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Hydrocarbons and their Classification


Hydrocarbons are compounds containing only carbon and hydrogen. A large number of hydrocarbons are known. These occur widely in nature—in petroleum, natural gas and coal. Hydrocarbons can be considered as parent organic compounds from which other classes of compounds are derived by replacing one or more hydrogen atoms by the atoms of other elements or groups.

Hydrocarbons are classified on the basis of the nature of the framework of the carbon chain in a molecule and on the basis of the nature of bond between carbon atoms (such as single, double or triple bonds).

 

Acyclic Hydrocarbons


These are compounds of carbon and hydrogen in which the carbon atoms are linked in such a manner that they do not form a cyclic system. They are also called open-chain hydrocarbons.
  1. Alkanes are the saturated alicyclic hydrocarbons. In alkanes carbon atoms are linked through a carbon-carbon single bond, e.g. ethane, propane, etc. These are also called paraffins.
  2. Alkenes are unsaturated hydrocarbons containing at least one carbon-carbon double bond, e.g. ethylene (CH2=CH2). These are also called olefins.
  3. Alkynes are unsaturated hydrocarbons, containing at least one carbon-carbon triple bond, e.g. acetylene (CH CH). These are also called acetylenes.

Cyclic Hydrocarbons


These are compounds of carbon and hydrogen in which carbon atoms are linked in such a manner that at least one cyclic system is formed, e.g. cyclopentane, benzene, etc. Cyclic hydrocarbons may be aliphatic or aromatic.
  1. Aliphatic cyclohydrocarbons are further classified as cycloalkanes, if the cyclohydrocarbon is saturated. A cycloalkene contains a double bond and a cyclic system of carbon atoms. A cycloalkyne contains a carbon-carbon triple bond and a ring system of carbon atoms.
  2. Aromatic hydrocarbons are the cyclohydrocarbons that are unsaturated. However their properties are quite different from aliphatic hydrocarbons. They are less reactive than unsaturated aliphatic hydrocarbons. For example benzene, toluene, xylenes, naphthalene are aromatic hydrocarbons.




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