Traditionally, inorganic compounds
are considered to be of mineral, not biological, origin. Complementarily, most organic compounds are traditionally viewed as being of biological origin. Over the past century, the precise classification of inorganic vs organic compounds has become less important to scientists, primarily because the majority of known compounds are synthetic and not of natural origin. Furthermore, most compounds considered the purview of modern inorganic chemistry contain organic ligands
. The fields of organometallic chemistry
and bioinorganic chemistry
explicitly focus on the areas between the fields of organic, biological, and inorganic chemistry.
Inorganic compounds can be formally defined with reference to what they are not—organic compounds. Organic compounds are those which contain carbon, although some carbon-containing compounds are traditionally considered inorganic. When considering inorganic chemistry and life, it is useful to recall that many species in nature are not compounds per se but are ions. Sodium, chloride, and phosphate ions are essential for life, as are some inorganic molecules such as carbonic acid, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, water and oxygen. Aside from these simple ions and molecules, virtually all species covered by bioinorganic chemistry contain carbon and can be considered organic or organometallic.
Inorganic carbon compounds
Many compounds that contain carbon are considered inorganic; for example, carbon monoxide
, carbon dioxide
, and thyocyanates
. In general, however, workers in these areas are not concerned about strict definitions.
A large class of compounds discussed in inorganic chemistry textbooks are coordination compounds
. Examples range from species that are strictly inorganic, such as [[Cobalt(III) hexammine chloride|[Co(NH3
]], to organometallic compounds such as Fe(C5H5)2
and extending to bioinorganic compounds, such as the hydrogenase
are mainly oxides
, which are strictly inorganic. In fact, most of the earth and the universe is inorganic. Although the components of the earth's crust are well elucidated, the processes of mineralization and the composition of the deep mantle
remain active areas of investigation, which are mainly covered in geology-oriented venues.