carbonyl group (kärˈbənĭl) [key], in chemistry, functional group that consists of an oxygen atom joined by a double bond to a carbon atom. The carbon atom is joined to the remainder of the molecule by two single bonds or one double bond. If the carbonyl group is joined only to alkyl groups or aryl groups, the compound is a ketone; if it is joined to at least one hydrogen atom, the compound is an aldehyde. The chemical reactivity of aldehydes and ketones is primarily due to the difference in electronegativity between carbon and oxygen. Because oxygen has the greater affinity for electrons, it acquires a partial negative charge, becoming electron-rich; the carbon atom of the carbonyl group thus becomes electron-deficient, acquiring a partial positive charge. One major type of reaction of aldehydes and ketones involves the addition of an electron-rich chemical species to the electron-deficient carbon atom of the carbonyl group. Another type of reaction is due to the tendency of the electron-deficient carbon atom of the carbonyl group to partially attract electrons from carbon atoms adjacent to it in the molecule, thus increasing the acidity of hydrogen atoms that are bonded to the adjacent carbon.
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