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Hydrocarbons are organic compounds that consist of only C and H atoms. They include
the Alkanes, Alkenes, Alkynes and the Aromatic hydrocarbons. These compounds are
also refers to as non-polar compounds , because of their nonpolarity, all hydrocarbons are
insoluble in water. When these compounds (Hydrocarbons) burns in sufficient oxygen,
carbon dioxide and water are the sole product.

These compounds are classified as Saturated or Unsaturated Hydrocarbons this

classification only applies to the aliphatic compounds that is the straight or branch chain
hydrocarbons depending on the number of bonds in between the carbon atom which is the
basis of hydrocarbons structural differences. Thus hydrocarbons can be grouped into
families based on their similar properties.


Almost all useable supplies of hydrocarbons are obtained from fossil fuels – coal,
petroleum, and natural gas. Through distillation crude oil is boiled and condensed over
several fractions to give the desired mixture of compounds. Gasoline for example is a
fraction boiling roughly between 40 and 200 oC. the vapor that are condensed in this
fraction are mostly alkanes and have between 5 to 10 carbon atoms.

Since crude oil and natural gas are the major sources of Hydrocarbon then what is crude
oil? Crude oil can be described as a mixture of many compounds, most of them
hydrocarbons. Both crude oil and natural gas are mixtures of hydrocarbons; however,
crude oil also contains minor amounts of other chemicals, such as sulfur, nitrogen, and
oxygen while natural gas is a mixture of simple, small hydrocarbons only.


Hydrocarbons molecules vary a great deal as to how many atoms they contain. A
molecule of methane – the main component of natural gas- consists of just one carbon
and four hydrogen atoms, while a molecule of polyethylene is along chain of thousands
of carbon and hydrogen atoms.

Below are some common simple hydrocarbons, with their molecular structures. Note that
the last two have double bonds between their carbon atoms.

Methane H
Ethane H H
C2H6 H H



Hydrocarbons have different boiling points, and can be solids, liquids or gases at room
temperature. Small hydrocarbons with only a few carbon atoms have low boiling points
and are gases at room temperature, while large hydrocarbons with many carbon atoms
have boiling points and are solids at room temperature. e.g waxes and hydrocarbons with
between 5 – 12 carbon atoms are usually liquids at room temperature.


The higher the hydrocarbon molecule and more carbon atoms it contains
• The higher its boiling point.
• The less easily it turns into vapor i.e it is less volatile.
• The less easily it flows i.e its more viscous
• The less easily it ignites i.e it is less flammable.

These trends in properties of hydrocarbon is very important and mostly used in the
separation of crude into various fractions, which is achieved by distillation, most widely
used is the fractional distillation of crude which differ from the ordinary distillation
process that can be used in the separation of pure liquid from a mixture of liquids with
different boiling points while fractional distillation on the other hand separates mixtures
of liquids for instance crude oil into a number of different parts, called fractions.

Hydrocarbons burns in oxygen to produces carbondioxide and water the level of

combustion depends on the amount of oxygen involves at this point you need to know
what happen when fuels burns, and you may also be expected to know how the gases
formed can harm the environment.

The products of combustion differ between complete and incomplete combustion. When
hydrocarbons burn they react with oxygen in the air. Burning or combustion is an
oxidation process, when they are completely burn the only product is water and carbon
dioxide.but when hydrocarbons in a limited supply of air, that is the amount of oxygen is
not enough to oxidized all the carbon dioxide. Some of the carbon released aas black
soot. Some of it reacts with oxygen to form carbon monoxide, which is a poisonous gas
with no smell.

Most fuels naturally contain some sulphur compounds. When the fuel burns, the sulphur
reacts with oxygen to form sulphur dioxide. This is gas with a choking smell which
dissolves in rain, making it more acidic.
Acid rain can damage rocks, building materials and trees. Plants and animals cannot
survive in rivers and lakes that become too acidic from acid rain.

Still on the properties of hydrocarbons lets consider the major families

For example let’s consider some aliphatic hydrocarbons.

Open-chain alkanes (without rings) all have the general formula CnH2n + 2, where n
equals the number of carbon atoms. The following table shows the structures and names
for the first 10 unbranched, open-chain alkanes. Look at the trends in the boiling and
melting points and the density of the alkanes as their mass increases
IUPAC Molecular Structural Boiling Melting Density
name Formula Formula Point (°C) Point (°C (g/ml, 20°C)
Methane CH4 CH4 -161.5 -182.5
Ethane C2H6 C2H6 -88.6 -183.3
Propane C3H8 CH3CH2CH3 -42.1 -189.7
Butane C4H10 CH 3 (CH )
2 2 CH 3 -0.5 -138.4
Pentane C5H12 CH 3 (CH 2 ) 3 CH 3 36.1 -129.7 0.626
Hexane C6H14 CH3(CH2)4CH3 68.7 -95.3 0.659
Heptane C7H16 CH 3 (CH 2 ) 5 CH 3 98.4 -90.6 0.684
Octane C8H18 CH3(CH2)6CH3 125.7 -56.8 0.703
Nonane C9H20 CH 3 (CH )
2 7 CH 3 150.8 -53.5 0.718
Decane C10H22 CH3(CH2)8CH3 174.1 -29.7 0.730

Alkyl Groups

An alkyl is basically an alkane minus one of its hydrogen atoms. For example:

CH4 CH3 - + H+

C2H6 C2H5- + H+

The Significant of the Alkyl group will be explained more latter.

IUPAC System of Naming Alkanes

The IUPAC (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry) is composed of

chemists representing the national chemical societies of several countries. One committee
of the IUPAC, the Commission on Nomenclature of Organic Chemistry, has set a system
for naming organic compounds. The last syllable in the name of a compound designates
the family to which it belongs. The alkanes all end in -ane.
IUPAC Rules for Namining the Alkanes
To be explain further in the class.

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