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Alkanes or Paraffin

Alkanes or Paraffin are saturated hydrocarbon or organic compounds having the general molecular formula CnH2n+2. The entire molecule of alkanes consists of carbon and hydrogen atoms with single covalent chemical bonding. They are mainly two types, open-chain alkanes, and cycloalkanes.

Alkanes or Paraffin preparation methods and general molecular formula

Paraffins occur in natural sources like natural gas, mineral oil, and petroleum oils. Paraffinic or paraffin wax made from saturated hydrocarbons or alkanes is used for the preparation of candles, wax paper, polishes, cosmetics, electrical insulators, perfumes, and medicine.

Properties of Alkanes

  • The boiling point of hydrocarbon regularly increases with the increasing carbon atom.
  • Other physical properties like melting points, density, and viscosity of alkanes, or paraffin also increase in the same way as the boiling point of alkane.
  • For alcohol, hydrogen bonding may be used for the association of molecules but in alkanes or paraffin, only weak Van der Waals forces or covalent bond is concerned for the association of molecules.
  • They are almost insoluble in water but readily soluble in alcohol or ether.
  • The solubility of these compounds decreases with increases in molecular weight.
  • The normal alkanes or paraffin from C1 to C4 are colorless gases. From C5 to C17 are colorless liquids and from C18 are colorless solids.

Structure of Alkanes

The alkanes contain sp3 carbon surrounded by the hydrogen atom. In learning chemistry, the simplest alkane like methane all four hydrogen atoms are equivalent in their structure.

The higher member of the alkanes or paraffin family contains zigzag chain structures in organic chemistry or chemical science.

Preparation of Alkanes

The saturated hydrocarbons alkane or paraffin are prepared by different synthesis methods or from chemical compounds,

  • Alkene or olefin
  • Alkyl halide
  • Alcohol
  • Aldehyde
  • Carboxylic acid
  • Natural gas
  • Paraffin wax may be prepared from petroleum oil by creaking

Reduction of Alkenes

Catalytic reduction of unsaturated hydrocarbons like alkene or olefin is used for the preparation of alkane. For example, the catalytic reduction of ethylene in the presence of the chemical catalyst nickel produces ethane.

C2H4 + H2 → C2H6

Reduction of Alkyl Halides

The reduction of an alkyl halide by dissolving metals like zinc in acetic acid or hydrochloric acid, zinc in sodium hydroxide, and the zinc-copper couple in ethanol used for the preparation of alkane.

Zn → Zn+2 + 2 e
RX + e → X + R·
R: + e → R

Reduction of Aldehyde

Reduction of aldehyde in the presence of Zn-Hg in hydrochloric acid gives alkanes.

Alkanes from Grignard Reagent

Alkyl halide in ether reactions with magnesium metals produces alkyl magnesium halide or Grignard reagents. The Grignard reagent treatment with water or dilute acid produces alkane molecules.

RI + Mg → RMgI
RMgI + H+ → RH

Electrolysis of Carboxylic Acid

The sodium salt of carboxylic acid and soda lime is used for the production of paraffin. A concentrated solution of the sodium or potassium salts of carboxylic acid or a mixture of carboxylic acid electrolysis in the presence of a platinum (Pt) electrode is used for the preparation of alkane or paraffin compounds.

How to Make Paraffin Wax?

After the removal of volatile compounds from crude petroleum oil, the residue contains a paraffinic or paraffin base. The low-boiling hydrocarbons are separate from individual hydrocarbons like methane, ethane, propane, etc.

After separating low boiling alkanes or alkenes, crude oil is fractionalized distillation to produce four main fractions petrol (gasoline), kerosene (paraffin oil), gas oil (heavy oil), lubricating oil, paraffin wax, and asphaltic bitumen.

Uses of Alkane (Paraffin Wax)

  • Chemically synthesized paraffin wax is used for the chemical preparation of candles, wax paper, polishes, cosmetics, electrical insulators
  • Paraffin wax is used in perfumes due to its flower smell.
  • It is a base material in medical ointments.
  • It is used as a waterproof coating for wood.
  • Paraffin wax is also used in wood or paper matches. It helps to ignite the matchstick due to the presence of easily vaporized alkane fuel.