What are hydrocarbons?

When the hydrogen reacts with carbon a new compound is formed that’s usually called the hydrocarbon.

Hydrocarbons are one of the major components of organic chemistry. They are organic compounds which are made up of hydrogen and carbon atoms. The molecular formula for these compounds is CxHy. The above-mentioned compounds play a vital role in daily life and most of them occur in nature.

These hydrocarbons are the compounds of greater importance in our life as they play a key role of supporting material in many of the industries such as in the manufacturing of polybags, acetylene lamp.

The major part of fossil fuels is made up of these organic compounds. Their existence is seen in plants and trees. For example, Carotenes is an organic pigment which is found in green leaves and carrots. These hydrogen and carbon compounds make up to 98 percent of natural crude rubber. Further, they possess large internal energy which renders them their importance.

Classification of Hydrocarbons

Today the compounds are distinguished on the basis of structure and not merely on the origin.

Besides, organic compounds are classified into:

  • Saturated hydrocarbons: They are the compounds in which carbon-carbon atoms and carbon-hydrogen atoms are held together by single bonds. These single bonded compounds are the simplest hydrocarbons. The general formula for these single bonded organic compounds is CnH2n+2.
  • Unsaturated hydrocarbons: These compounds consist of a single, double or a triple bond between carbon-carbon atoms. The double-bonded compounds are called alkenes and the triple bonded compounds are called alkynes. The general formula for alkenes is CnH2n and for alkynes the general formula is CnH2n-2.
  • Cycloalkanes: These hydrocarbons possess one or multiple carbon rings. The hydrogen atom is attached to the carbon ring.
  • Aromatic Hydrocarbons: These are also called as arenes. Arenes are compounds which consist of at least one aromatic ring.

Many hydrocarbons occur in nature. In addition to making up fossil fuels, they are present in trees and plants, as, for example, in the form of pigments called carotenes that occur in carrots and green leaves. More than 98 percent of natural crude rubber is a hydrocarbon polymer, a chainlike molecule consisting of many units linked together. The structures and chemistry of individual hydrocarbons depend in large part on the types of chemical bonds that link together the atoms of their constituent molecules.

Uses of Hydrocarbons

  • Hydrocarbons are widely used as fuels. For example LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas), CNG (Liquefied Natural Gas).
  • They are used in the manufacturing of polymers such as polyethylene, polystyrene etc.
  • These organic compounds find their application in the manufacturing of drugs and dyes as a starting material.
  • They serve as lubricating oil and grease.


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