Saturday, June 8, 2024

What are Hydrocarbons?

In our daily lives, we come in contact with a variety of chemical molecules. Every compound is unique in terms of atom makeup, structure, and properties. Every compound’s behaviour is primarily influenced by its characteristics and chemical interaction with other molecules or chemicals. We know that organic chemistry is made up of a wide variety of compounds with minor differences, such as the number of atoms or the position of functional groups, along with others. Aliphatic hydrocarbons, aromatic hydrocarbons, alicyclic hydrocarbons, and others are among these molecules. Let’s have a look at hydrocarbons in this article.


Hydrocarbons are organic molecules composed completely of two types of atoms: carbon and hydrogen. They are typically colourless gases with relatively mild odours. Hydrocarbons are classified into four categories: alkanes, alkenes, alkynes, and aromatic hydrocarbons. These classifications have simple or moderately complex structures. The study of hydrocarbons can reveal information on the chemical characteristics and manufacture of other functional groups. With any number of atoms, such as carbon and hydrogen, a long chain of compounds can be produced. Hydrocarbons can be prepared using various methods such as alkyl halides, aldehydes/ketones and various other techniques.


Hydrocarbons comprise an ocean of molecules and compounds. These compounds can be distinguished based on their structure. Hence, based on structure, hydrocarbons can be classified into four types: alkanes, alkenes, alkynes, and aromatic hydrocarbons.

  • The hydrocarbons that are bonded by single bonds only are called alkanes. Thus called saturated hydrocarbons. The general formula is CnH2n+2. Examples- Methane (CH4), propane(C3H6) etc.
  • The hydrocarbons that are bonded by at least one double bond between them are called alkene. They are reactive in nature and are known as unsaturated hydrocarbons. Their general formula (not including cyclic compounds) is CnH2n. Examples- Ethene (C3H6), Butene (C43H8) etc.
  • Alkynes are the hydrocarbons that are formed when one hydrogen molecule is removed from the alkane. They are unsaturated hydrocarbons that have at least one triple bond between them. The general formula is CnH2n-2. Examples- Ethyne (C2H2), Butane (C4H46), etc.

Various hydrocarbons exhibit different properties. Listed below are a few properties of hydrocarbons.

  • High-molecular-mass alkanes possess high boiling points.
  • When two alkanes have the same molecular mass but differ in the number of branches, the one with fewer branches has a higher boiling point. This is due to Vanderwal’s force weakening as the area increases.
  • Alkenes have a substantially wider range of reactions than alkanes. Alkanes have a substitution reaction, while alkenes and alkynes have an additional reaction to the double or triple bond.

As we know, there is a huge number of compounds in each class of hydrocarbons. Even in day to day life activities, hydrocarbons are widely used. Listed below are a few applications of hydrocarbons.

  • Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) is a commercial fuel made up of hydrocarbons like propane and butane.
  • Benzene, one of the most basic aromatic hydrocarbons, is used as a starting ingredient for several synthetic medications.
  • Methane is used as a heating and cooking fuel in homes and businesses all around the world.
  • Propane, unlike methane and ethane, liquefies at modest pressures. The main elements of fossil fuels are hydrocarbons and their derivatives, which release energy when burnt.
  • Hydrocarbons are employed in chemical synthesis and are key components of lubricating oils, greases, solvents, fuels, wax, asphalt, cosmetics, and polymers, in addition to their fuel applications.
  • These non-fuel hydrocarbon applications have the potential to be extremely beneficial to society and the economy.
  • Hydrocarbons can be found in both plants and trees. For instance, carotenes are an organic pigment found in green leaves and carrots.
  • Also, natural crude rubber is made up of hydrocarbons.

The majority of hydrocarbons found in nature are also seen in crude oil, where degraded organic matter supplies an excess of carbon and hydrogen that can catenate to form apparently endless chains when joined. The majority of hydrocarbons found in nature are found in crude oil, where degraded organic matter supplies an excess of carbon and hydrogen that can catenate to form apparently endless chains when joined. Hydrocarbons are a diverse collection of organic substances that are predominantly made up of carbon and hydrogen molecules and exist naturally.

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