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Difference between Saturated and Unsaturated Hydrocarbon

Chemistry is a vivid subject filled with bonds, compounds, chemical reactions, etc. These bonds and compounds give rise to ions, anions, cations, anodes, cathodes, etc. One of the major aspects of chemistry is the periodic table. In the periodic table, the atomic numbers and atomic masses are given through which a scientist can create certain chemicals. Today, we will be discussing about one of these bonds/ chemicals, i.e., saturated hydrocarbon and unsaturated hydrocarbon. Now, there are certain differences between the two terms. But one of the striking similarities between them is that both saturated and unsaturated hydrocarbons are organic compounds. So, apart from the differences, let us first look at the meanings of these two terms.

Saturated vs Unsaturated Hydrocarbon

Saturated Hydrocarbon

A saturated hydrocarbon is defined as a hydrocarbon that comprises of carbon-carbon bonds. All the carbon-carbon bonds are single bonds, i.e., they include hydrogen and atom only. In saturated hydrocarbons, the carbon is bonded with four to five saturated atoms so that multiple bonds are not formed. Since saturated hydrocarbon is an organic compound, multiple bonds cannot exist in it. It is interesting to note that saturated hydrocarbons are used as a reference for alkenes-acyclic hydrocarbons. The formula of an alkane is CnH2n+2. In this formula, propane is a saturated hydrocarbon bonded with the hydrogen atom. It is a single bond in which no more atoms can be bonded/ accommodated. Examples of saturated hydrocarbons include octane, cyclopropane, butane, cyclohexane, etc. Now, there are two significant types of saturated hydrocarbons, i.e., alkanes and cycloalkanes. It is interesting to note that some alkanes have ring structures that come under cycloalkanes (saturated hydrocarbons). Alkanes are the carbon chains in the structures. All the carbon atoms in alkanes are hybrid. The boiling and melting point of alkane depends upon the length of the carbon chain. If the length is more, the boiling/ melting point will be higher. Alkanes consist of four carbon atoms at standard temperatures. Alkanes comprising of more than three carbon atoms are capable of forming chain isomerism.

On the other hand, cycloalkanes are ring structures containing hybridized atoms. The properties of cycloalkanes are similar to those of alkanes. Unlike alkanes, the melting/ boiling points of cycloalkanes are relatively higher. Both alkanes and cycolakanes share the same physical properties.

Unsaturated Hydrocarbon

Unsaturated hydrocarbons are defined as carbons that consist of double/ triple covalent bonds. Unsaturated hydrocarbons mean that there is more level of hydrogen atoms in hydrocarbons to make them saturated. Unsaturated hydrocarbon is an organic compound containing hydrogen and carbon atoms. There are three significant kinds of unsaturated hydrocarbons, i.e., alkenes, alkynes, and aromatic. A double bond between two carbon atoms is called alkenes. Example of alkenes includes C2H4 (Ethene). A triple bond between two carbon atoms is called alkynes. Example of alkynes includes C2H2 (acetylene). Aromatic hydrocarbons are quite stable than the other two. These hydrocarbons do not share similar properties as that of alkenes or alkynes. Unsaturated hydrocarbons are subjected to many uses like:

  • Fruits are ripened with the help of alkenes.
  • Used as monomers to synthesize several compounds.
  • Alkenes result in the production of mustard gas, which is required for warfare.
  • Acetylene is used as fuel in a torch.
  • Used in plastic manufacturing.
  • Alkenes are used to make detergents, alcohol, plastic, etc.

Well, there are certain differences between saturated and unsaturated hydrocarbons. So, let us have a look at them.

1. Saturated hydrocarbons are the carbons comprising of the carbon-carbon bond. On the other hand, unsaturated hydrocarbon is defined as the carbons comprising of double/ triple covalent bonds.
2. There are two major types of saturated hydrocarbons, i.e., alkanes and cycloalkanes. There are three major types of unsaturated hydrocarbons, i.e., alkenes, alkynes, and aromatic hydrocarbons.
3. All the carbon atoms in saturated hydrocarbon are sp3 hybridized. All the unsaturated hydrocarbons are sp2 hybridized.
4. Saturated hydrocarbons include more hydrogen atoms. Unsaturated hydrocarbons include less hydrogen atoms.
5. The chemical reactivity is low in saturated hydrocarbons. Unsaturated hydrocarbons are more reactive to chemicals.
6. Saturated hydrocarbons burn with a blue flame. Unsaturated hydrocarbons burn soil-colored flame (sooty flame).
7. Examples:
  • Alkanes
  • Cycloalkanes
  • Methane
  • Hexane
  • Alkenes
  • Alkynes
  • Aromatic
  • Ethane
  • Acetic Acid

So, these are some of the contrasting points regarding saturated and unsaturated hydrocarbons. Now, let us look at their properties.

Properties/ Uses of Saturated Hydrocarbons

  • There are more hydrogen atoms in saturated hydrocarbons.
  • Alkanes and cycloalkanes are two significant types of saturated hydrocarbons.
  • Methane is a kind of alkane that is used as a fuel in automobiles, heaters, ovens, etc.
  • Methane can also be used as rocket fuel.
  • Ethane is used as a refrigerant. Production of ethylene also takes place through this.
  • Cycloalkanes are used to manufacture rubbers, nylon, petroleum gas, etc.

Properties/ Uses of Unsaturated Hydrocarbons

  • More hydrogen atoms are required to make unsaturated hydrocarbon saturated.
  • The carbon-carbon bonds in unsaturated hydrocarbons form a 120-degree angle.
  • The formation of water and carbon dioxide leads to combustion.
  • Removal of hydrogen or the addition of an oxygen atom is required for oxidation reactions.
  • Benzene is an aromatic hydrocarbon forming a 120-degree angle among atoms.

So, these are some of the properties/ uses of saturated and unsaturated hydrocarbons. Both hydrocarbons are organic compounds that are used in making other chemical compounds. A carbon chain is formed on which the melting and boiling point of the hydrocarbon depends. Thus, both saturated and unsaturated hydrocarbons are essential aspects of chemistry.

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