10 Interesting Facts about Alkanes – Information and Uses

These are some of the most interesting facts about alkanes you must know. Alkane is the simplest organic molecule which only made of carbon and hydrogen with only single bond between the carbon. Alkanes are the most casual and also least reactive hydrocarbon species which contains only carbons and hydrogen. One of the unique feature of alkane which differentiate it from the other that also exclusively contain carbon and hydrogen, is its lack of unsaturation.

Alkane is used as the base in naming the majority of the organic compounds (as their nomenclature). Alkane is an acyclic saturated hydrocarbon. Alkane consist of hydrogen and carbon atoms which all the carbon-carbon bonds are single. The amount of the hydrogen atom in each molecule are maximum. The general formula is CnH2n+2.

Every carbon atom has 4 bonds (whether the C-H bond or the C-C bond) and each hydrogen atom must be tied with the carbon atom (H-C bond). An Alkyl cluster, usually symbolized with R, is a functional cluster, which is like alkane, made of the bond of the single carbon and hydrogen atom. For example, methyl or ethyl cluster.

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Alkane Characteristics

  • Saturated hydrocarbons (there is no carbon-carbon double bond therefore the number of the H atoms are maximum).
  • Classified as paraffin because it has small affinity ( A force between particles that causes them to combine).
  • Difficult to react.
  • The form of alkane with chain C1-C4 at room temperature is gas, C4-C17 at room temperature is liquid, and C18 at room temperature is solid.
  • The boiling point will get higher if the C element increases. If the number of the C element is the same, the branched alkane will have lower boiling point.
  • Solubility: almost insoluble in water but easily dissolve in non-polar solvent.
  • The density increase with the increase of the C elements.
  • Main source of natural gas and petroleum

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Alkanes Homologous Series

Homologous Series of Alkanes is a series or a group of carbon compounds which consist of the same general formula and the same characteristics.

Homologous series characteristics:

  • It shares the same general formula.
  • The compounds usually have a fixed set of functional groups that makes them have similar chemical properties.
  • The number of the MR range between 2 units is 14.
  • The longer the size of the carbon chain = the higher the boiling point is.

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Nomenclature of Alkanes

The names of all alkanes end with –ane.

The devising of the name according to IUPAC (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry):

1. Unbranched Alkanes

The alkanes with unbranched carbon chains are named based on the number of carbon (C) in the chain and will start with n (n=normal).

Example of Alkanes: C4H10     CH3-CH2-CH2-CH3


2. Branched Alkanes

  • Specify the longest chain to be the alkane name. If there’s two or more choose the one with the most branch. The longest chain may not be written in a straight line
  • Name it with the appropriate alkane name.
  • Specify the branch (alkil).
  • Branch numbering starts from the lowest one.
  • If the branch is more than one : the different branch arranged based on the alphabet of the branch ( ignore all prefix such as di, tri, tetra, penta except for ISO).
  • If there’s multiple branch that are the same, the name of the branch with the same amount of C is mentioned one time but with a prefix that state all of its branches.
  • The number of the Carbon atom (C) where the branches are should be written based on the number of the branches. 2 = di, 3= tri, 4 = tetra etc.
  • The name should be written in one sentence. Divided with numbers and with coma (,).
  • In front of the prefix, list the numbers of each unit in the molecule and divide the letter and numbers with a hyphen (-)

These are the first 10 Alkanes:

methane CH4
ethane C2H6
propane C3H8
butane C4H10
pentane C5H12
hexane C6H14
heptane C7H16
octane C8H18
nonane C9H20
decane C10H22

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Alkanes chemical properties

Alkanes is a covalent compound which has a relatively low boiling and melting point. The low boiling and melting point of alkane usually determined by the amount of the carbon atom and the carbon atom’s chain structure. Generally low boiling and melting point has this kind of pattern:

  1. The more the carbon atom or the longer the chain in an alkane compound, the higher its boiling and melting point.
  2. The more the branches in the carbon chain, the lower its boiling and melting point.

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Alkanes physic properties

Facts about Alkanes, it is a saturated hydrocarbon and all of its bond is a complete covalent bond. As a result, hydrocarbon is a rather less reactive compound which makes it called “paraffin” which means that it has a rather low power join and also a rather low reactive join. The longer its carbon chain, the less its reactivity. The reaction in alkanes usually is a substitute reaction, which is a hydrogen atom replacement reaction in an alkane.

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Uses of Alkanes

Facts about Alkanes is having many uses. The Uses of Alkanes could be identified by looking at the number of the carbon atom inside of it.

  1. The first four alkanes (methane, ethane, propane, and butane). They’re used as fuel with the purpose of heating and cooking. In some countries it is used as power plants. Methane and ethane are liquefies natural gas (LNG) whereas the methane and ethane are usually stored as a high-pressured gas, which later will turn into liquid. In a liquid form, the maintenance is surely a lot easier than when it’s still in a form of gas. But then, to achieve the liquefied form a very high pressure is needed and also need some cooling (temperature reduction).
  2. Next are propane and butane. Propane and butane could be melted under a quite low pressure and also known as Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). Propane, for instance, is mainly used for stove usage. Propane is also used as a vehicle fuel. Butane on the other hand is mainly used as a lighter filler.
  3. In the alkanes row, from pentane to octane the character of the compound is liquid which is quite volatile (easy to evaporate). They are used as the fuel for the combustion engine in a closed-lid container because they are easy to vaporize which then enters the combustion chamber without forming a drop. This thing is considered an excellent thing, because if it turns into a form of droplets, it could cause a harm or even ruin the uniformity in the combustion process. The alkane which has branches is more preferable because it has small possibility to have a premature combustion process (early combustion). If the combustion process is done too early, or premature, then it could cause knocking. Usually, the cause of the knocking the straight chained alkanes. To measure the quality of the combustion process or how premature the combustion is doing , use octane value or number, where 2,2,4-trimetilpentana (isooktana) has the octane number of 100 and also the heptane number of 0.
  4. In the Alkanes row, from the nonana to hexadecane (Alkane with sicteen carbon atoms) has the characteristic of a liquid with high viscosity ( thick consistency) which makes it very not suitable as a gasoline. These alkanes is used as the main component for diesel fuel and aviation fuel. If in gasoline the octane number is used to measure its quality, then to measure the quality of the diesel fuel is using the cetane number. The cetane number is referring to hexadecane (the octane referring to isooctane). However, the melting point which is higher than than the hexadecane could cause some troubles in low temperature especially in the north pole, where fuels usually turns into a way thicker/harder form.
  5. The compound from the said hexadecane usually used a lot as an oil fuel or as lubricant oils. Other than that, the alkanes compound could also be used as an anti-corrosive agent, because of its hydrophobic trait (fear of water) that could protect the surface of a metal from water. For these alkanes compound usually set in a solid form are used as wax or candles.
  6. Alkanes which has around 35 long chains or more the carbon atom are usually found in asphalt that are used for the surface of a road. However, the longer the carbon chain, the lesser its value, so its usually gets cracked with the cracking process.

Other than all the benefits mentioned above, alkanes also used as polymer, which the amount and the types are already uncountable. These are all the basic but surely interesting facts about alkanes. To learn more about facts about Alkanes you should try learning about gasoline and other fuels. 

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