MCAT Organic Chemistry Review

Aldehydes and Ketones I: Electrophilicity and Oxidation—Reduction


This chapter focuses on an important functional group for the MCAT: the carbonyl. Aldehydes and ketones, the two functional groups highlighted here, have a lot in common because they both contain a carbonyl—a double bond between a carbon and an oxygen. The only difference between the two is what is attached to the carbonyl.

The carbonyl group is one of the most common functional groups in organic chemistry for two reasons. First, the carbonyl is a component of many different functional groups. In additional to aldehydes and ketones, the carbonyl is found in carboxylic acids, esters, amides, anhydrides, and several other compounds. More importantly, the carbonyl has the unique ability to behave as either a nucleophile (as in condensation reactions) or an electrophile (as in nucleophilic addition reactions). In this chapter, we will investigate the overall properties of aldehydes and ketones, as well as their oxidation–reduction reactions and electrophilic properties. In the following chapter, we will investigate their nucleophilic properties through enolate chemistry.