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. For example, 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.
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:
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:
The existence of carbon compounds:
The carbon compounds exist mainly in three ways:
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
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.
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.
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