List of Topics

SfC Home > Physical Science > Chemistry >

 

Hydrocarbon Bonding

by Ron Kurtus (4 May 2003)

Chemical compounds that are a combination of Hydrogen (H) and Carbon (C) atoms are called hydrocarbons.

Because of the number of electrons in the outer shells or orbits of these two elements, there are a very large number of compounds that can be formed. For example, most petroleum chemicals are hydrocarbons.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.



Outer orbits

Hydrogen has one electron in its outer orbit. That means it tends to combine with other elements so that it will fill its outer orbit with two electrons.

Outer orbit of Hydrogen atom has one electron

Outer orbit of Hydrogen atom has one electron

Carbon has 2 electrons in the first orbit and 4 electrons in second, outer orbit. It would need four more to fill the orbit with the maximum of 8 electrons.

Outer orbit of Carbon has 4 electrons

Outer orbit of Carbon has 4 electrons

Of course, the Carbon atom is much bigger and the Hydrogen atom. Also, we did not show the inner orbit of the Carbon atom, which has two electrons.

Bonding

One form of chemical bonding is when two atoms share a single electron. The H2 molecule is an example of this. Another form of chemical bonding is when two atoms share each other's electrons, as seen in the illustration below.

Hydrogen and Carbon share each other's electrons

Hydrogen and Carbon share each other's electrons

In the example above, Hydrogen now has a full outer orbit, while Carbon still is 3 short of filling its outer orbit. In reality, the outer orbit of Carbon is much bigger than the outer orbit of Hydrogen. They are drawn the same size for the sake of convenience.

If we continue to add Hydrogen atoms, we can fill Carbon's outer orbit too.

Methane (CH4)

Methane (CH4)

The outer orbits of both Hydrogen and Carbon are filled in the resulting compound Methane, which is a volatile gas, which can be explosive.

More complex molecules

Now, two Carbon atoms can also share electrons.

Carbon atoms share electrons

Carbon atoms share electrons

As you can see, each Carbon atom has 5 electrons is its outer orbit. This means we could add 3 Hydrogen atoms to each to make a new compound.

Ethane (C2H6)

Ethane (C2H6)

The 6 Hydrogen atoms and the 2 Carbon atoms combine to form Ethane. This method can be continued to form Propane (C3H8), which is an inflammable liquid. Campers often use Propane in lamps and heaters.

Propane (C3H8)

Propane (C3H8)

Instead of drawing all the electrons, the above illustration is an easier way of diagramming the compound.

You can continue this process to diagram more complex molecules. There are also other ways that Carbon atoms can combine, thus increasing the possibilities of different molecules even more.

Summary

Hydrogen and Carbon atoms can combine to form hydrocarbon molecules. Simple examples are Methane, Ethane and Propane. Highly complex hydrocarbon molecules are possible with these building blocks.


Simplify the complex


Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials

Websites

Chemistry Resources

Books

Top-rated books on Chemistry


Questions and comments

Do you have any questions, comments, or opinions on this subject? If so, send an email with your feedback. I will try to get back to you as soon as possible.


Share this page

Click on a button to bookmark or share this page through Twitter, Facebook, email, or other services:

 

Students and researchers

The Web address of this page is:
www.school-for-champions.com/chemistry/
hydrocarbon_bonding.htm

Please include it as a link on your website or as a reference in your report, document, or thesis.

Copyright © Restrictions


Where are you now?

School for Champions

Chemistry topics

Hydrocarbon Bonding




Chemistry topics

Basics

Ingredients

Tools

Recipe

Mixing things together

Cooking

Graded tests

Also see



Let's make the world a better place

Be the best that you can be.

Use your knowledge and skills to help others succeed.

Don't be wasteful; protect our environment.

You CAN influence the world.





Live Your Life as a Champion:

Take care of your health

Seek knowledge and gain skills

Do excellent work

Be valuable to others

Have utmost character

Be a Champion!



The School for Champions helps you become the type of person who can be called a Champion.