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Alkane definition

A hydrocarbon is an organic molecule consisting only of hydrogen and carbon.

An alkane is a hydrocarbon in which all of the bonds are single bonds (each of the two atoms contributes only one electron to the bond).

Alkanes consisting of just one chain (without any branches) are a homologous series. The general formula for alkanes is: $$\text{C}_\text{n}\text{H}_{2\text{n}+2}$$

The first four unbranched alkanes are shown in the table below.

Name Diagram Formula
Methane
$$\ce{CH4}$$
Ethane
$$\ce{C2H6}$$
Propane
$$\ce{C3H8}$$
Butane
$$\ce{C4H10}$$

Alkanes are widely used as the main fuel for cars, planes, gas cookers and heating.