Chains, Branches and Rings
In the earlier section, we mentioned the carbon compounds methane, ethane and propane, containing respectively 1, 2 and 3 carbon atoms. Such ‘chains’ of carbon atoms can contain tens of carbon atoms. The names and structures of six of these are given in Table 4.2.
But, let us take another look at butane. If we make the carbon ‘skeleton’ with four carbon atoms, we see that two different ‘skeletons’ are possible –
We see that both these structures have the same formula C4H10. Such compounds with identical molecular formula but different structures are called structural isomers.
In addition to straight and branched carbon chains, some compounds have carbon atoms arranged in the form of a ring. For example, cyclohexane has the formula C6H12 and the following structure –
Can you draw the electron dot structure for cyclohexane? Straight chain, branched chain and cyclic carbon compounds, all may be saturated or unsaturated. For example, benzene, C6H6, has the following structure –
All these carbon compounds which contain just carbon and hydrogen are called hydrocarbons. Among these, the saturated hydrocarbons are called alkanes. The unsaturated hydrocarbons which contain one or more double bonds are called alkenes. Those containing one or more triple bonds are called alkynes.