A student is assigned to identify an unknown compound in an organic chemistry class. She is sure that the compound contains only carbon and hydrogen atoms. In addition, the unknown compound is a saturated hydrocarbon. If there are fourteen hydrogens in a molecule of this unknown compound, and it does not have a ring structure, what is the most likely number of carbons in this compound?
To answer this question, we can use the following clues from the question:
i) The compound is composed of only carbon and hydrogen atoms.
ii) It is a saturated hydrocarbon.
iii) It does not have a ring structure.
So the compound is an alkane. Alkanes have the general formula CnH2n+2. Now this becomes a simple algebra problem. Since there are 14 hydrogens, 2n+2 = 14.