What Does R Stand for in Chemistry Molecules?

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The R in chemistry molecules actually has to do with a very specific type of compound. Find out what the R stands or in chemistry molecules with help from an experienced chemistry professional in this free video clip.

Part of the Video Series: Chemistry & Biology Concepts
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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Robin Higgins, and this is, "What does R stand for in chemistry molecules?" O.k., so let's imagine that we're a scientist in a lab and we just made this compound that looks like this. So, it's pretty long and complicated. And let's say that we need send an Email or present in a project this molecule over and over again. And let's say that all of our experiments actually only deal with this alcohol group. Then basically it's going to be a huge pain to re-draw this every time. What we really care about is just this alcohol. So, we just want to express that. So, what scientists do, chemists, is they use an R. An R just means a bunch of carbons, sometimes other stuff too. So, in this example, we're going to abbreviate all of this R, but there's an oxygen here. So, it's doesn't have to be just carbons and hydrogens, but mostly carbons and hydrogens. So, now if we're going to abbreviate this molecule, we can write it just as this. So, see how I took everything from here and placed it just into this R group. And there's no hard and fast rule. If we want to include this double bond, we could easily draw this the R group. It's just whatever we feel like. So, R is just an abbreviation. Unless someone tells you what an R group is, there's no way you can figure it out. And it's also good to know that to not get confused, R is going to have different numbers. So, let's say that this is R prime, which means the first R. Then if we ever use a different R, let's say we have this molecule. And now, we're looking at this alcohol. Then let's say that our R would be like this, but we wouldn't call it R, if we already used R prime. We'd call it R double prime, which just means a different R. And so, we would always make sure, no matter what we were doing, to be very, very clear with labeling our R's. Because like i said before, there's no way you can figure out what an R group is, unless someone tells you. So, that's all, R is to shorthand, it's almost always a bunch of carbons, sometimes a few other elements. I'm Robin Higgins and this is, "What does R mean in chemistry molecules?"


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