What Is: Organic (Geo)Chemistry?

Organic chemistry is the study of materials that contain carbon atoms

Carbon atoms for the basis for all life on Earth. By building molecules out of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, sulphur, phosphorous and an array of other elements, we can create and regulate our bodies. Organic compounds range from simple methane gas (CH4) up to very long and complex molecules used to protect our cells from toxic environments. Organic chemists work to identify these molecules, learn where they come from an how they are made, discover their function within the cell and investigate their effects on organisms and the environment.

Organic geochemists look at organic molecules within sediments and the rock record. They can use them to identify the source of organic material, looking to see whether carbon present in a sample came from soils, vegetation, marine algae or a range of other sources. Organic molecules can also be used to investigate the decomposition of material, looking to see how it changes over time, to identify the biological processes that were happening in ancient fossils, to identify the source and economic potential of hydrocarbon deposits, and many more applications.

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