Alkanes, also known as paraffins, are chemical compounds that consist
only of the elements carbon (C) and hydrogen (H) (i.e., hydrocarbons),
wherein these atoms are linked together exclusively by single bonds
without any cyclic structure.
Alkanes belong to a homologous series of organic compounds in which the
members differ by a constant relative atomic mass of 14.
alkyl group is a functional group or side-chain that, like an alkane,
consists solely of singly-bonded carbon and hydrogen atoms, for example
a methyl or ethyl group.
Saturated hydrocarbons can be linear (general formula CnH2n+2) wherein
the carbon atoms are joined in a snake-like structure, branched wherein
the carbon backbone splits off in one or more directions, or cyclic
wherein the carbon backbone is linked so as to form a loop.
simplest possible alkane is methane, CH4. There is no limit to the
number of carbon atoms that can be linked together, the only limitation
being that the molecule is acyclic, is saturated, and is a hydrocarbon.
Alkanes are not very reactive and have little biological activity.
Alkanes can be viewed as a molecular scaffold upon which can be hung the
interesting biologically-active/reactive portions of the molecule.
Alkenes or alkynes react with hydrogen in the presence of nickel
catalyst at 200-300°C to form alkanes. Other catalysts that can be used
are platinum and palladium.
halides undergo reduction with nascent hydrogen to form alkanes.
the sodium salt of a carboxylic acid is heati strongly with sodalime , a
molecule of carbon dioxide is split off as carbonate Amdahl alkane is
formed. Notice that the alkane so produced contains one carbon less than
the original acid.
magnesium halides are obtained by treating alkyl halides with magnesium
in anhydrous ether. These on treatment with water give alkanes.
Alkanes from hexadecane upwards form the most important components of
fuel oil and lubricating oil.
solid alkanes find use as paraffin wax, for example, in candles. This
should not be confused however with true wax, which consists primarily
Propane, for example, is used in the propane gas burner, butane in
disposable cigarette lighters. The two alkanes are used as propellants
in aerosol sprays.
first four alkanes are used mainly for heating and cooking purposes, and
in some countries for electricity generation.
Methane and ethane are the main components of natural gas; they are
normally stored as gases under pressure.
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