Adrenaline Amphetamines: Introduction to functional groups in organic chemistry

Adrenaline Amphetamines: Introduction to functional groups in organic chemistry

Adrenaline Amphetamines: Introduction to functional groups in organic chemistry


Functional groups

some functional goups edublogs

Functional groups are specific groups of atoms or bonds within molecules that are responsible for their properties.The same functional group will do similar chemistry regardless of the size of the molecule it is a part of. The alcohol group in a molecule improves its solubility in water. Molecules with an amine group can smell of rotting fish. Many neurotransmitters are amines.


Amphetamine mimics the properties of adrenaline as a consequence of similarities between the chemical structures of the molecules

Adrenaline kick starts the body when a fast reaction is needed. It is released in response to anxiety or fear. This is the basis of the so called fight or flight reaction. molecules.


During the second world war amphetamines including methamphetamine were used by opposing sides for their stimulant and performance enhancing effects. As authorities became aware of the addictive properties of the drug restrictions were put in place to limit 

Organic chemists are molecular architects and they love to design new structures often with predictable properties. Molecules are held together by strong covalent bonds . Chemists understand how to detach single or complete groups of atoms and screw a completely different structure into place. They can even weld two different molecules together.

Methamphetamine pseudoephridine and phenyl 2 propanone.

adrenaline amphetamine methamphetamine

The TV series Breaking Bad gets most of the chemistry right in its portrayal of high school chemistry teacher Walter White as he “cooks’ methamphetamine from two different starting materials. Red phosporus is used in the mix when you start with pseudoephidrine. An unfortunate side reaction with moisture to produce toxic phosphine gas was used to spectacularly dispatch two drug dealers in his mobile lab. The p2p route which he eventually adopts has its problems starting with phenyl 2 propanone. Many organic molecules behave like a pair of gloves, they have a left handed  and right handed version both with four fingers and a thumb, identical mirror images of each other. The identical mirror image molecules are known as enantiomers

Chemistry is at the core of another violent scene (S.4E.1). Walt implies his product is enantiomerically pure in “Box cutter” . He asks Victor, “If our reduction is not stereospecific, then how can our product be enantiomerically pure?” Since he’s not a chemist, Victor was unable to answer, and Gus slits his throat with a box cutter while he is thinking about it.

Complex organic structures, where do the names come from?

Organic Chemistry Tutorial: Functional groups and naming organic molecules.

Organic Chemistry Tutorial: Functional groups and naming organic molecules.

adrenaline Naming organic molecules requires that you can recognise functional groups and follow a few simple rules.

Changing functional groups on the adrenaline molecule modifies its effects, some are suppressed others are enhanced.

Removing all of the -OH groups for instance turns adrenaline into amphetamine. Amphetamine echoes some of the properties of adrenaline.

amphetamineMethamphetamine is another molecule with a similar structure. Methamphetamine abuse is a serious social issue in New Zealand where  drug busts are a regular occurrence in Auckland suburbs.

Functional groups tutorial.

Organic Chemistry functional groups, AS 90309

  • Organic chemistry is the chemistry of molecules that are largely composed of carbon.

  • Many organic molecules have the same molecular formula but different structural formulae

  • Organic molecules are named with reference to the carbon skeleton and following rules

  • Functional groups attached to the carbon skeleton confer specific chemical properties to the molecule. ( -OH attached to the chain turns the molecule into an alcohol)

Adrenaline is an example of a molecule where changing functional groups attached to a 3 carbon chain can have a dramatic effect on the chemistry of a molecule.

If you have joined my class from Aaron’s group you should have a look at the video.



Finally look at this beautiful wee dancing molecule….

  • Name the molecule
  • What is its molecular formula
  • Name all possible structural isomers and draw full structural formulae

If you take the time to do this you will have no difficulty naming molecules with functional groups attached….but first watch this wee molecule dance.

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