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Spectroscopy. A Brief Guide to Types of Isomerism in Organic Chemistry. In organic chemistry, isomers are molecules with the same molecular formula (i.e. the same number of atoms of each element), but different structural or spatial arrangements of the atoms within the molecule. The reason there are such a colossal number of organic compounds – more than 10 million – is in part down to isomerism. This graphic looks at the 5 main types of isomerism in organic molecules, with a more detailed explanation of each given below, as well as the reason why isomerism is important in our day-to-day lives.

Isomers can be split into two broad groups – structural (or constitutional) isomers, and stereoisomers. We’ll consider structural isomers first, which can be split again into three main subgroups: chain isomers, position isomers, and functional group isomers. Chain Isomers Chain isomers are molecules with the same molecular formula, but different arrangements of the carbon ‘skeleton’. Position Isomers Functional Isomers Geometric Isomers Optical Isomers Like this: