two or more elements that are chemically bonded together. One of the ways to classify compounds is by identifying them as either organic or inorganic. The main difference that lies between these organic compounds and inorganic compounds is that organic compounds always have a carbon atom while most of the inorganic compounds do not contain the carbon atom in them.

What Are Organic Compounds?

Organic compound, any of a large class of chemical compounds in which one or more atoms of carbon are covalently linked to atoms of other elements, most commonly hydrogen, oxygen, or nitrogen. The term “organic compound” was coined by Berzelius in 1807.

These compounds are called organic because they were once believed to have been derived from living things, but that is not necessarily the case. There are millions of organic compounds that occur naturally or can be produced synthetically. Examples of organic compounds are carbohydrates, fats (lipids), proteins, and nucleic acids, which are the basis for the molecules of life. Organic compounds also include petroleum and natural gas, which are the main components of fossil fuels.

Other examples include:

  • DNA
  • table sugar or sucrose, C12H22O11
  • benzene, C6H6
  • methane, CH4
  • ethanol or grain alcohol, C2H6O

The general characteristics of Organic Compounds include:

  • Can be isolated as well as prepared in laboratory
  • Comprise almost 90% of all known compounds.
  • Mostly built up of only three elements- carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Other elements like halogen, nitrogen as well as phosphorous are also present but to a lesser extent.
  • Possess complex structures and high molecular weights
  • Their properties are decided by certain active atom or group of atoms known as the functional group.
  • They are mostly insoluble in water but soluble in organic solvents.
  • They are combustible in nature
  • Chemical reactions involving organic compounds proceed at slower rates.

What Are Inorganic Compounds?

Inorganic compound is any substance in which two or more chemical elements (usually other than carbon) are combined, nearly always in definite proportions. In other words, an inorganic compound is typically a chemical compound that lacks carbon–hydrogen bonds, that is, a compound that is not an organic compound.

The general characteristics of inorganic Compounds include:

  • Most inorganic compounds do not have carbon atoms in them (some exceptions do exist).
  • They do not possess hydrogen or oxygen and their derivatives.
  • These compounds are not inflammable and are non-volatile in nature.
  • These compounds are soluble in water and also non-soluble in some of the organic solutions.
  • They have low melting and boiling points compared to organic compounds.
  • Inorganic compounds have a high rate of reaction.
  • These compounds are found in non-living things.

Inorganic compounds can be categorized into four major groups, which are salts, bases, acid, and water. 

Salts are compounds that are produced by the reaction of acids and bases, such reactions are labelled as neutralization reactions. The net product of the reaction between the cations of bases and the anions of acids is salt and water. Salts are characterized by their crystalline structure.

  • Sodium Chloride (NaClNaCl)
  • Magnesium Chloride (MgClMgCl)
  • Copper Sulfate (CuSO4CuSO4)
  • Sodium Bisulfate (NaHSO4NaHSO4)

Bases are chemicals that neutralize acids by donating their electrons, releasing the hydroxide ions (OH−OH−), or accepting protons. Such substances are composed of metals bonded with a hydroxyl group (XOH−XOH−), where X is any metal.

  • Magnesium Hydroxide (MgOHMgOH)
  • Barium Hydroxide (Ba(OH)2Ba(OH)2)
  • Lithium Hydroxide (LiOHLiOH)

Acids are electron acceptors and proton donators. They donate hydrogen ions upon dissociation. They are composed of at least one hydrogen atom bonded to an acid radical (e.g. sulfate ion HSO−4HSO4−). Inorganic acids are usually labelled as mineral acids, they are comprised of hydrogens bonded with conjugate bases. Examples of such acids are:

  • Sulfuric Acid (H2SO4H2SO4)
  • Nitric Acid (HNO3HNO3)
  • Phosphoric Acid (H3PO4H3PO4)
  • Chromic Acid (H2CrO4H2CrO4)

Water, dihydrogen oxide, is the most abundant substance on earth. It is comprised of one oxygen atom bonded with two hydrogen atoms.

Also Read: Difference Between Organic And Inorganic Chemistry

Organic vs Inorganic Compound: Key Differences

Basis of ComparisonOrganic CompoundInorganic Compound
DefinitionOrganic compound is a class of chemical compounds in which one or more atoms of carbon are covalently linked to atoms of other elements.An inorganic compound is any compound that lacks a carbon atom.  
DensityTend to be typically less dense.  Tend to be denser.
Solubility in waterAre insoluble in water.  Highly soluble in water.
FormationThey are formed as a result of actions of living organisms.They are formed due to natural processes unrelated to any life form or as a result of human experimentation in the laboratory.
ConductivityIn most of the aqueous solutions, organic compounds are typically poor conductors of electricity and heat.In most of the aqueous solutions, inorganic compounds are typically good conductors of electricity and heat
ExamplesExamples include nucleic acids, sucrose, enzymes, benzene, methane, fats and ethanol.Examples include salt, metals, silver, sulfur, pure diamond etc
ReactivityStable organic compounds are not reactive.They have a faster overall rate of reaction.
ViscosityIntermolecular forces of organic compounds are weak, their viscosity tend to be low.They tend to have strong intermolecular forces, such as hydrogen bonding, thus they have a higher viscosity.
Melting and Boiling PointThey have relatively high melting and boiling point.They generally have a low meting and boiling points.
Nature of existenceThey are biological and more complex in natureThey are simple and mineral in nature.
Salt Formation  They do not form or make salt.  They do form or make salt easily.
Form of ExistenceHave carbon atoms bonded to hydrogen atoms by a hydrocarbon-bond.Do not have such formation.
ComponentsThey do not contain metal atoms.  Contain metal atoms.

Also Read: Difference Between Organic And Inorganic polymers