Explaining Paraffin Hydrocarbons

Explaining Paraffin Hydrocarbons

As the name implies, hydrocarbons are molecules made up of hydrogen and carbon atoms. Carbon, as a fundamental part of life, is one of the most important atoms in the universe. Just like carbon, hydrogen is also an essential component vital to the survival of the majority of life forms. Paraffin hydrocarbons can also be referred to as alkanes.

Due to the fact that the molecule is a saturated hydrocarbon, the molecule is referred to as an alkane in organic chemistry terminology. In simpler terms, this molecule is composed of only single bonds between the atoms (specifically the carbon atoms). The reason why this saturation occurs is that carbon is able to function as a versatile molecule, bonding with other elements and being able to bond to itself. It can be described as a hydrocarbon whose general formula is CnH2n+2, where the H represents hydrogen atoms and the C represents carbon atoms. From the number of carbon atoms in the formula, one can deduce the number of hydrogen atoms that are present in the formula. Petroleum and natural gas are both major sources of paraffin.

Molecular makeup

It should be noted that paraffins typically contain less than 5 atoms of carbon per molecule, which causes them to be gaseous at room temperature. Typically, anything that contains more than 5 atoms of carbon is gaseous up to a range of 15 atoms, and then above that it is typically solid. This is because when a branched-chain is present on a paraffin molecule, the octane value increases, which is why this is a more desirable type of fuel.

A few properties of paraffin hydrocarbons:

  • immiscible with water
  • colorless
  • able to change from solid to liquid or gas (based on the amount of carbon in the chain)

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