Inherent Atom Economy

Organic reactions are classified as additions, substitutions and so on. Each type by its nature has a higher or lower atom economy.

Reaction Type


Atom Economy



Different molecules join together to make a new substance

100% as all reactant atoms end up in the product

Manufacture of ethanol from ethene. Show me

Click for more on the manufacture of ethanol


Two molecules join, with the production of a small molecule like water or ammonia

Always a little less than 100% as small molecules are produced, which are usually waste.

Manufacture of nylon 6,6 from an acid and an amine Show me

Click for more on the manufacture of nylon


A group of atoms is removed from a molecule, usually leaving a double or triple bond

Generally poor because an additional product is always formed

Making phenylethene for poly(phenylethene) production Show me


Atoms are rearranged to create a different substance with the same empirical formula

100% as the same atoms are present in the product as in the reactant

Processing of fats to raise their melting point.  Show me


A group of atoms on a molecule is replaced by a different group

The group replaced creates a product too, but as this may vary considerably, substitutions can be from fairly good to very poor

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