Learn more about Hydrocarbon
A hydrocarbon is a chemical compound that consists only of the elements carbon (C) and hydrogen (H). Hydrocarbons contain a backbone consisting of carbon atoms, called a carbon skeleton with hydrogen atoms attached to that backbone. Hydrocarbons, which are combustible, are the main components of fossil fuels, which include petroleum, coal, and natural gas. The most abundant hydrocarbon is methane.
 Types of hydrocarbons
Pure hydrocarbons, i.e. those compounds that contain only carbon and hydrogen, can be classified as follows:
- aromatic hydrocarbons, also known as arenes which have at least one aromatic ring
- saturated hydrocarbons, also known as alkanes or aliphatic hydrocarbons, don't have any double, triple or aromatic bonds. Their formula is CnH2n+2
- unsaturated hydrocarbons have one or more double or triple bonds between carbon atoms. Those with one double bond are called alkenes, with the formula CnH2n (assuming non-cyclic structures). Those with only one triple bond are called alkynes.
The names for the individual hydrocarbons indicates the number of carbon atoms. For example, an alkane which has 7 carbon atoms is called heptane. Hydrocarbons must follow the 4-hydrogen rule which states that all carbon atoms must have the maximum number of hydrogen atoms that it can hold (the limit is four). A carbon atom has a bonding capacity of 4 and therefore must make 4 bonds, whether it be with hydrogen or an adjoining carbon atom. Note, an extra bond removes 2 hydrogen atoms and only saturated hydrocarbons can attain the full four. This is because of the unique positions of the carbon's four electrons.
 Molecular graph
Usually carbon backbone is represented as molecular graph in which only carbon atoms are represented as vertices and bonds as edges. Molecular graphs contain the structure of the hydrocarbon in which missing hydrogen atoms can be added in a unique way.
Liquid geologically-extracted hydrocarbons are referred to as petroleum (literally "rock oil") or mineral oil, while gaseous geologic hydrocarbons are referred to as natural gas. All are significant sources of fuel and raw materials as a feedstock for the production of organic chemicals and are commonly found in the Earth's subsurface using the tools of petroleum geology.
The extraction of liquid hydrocarbon fuel from a number of sedimentary basins has been integral to modern energy development. Hydrocarbons are mined from tar sands, oil shale and potentially extracted from sedimentary methane hydrates. These reserves require distillation and upgrading to produce synthetic crude and petroleum.
Oil reserves in sedimentary rocks are the principal source of hydrocarbons for the energy, transport and petrochemical industries. Hydrocarbons are of prime economic importance because they encompass the constituents of the major fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, natural gas, etc.) and plastics, paraffin, waxes, solvents and oils. In urban pollution, these components--along with NOx and sunlight--all contribute to the formation of tropospheric ozone.
Hydrocarbon vapours can be harmful if inhaled.
 Burning hydrocarbons
Hydrocarbons are one of Earth's most important energy resources. Hydrocarbons are currently the main source of the world’s electric energy and heat sources (such as home heating) because of the energy produced when burnt. Often this energy is used directly as heat such as in home heaters, which use either oil or natural gas. The hydrocarbon is burnt and the heat is used to heat water, which is then circulated. A similar principle is used to create electric energy in power plants. Hydrocarbons (usually coal) are burnt and the energy released in this way is used to turn water in to steam, which is used to turn a turbine that generates energy.
In an ideal reaction, the waste would be only water and carbon dioxide, but because the coal is not pure or clean there are often many toxic byproducts such as mercury and arsenic. Also, incomplete combustion causes the production of carbon monoxide (CO) which is toxic to humans due to its tendency to bind to hemoglobin molecules in the bloodstream. Once bound, CO does not allow oxygen to be carried by hemoglobin and results can result hypoxia. Incomplete combustion also has a byproduct of carbon in the form of soot.
Coal reserves will last for decades and possibly beyond 2100. Mostly in response to climate concerns, clean coal technology is currently under development. For example, the UK and the People's Republic of China have signed an agreement to develop such technology with carbon dioxide emissions capture and storage in both China and the EU by 2020. Similar research is being conducted in the U.S. and other countries. Increasing evidence links the use of Hydrocarbons in the form of fossil fuels to environmental pollution and Global Warming.
 External links
 See also
- Abiogenic petroleum origin
- Energy storage
- Fractional distillation
- Functional group
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