Saturated Hydrocarbons

Hydrocarbons are chemical compounds made up of only carbon and hydrogen atoms. The three main types of naturally occurring hydrocarbons are saturated, unsaturated, and aromatic hydrocarbons. The chemical and metabolic activities of these classes are different, as are their relative amounts in organisms and sedimentary deposits. The name “paraffin” comes from the Latin word “parum affinis,” which means “slight affinity.” Paraffin is one of the saturated hydrocarbons.

Saturated hydrocarbons

                                                                      Saturated hydrocarbons

What Are Saturated Hydrocarbons?

Hydrocarbons that only have single bonds between their carbon atoms are called “saturated.” They are the easiest type of hydrocarbons to understand. They are called saturated because each carbon atom is linked to as many hydrogen atoms as possible. In other words, there is too much hydrogen on the carbon atoms. As the name suggests, saturated hydrocarbons are hydrocarbons in which all of the carbon atoms are bonded to four other atoms. This means that there are no multiple carbon-carbon bonds in these organic compounds, which is what the word “saturated” means.

What’s in a Name?

Alkane is the name for all saturated hydrocarbons. Certain alkanes always have names that end in -ane. The first part of the name of an alkane tells how many carbon atoms are in each molecule. Methane is the smallest of the alkanes. There is only one carbon atom in it. Ethane, which has two carbon atoms, is the next largest. Most of the time, the number of carbon atoms in an alkane determines how fast it boils and how fast it melts. Most alkanes that have more carbon atoms melt and boil at higher temperatures.

Shapes of Alkanes

Hydrocarbon compounds are often shown by their structural formulas, which show how the atoms are arranged. This is because the molecules can have different shapes, and the formula shows how the atoms are arranged. Hydrocarbons can link together in chains, chains with branches, or rings.

All of the carbon atoms in a straight-chain molecule are lined up in a row, like cars on a train. The carbon atoms are what hold the molecule together. At least one of the carbon atoms in a branched-chain molecule splits off from the backbone. In a cyclic molecule, the two ends of the chain of carbon atoms are joined to make a ring.

Usually, there are only five or six carbon atoms in each ring. However, rings can join together to make larger molecules. Most of the time, the boiling and melting points of cyclic molecules are higher than those of straight-chain and branched-chain molecules.


Alkenes are a group of unsaturated hydrocarbons (compounds made of only carbon and hydrogen) that have at least one double bond between carbon atoms. Olefins is another way to talk about alkenes. The double bond in an alkene makes it more reactive than an alkane.

In the chemical industry, the alkenes, and ethene, in particular, are very important. They are not found in very large amounts of crude oil. Instead, they are made by cracking the alkanes. All hydrocarbons, including alkenes, burn in the air to make carbon dioxide and water. Since ethene reacts explosively with oxygen, it is not a very good fuel.


In organic chemistry, an alkyne is an unsaturated hydrocarbon with at least one triple bond between carbon atoms. Like other hydrocarbons, alkynes are generally hydrophobic. Most people call ethyne by a silly name like “acetylene.” It is the simplest of the alkynes. It has two carbon atoms connected by a triple bond, so each carbon can only bond to one hydrogen atom.

Difference Between Saturated and Unsaturated Hydrocarbon

The main difference between saturated and unsaturated hydrocarbons is that saturated hydrocarbons only have single covalent bonds between carbon atoms, while unsaturated hydrocarbons have at least one double or triple covalent bond in the main chain. Because they are made up of different parts, saturated and unsaturated hydrocarbons have different properties.

Types of Saturated Hydrocarbons

A saturated hydrocarbon can have a straight, branching, or ring-shaped structure, so it can be put into one of the following groups:

  • Alkanes
  • Cycloalkanes


Alkanes are organic compounds made up of only carbon and hydrogen atoms connected by a single bond and have no other functional groups. These have the general formula Cn H2n+2, and they can be divided into three groups: linear straight-chain alkanes, branched alkanes, and cycloalkanes. Also, alkanes are hydrocarbons that are saturated. Alkanes are the simplest and least reactive hydrocarbons. They only have carbons and hydrogens, so they don’t react with other things.


Cycloalkanes are types of alkanes that are made up of one or more carbon rings. These have physical properties that are similar to alkanes, but they have higher boiling points, melting points, and densities because they have more London forces.

What are the Uses of Saturated Hydrocarbons?

  • Methane is used as liquid rocket fuel, and methane gas, in its most basic form, can be used to power cars, water heaters, and ovens.
  • Most of the fuels that can be burned are made of saturated hydrocarbons.
  • Alkanes and cycloalkanes are the main parts of gasoline, naphtha, jet fuel, and special solvent mixtures used in industry.
  • In some cryogenic refrigeration systems, ethane is used as a coolant. Ethylene gas can also be made from it.
  • Propane is used as a propellant in some aerosol sprays and as fuel in hot air balloons. It is also used to make a gas called propylene.

FAQs on Saturated Hydrocarbons

Question 1. How do Cycloalkanes work?

Answer. Those with cycloalkane properties have carbon atoms arranged in a way that looks like a ring. Still, these saturated hydrocarbons can have side chains that branch off from the ring.

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