A hydrocarbon is a molecule whose structure includes only hydrogen and carbon atoms. Interestingly, though, hydrocarbons (once combined) also form bonds with other atoms in order to create organic compounds.
The presence of carbon is required for a compound to be classified as organic in all but a few cases, but the presence of a hydrocarbon adds even more basis for it to be considered organic as there are a few inorganic compounds that do contain carbon but not hydrogen.
The presence of a hydrocarbon in an organic compound means the bonds between the atoms will be particularly strong, unlike the bonds in inorganic compounds and in organic compounds that contain a carbon atom.
The presence of other atoms leads to hydrocarbons being classified as either pure (only hydrogen and carbon) or impure (hydrogen or carbon bonded to other atoms as well as each other).
1. Natural gas and fuels - Many of the natural fuel sources we use are hydrocarbons. Compounds like methane, butane, propane, and hexane are all hydrocarbons. Their chemical formulas consist of only carbon and hydrogen atoms, in a variety of ratios and chemical configurations.
2. Plastics - Many of the plastics we use in everyday life and in industry are made from long chains of monomers, formed from petrochemicals. These petrochemicals are simply hydrocarbons of different chemical compositions.
3. Paraffin - The wax that we use for a variety of industries, everything from candle making and food preservation to medical and industrial uses, contains hydrocarbons.
4. Isopropyl alcohol - This common medical chemical is interesting in that it contains a hydrocarbon that is then bonded to further carbon atoms. The initial hydrocarbon, CH3, bonds to other atoms to form (CH3)2CHOH.
5. Asphalt - the common substance that most people are familiar with is actually a hydrocarbon that has been heated to form the substance tar. It is then mixed with other key industrial ingredients to form the mixture that makes up the road's surface.
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