The first thing to determine is that the word that concerns us now is a neologism. Specifically, it was created from the particle “alc-“, which is part of alcohol, and the suffix “-ano”, which is used to give name to hydrocarbons.
An alkane is a hydrocarbon: a chemical compound formed from the combination of carbon and hydrogen. In this case, it is a saturated hydrocarbon, since its covalent bonds are simple.
Other important data about alkanes are the following:
-The formula that defines them is CnH2n + 2. In this case, it must be stated that the n corresponds to the number of carbons it has.
-At the time of naming the alkanes is done using the aforementioned suffix “-ano” and a prefix. This can be of different types, such as the following: “met-“, “but-“, “et-“, “prop-“… Examples of this are methane, propane, butane, ethane…
-Alkanes can be say they are insoluble in water.
-The main use that is usually given is as fuel. Why? Because unquestionably they release a great deal of heat.
-As a general rule, alkanes are divided into four different groups: cyclic, linear, polycyclic and branched.
-Its boiling points and also melting points are low.
-They are not rigid.
-At the time of analyzing, working and using alkanes they take on special importance and value from their combustion to the well-known potential energy diagrams. In the same way, we cannot forget either what is known as Newman’s projection. This serves to check the energy of the possible conformations that take place.
Alkanes are generally said to be aliphatic because the structure of their molecules is an open chain. However, there are also cycloalkanes or cyclic alkanes, which have cyclic chains. In all cases, alkanes do not have functional groups such as carboxyls, carbonyls or others.
The methane is an alkane having one atom of carbon. With two carbon atoms we find ethane, while propane has three carbon atoms and butane four carbon atoms.
On our planet, alkanes can be found in oil, natural gas, and biogas, among other sources. It is also found in cows’ stomachs as methane gas, for example.
Importantly, alkanes have been found on other planets. Gaseous planets often have alkanes in their atmosphere, such as Uranus, Neptune, Saturn, and Jupiter. Alkanes have also been detected in meteorites that have fallen to the Earth’s surface.
Alkanes have multiple uses. Certain alkanes can be used to produce electricity or as fuel to heat and power motors. Alkanes also serve to obtain oils. The use of alkanes must be controlled since it is a compound that, when mixed with air, can explode.