Carbon Compounds

What are Carbon Compounds?

Carbon is very reactive. It forms a huge number of compounds with many other elements. Compounds containing carbon outnumber the compounds of all the other elements.

Carbon is known to form a number of compounds due to the salient properties it carries with itself. The most general or the basic compound formed by carbon is methane (CH4). Such types of compounds formed by the combination of hydrogen and carbon are known as hydrocarbons. You can easily guess the molecular formula of such type of compounds by just adding hydrogen to satisfy the valency of carbon atoms.

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Ethane which has two carbon atoms will need 6 hydrogen atoms to satisfy the valency of each carbon atom (keeping in mind the single bond existing between both the carbon atoms). Hence, the molecular formula for ethane is C2H6. Now, the bond between two or more carbon atoms involved in the formation of a compound can be single, double or even a triple bond.

Thus, on the basis of the number of bonds existing between the C-atoms involved in the formation of a compound we classify carbon compounds into two major categories: saturated and unsaturated carbon compounds.

Types of Carbon Compounds

1. Saturated Carbon Compounds

These are the compounds in which various carbon atoms in a chain or a ring are linked together by single bonds only. Alkanes are the most common examples of saturated chain carbon compounds. Ethane is a member of the alkane family whose structure is drawn below:

Ethane Carbon Compound

Structure of Ethane – Saturated Carbon Compound

2. Unsaturated Carbon Compounds

These are the compounds in which various carbon atoms in a chain or a ring are linked together by double or triple bonds. Alkenes (where carbon atoms are linked through double bonds) and alkynes (where carbon atoms are linked through triple bonds) are the most common examples of unsaturated chain carbon compounds. Ethene is a member of the alkene family whose structure is drawn below:

Ethene Carbon Compounds

Structure of Ethene – Unsaturated Carbon Compound

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Catenation Property of Carbon

  • One of the most amazing properties of carbon is its ability to make long carbon chains and rings. This property of carbon is known as catenation.
  • Carbon has many special abilities out of all one unique ability is that carbon forms pπ-pπ bonds which are nothing but double or triple bonds with itself and with other electronegative atoms like oxygen and nitrogen.
  • Just because of these two properties of carbon i.e catenation and multiple bond formation, it has the number of allotropic forms.

The Existence of Carbon Compounds

Carbon is one of the more widespread heavy elements – it may make up almost 0.5 percent of the universe mass. The solar system formed from a material that was quite rich in carbon. Even then the element only makes up 0.025 percent of Earths crust and most of this carbon bound up in rocks and minerals such as limestone and chalk. But carbon is highly concentrated in living creatures and accounts for nearly one-quarter of atoms in our tissues.

The carbon compounds exist mainly in three ways:

1. Straight Chains

In such kind of arrangement one carbon atom is bonded to another carbon forming a straight line without developing any branches. Low molecular weight hydrocarbons exist in straight chains. For example ethane

2. Branches

Carbon compounds with higher molecular weight mostly exist in branched form i.e. one of the carbon atoms is bonded to more than two carbon atoms. For example isopentane.

Structure of Isopentane

Structure of Isopentane

3. Rings

In this kind of arrangement, three or more carbon atoms are linked together in such a way that they form closed cycles. Such compounds are also known as cyclic compounds. For example, cyclohexane.

Structure of Cyclohexane

Structure of Cyclohexane – Carbon Compounds

Solved Example


Why is it necessary to involve sp2 hybridization to explain bonding in C2H4?


C2H4 contains a carbon-carbon double bond in which a carbon atom is bonded to only three other atoms and hence sp2 hybridization takes place.

To learn more about various other carbon compounds and their properties download BYJU’S – The Learning App.

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