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Difference Between Alkanes, Alkenes and Alkynes

Alkanes, Alkenes vs Alkynes

Alkanes, alkenes and alkynes are all hydrocarbons with different structures and thus different physical and chemical properties.

In the study of organic chemistry, the organic compounds which are made up of carbon and hydrogen are called hydrocarbons. They can be gases as, propane, they can be liquids, for example, benzene, or they can be low-melting solids and waxes, for example, polystyrene. There are four classifications of hydrocarbons; saturated hydrocarbons or alkanes, unsaturated hydrocarbons or alkenes and alkynes, cycloalkanes, and aromatic hydrocarbons or arenes.

Alkanes are saturated hydrocarbons which mean they are compounds with a single bond between the atoms. Saturated hydrocarbons are saturated with hydrogen and are the simplest. They are represented in general as CnH2n+2 in case of non-cyclic structures or straight-chain structures. They are also called paraffins. In alkanes, there are four bonds for each carbon atom; it could be either C-H or C-C bond. Each hydrogen atom has to be bonded with a carbon atom. The simplest alkane is CH4. Alkane compounds are not very reactive; this is because the carbon bonds are stable and do not break easily. They have no functional groups attached to the carbon atoms.

Alkenes are unsaturated hydrocarbons which mean they are compounds with one or more double bonds or one or more triple bonds between carbon atoms. Alkenes specifically are those unsaturated hydrocarbons which have at least one double bond. They are represented as CnH2n in general when there is no other functional group. They are also called olefin or olefine. Alkenes have the pi bond between the carbon atoms, and during a lot of reactions the pi bond ruptures in order to form a single bond thus they are more reactive than alkanes but relatively stable as compared to alkynes.

Alkynes are also unsaturated hydrocarbons; they have one or more triple bonds between the carbon atoms. Their general formula is CnH2n-2, in the case of any non-cyclic compound. They are also known as acetylenes. Alkynes are more reactive than alkenes and alkanes; they show more polymerization and oligomerization. The polymers formed are called polyacetylenes and show semiconducting properties. They are highly reactive due to the presence of triple, unsaturated bonds and readily undergo addition reactions.


1.Alkanes are saturated hydrocarbons; meaning a single bond between the carbon atoms; alkenes are unsaturated hydrocarbons meaning one or more double bonds between carbon atoms; alkynes are also unsaturated hydrocarbons with one or more triple bonds between the carbon atoms.
2.General formula for alkanes is CnH2n+2; general formula for alkenes in the case of a non-cyclic compound is CnH2n while the general formula for alkynes in the case of a non-cyclic compound is CnH2n-2.
3.Alkanes are the most stable hydrocarbons as the carbon bonds are difficult to break. They have remained unchanged for millions of years; alkenes are less stable than alkanes and more stable than alkynes; alkynes are more reactive than alkanes and alkenes.
4.Alkanes are also called paraffin; alkenes are also called olefin or olefin; alkynes are also called acetylene.

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