Inorganic Compounds

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Created by: Team Chemistry -, Last Updated: April 25, 2024

Inorganic Compounds

Inorganic compounds are substances that generally do not contain carbon-hydrogen bonds, which sets them apart from organic compounds in chemistry. Found abundantly in nature and commonly used in various industries, these compounds include minerals, salts, metals, and gases such as carbon dioxide and ammonia. Unlike organic compounds, which are often associated with living organisms, inorganic compounds are typically derived from non-living sources. Their wide range of applications, from building materials to essential nutrients, makes them crucial in both ecological systems and human industries.

What are Inorganic Compounds?

Inorganic compounds are substances that don’t contain carbon-hydrogen bonds, which are typical of organic compounds. These compounds are mostly made up of elements other than carbon, such as metals, minerals, and gases like oxygen and nitrogen. Examples include water (H₂O), salt (NaCl), and baking soda (NaHCO₃). Inorganic compounds play crucial roles in various fields, from manufacturing industries to biological processes.

Inorganic Compounds Structure

The structure of inorganic compounds can vary widely, but they generally consist of a simple combination of atoms held together by ionic or covalent bonds. Ionic bonds occur between a metal and a non-metal, where electrons are transferred from one atom to another, creating charged ions that attract each other. For example, table salt (NaCl) is formed from sodium (Na) and chlorine (Cl) ions. Covalent bonds, on the other hand, involve the sharing of electrons between atoms, typically seen in compounds like water (H₂O), where oxygen shares electrons with hydrogen atoms.

Inorganic Compounds Examples


Ammonia (NH₃)

  • Ammonia is a colorless gas with a strong, pungent odor. It is commonly used in cleaning products and as a fertilizer.
  • Chemical Reaction: N₂ + 3H₂ → 2NH₃

Nitric Acid (HNO₃)

  • This is a highly corrosive and toxic acid used to make fertilizers and explosives.
  • Chemical Reaction: 3NO₂ + H₂O → 2HNO₃ + NO

Sodium Bicarbonate (NaHCO₃)

  • Also known as baking soda, it is used in baking, cleaning, and as an antacid.
  • Chemical Reaction: 2NaHCO₃ → Na₂CO₃ + H₂O + CO₂

Potassium Permanganate (KMnO₄)

  • A dark purple compound used as a disinfectant and in water treatment. It acts as a strong oxidizing agent.
  • Chemical Reaction: 2KMnO₄ + H₂O → 2KOH + 2MnO₂ + 3O₂

Borax (Na₂B₄O₇·10H₂O)

  • Used in cleaning products, as a flux in metal welding, and in making homemade slime for children.
  • Chemical Reaction: Stable under normal conditions but loses water of crystallization when heated.

Aluminum Sulfate (Al₂(SO₄)₃)

  • Commonly used in water purification and as a mordant in dyeing fabrics.
  • Chemical Reaction: Al₂(SO₄)₃ + 6NaHCO₃ → 2Al(OH)₃ + 3Na₂SO₄ + 6CO₂

Copper(II) Sulfate (CuSO₄)

  • A blue crystalline solid used in fungicides and as an electrolyte in electroplating processes.
  • Chemical Reaction: Fe + CuSO₄ → FeSO₄ + Cu

Silver Nitrate (AgNO₃)

  • Used in photography and in antiseptic preparations.
  • Chemical Reaction: AgNO₃ + NaCl → AgCl + NaNO₃

Calcium Chloride (CaCl₂)

  • This compound absorbs moisture and is used as a drying agent, in road de-icing, and in dust control. It is highly soluble in water and releases heat upon dissolution.

Barium Sulfate (BaSO₄)

  • Used as a radiopaque agent to improve the contrast of X-ray images.
  • Chemical Reaction: BaCl₂ + Na₂SO₄ → BaSO₄ + 2NaCl

Inorganic Compounds Properties

Physical Properties of Inorganic Compounds

Melting PointThe temperature at which a solid becomes a liquid
Boiling PointThe temperature at which a liquid turns to vapor
SolubilityHow well a substance dissolves in a solvent
DensityThe mass per unit volume of a substance
ColorThe color of the compound in solid or solution form
OdorThe smell of the compound, if any
HardnessThe resistance of a solid to being scratched
ConductivityAbility to conduct electricity or heat
  • Melting Point: This is the specific temperature where a solid substance turns into a liquid. Inorganic compounds often have high melting points due to strong ionic or covalent bonds.
  • Boiling Point: This indicates the temperature at which a substance changes from a liquid to a gas. Compounds with strong bonds typically have higher boiling points.
  • Solubility: This property measures how well a compound can dissolve in a solvent, like water. The solubility of inorganic compounds varies widely; some dissolve easily while others do not.
  • Density: This is calculated by dividing the mass of a substance by its volume. Denser materials are heavier for their size.
  • Color: Many inorganic compounds are colorful due to the way they absorb and reflect light. For example, copper sulfate is bright blue.
  • Odor: Some inorganic compounds have distinctive smells, but many are odorless. Ammonia, for example, has a sharp, pungent odor.
  • Hardness: The hardness of a compound tells us how resistant it is to scratching and wear. This is particularly important for materials used in construction and manufacturing.
  • Conductivity: This property describes how well a compound can transfer heat or electricity. Metals are generally good conductors, while non-metals are not.

Difference between Inorganic Compounds and Organic Compounds

FeatureInorganic CompoundsOrganic Compounds
Basic ElementsMainly contain metals and non-metals, rarely contain carbonPrimarily composed of carbon and hydrogen
Carbon-Hydrogen BondsLacks carbon-hydrogen bondsAlways contains carbon-hydrogen bonds
ComplexityGenerally simpler structuresMore complex structures with long chains and rings
Melting and Boiling PointsOften have high melting and boiling pointsVaries widely, generally lower than inorganic compounds
SolubilitySoluble in water, insoluble in organic solventsInsoluble in water, soluble in organic solvents
ConductivityOften good conductors of electricity when dissolved in waterPoor conductors of electricity
FormationCan form saltsRarely form salts
OccurrenceFound in earth’s crust, oceans, atmosphereDerived from living organisms or synthetic processes


How Many Inorganic Compounds Are There?

Estimating the exact number of inorganic compounds is challenging due to the vast array of elements and the possible combinations among them. In the world of chemistry, new inorganic compounds are being synthesized regularly, and the number continues to grow. Currently, there are thousands of known inorganic compounds. These include simple compounds like water and sodium chloride, as well as more complex ones such as transition metal complexes and inorganic polymers. The diversity and abundance of inorganic compounds are due to the ability of elements to form various types of bonds and structures, from simple ions and salts to complex crystalline lattices.

Is Water an Inorganic Compound?

Yes, water (H₂O) is considered an inorganic compound. This might seem counterintuitive since it is vital for all known forms of life and often associated with organic processes. However, chemically speaking, water does not contain carbon-hydrogen bonds, which are a typical hallmark of organic compounds. Water is composed of two hydrogen atoms bonded to one oxygen atom. It is one of the simplest examples of inorganic compounds, yet it plays critical roles in the environment and biological systems, acting as a solvent and participating in countless chemical reactions.

Can Inorganic Become Organic?

The transformation from inorganic to organic compounds is a fundamental concept in chemistry, particularly in scenarios like the origin of life and synthetic chemistry. In nature, simple inorganic molecules are often converted into organic substances through biological processes. For example, plants convert carbon dioxide (a simple inorganic compound) into organic molecules like glucose through photosynthesis, a process catalyzed by the sun’s energy.

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