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hydrocarbon(hī'drōkär`bən), any organic compound composed solely of the elements hydrogen and carbon. The hydrocarbons differ both in the total number of carbon and hydrogen atoms in their molecules and in the proportion of hydrogen to carbon. The hydrocarbons can be divided into various homologous series. Each member of such a series shows a definite relationship in its structural formula to the members preceding and following it, and there is generally some regularity in changes in physical properties of successive members of a series. The alkanesalkane
, any of a group of aliphatic hydrocarbons whose molecules contain only single bonds (see chemical bond). Alkanes have the general chemical formula CnH2n+2.
..... Click the link for more information. are a homologous series of saturated aliphatic hydrocarbons. The first and simplest member of this series is methane, CH4; the series is sometimes called the methane series. Each successive member of a homologous series of hydrocarbons has one more carbon and two more hydrogen atoms in its molecule than the preceding member. The second alkane is ethane, C2H6, and the third is propane, C3H8. Alkanes have the general formula CnH2n+2 (where n is an integer greater than or equal to 1). Generally, hydrocarbons of low molecular weight, e.g., methane, ethane, and propane, are gases; those of intermediate molecular weight, e.g., hexane, heptane, and octane, are liquids; and those of high molecular weight, e.g., eicosane (C20H42) and polyethylene, are solids. Paraffin is a mixture of high-molecular-weight alkanes; the alkanes are sometimes called the paraffin series. Other homologous series of hydrocarbons include the alkenesalkene
, any of a group of aliphatic hydrocarbons whose molecules contain one or more carbon-carbon double bonds (see chemical bond). Alkenes with only one double bond have the general formula CnH2n.
..... Click the link for more information. and the alkynesalkyne
, any of a group of aliphatic hydrocarbons whose molecules contain one or more carbon-carbon triple bonds (see chemical bond). Alkynes with one triple bond have the general formula CnH2n−2.
..... Click the link for more information. . The various alkyl derivatives of benzenebenzene
, colorless, flammable, toxic liquid with a pleasant aromatic odor. It boils at 80.1°C; and solidifies at 5.5°C;. Benzene is a hydrocarbon, with formula C6H6.
..... Click the link for more information. are sometimes referred to as the benzene series. Many common natural substances, e.g., natural gas, petroleum, and asphalt, are complex mixtures of hydrocarbons. The coal tar obtained from coal by coking is also a mixture of hydrocarbons. Natural gas, petroleum, and coal tar are important sources of many hydrocarbons. These complex mixtures can be refined into simpler mixtures or pure substances by fractional distillation. During the refining of petroleum, one kind of hydrocarbon is often converted to another, more useful kind by cracking. Useful hydrocarbon mixtures include cooking gas, gasoline, naphtha, benzine, kerosene, paraffin, and lubricating oils. Many hydrocarbons are useful as fuels; they burn in air to form carbon dioxide and water. The hydrocarbons differ in chemical activity. The alkanes are unaffected by many common reagents, while the alkenes and alkynes are much more reactive, as a result of the presence of unsaturation (i.e., a carbon-carbon double or triple bond) in their molecules. Many important compounds are derived from hydrocarbons, either by substitution or replacement by some other chemical group or element of one or more of the hydrogen atoms of the hydrocarbon molecule, or by the addition of some element or group to a double or triple bond (in an unsaturated hydrocarbon). Such derivatives include alcohols, aldehydes, ethers, carboxylic acids, and halocarbons.
any of a class of organic compounds consisting only of carbon and hydrogen atoms. Depending on their structure, a distinction is made between acyclic, or aliphatic, hydrocarbons, in which the carbon atoms are bound to one another in linear or branched chains, and isocyclic, or carbocyclic, hydrocarbons, the molecules of which form rings consisting of three or more carbon atoms. Isocyclic hydrocarbons in turn are divided into alicyclic and aromatic hydrocarbons.
Acyclic hydrocarbons are divided into saturated compounds, which contain only single bonds (the parent compound of the family being methane), and unsaturated compounds, which contain double and triple bonds. Unsaturated hydrocarbons may have one double bond (olefins), two double bonds (dienes), or one triple bond, as in acetylene. The distinction between saturated and unsaturated compounds also applies to alicyclic hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons form homologous series, which are typified by the regularity of the differences between the various members’ physical and chemical properties.