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Alfa Aesar

Heterocycles: The chemical compounds that know no bounds

Oct. 7, 2017

Have you ever wondered just how many heterocyclic compounds exist in nature? As the largest and most-varied family of organic compounds, heterocycles seem to turn up everywhere. In fact, more than half of all known organic compounds are heterocycles. They play vital roles in nucleic acids, in most biomass, and in the core structures of mono and polysaccharides. So what exactly are these structures, and how did they come to be one of the most widely used compounds in chemistry?

The chemistry of heterocycles

A heterocyclic compound is a cyclic compound that has carbon and at least one other element as part of its ring structure. Their general structure resembles cyclic organic compounds that contain rings of only carbon. However, the presence of heteroatoms such as nitrogen, oxygen, or sulfur gives heterocyclic compounds distinct physical and chemical properties. For instance, chemically speaking, heterocycles are more flexible and better able to respond to...

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