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What are alkanes, alkenes and alkynes, and what are their uses?

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Quick Answer

Alkanes are a class of organic chemicals that all have single bonds between carbon atoms, alkenes are organic compounds with at least one double bond between a pair of carbon atoms and alkynes feature at least one triple bond among carbon atoms. Uses for these types of compounds include gasoline, fuel, cleaners, food additives, plastic production and fuel for welding torches.

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Full Answer

Alkanes are functional hydrocarbons that form a chain or ring with single bonds between atoms. Examples of alkanes include methane, ethane, butane and octane. Methane is the most basic alkane with one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms. Ethane is the next alkane in order, and it has two carbon atoms and six hydrogen atoms, an incremental increase of one carbon and two hydrogen atoms.

Alkenes feature at least one carbon pair with a double bond instead of a single bond. These double bonds replace two hydrogen atoms in the chain or ring of atoms. Common alkenes include polypropylene, polystyrene (Styrofoam) and polytetrafluorethene (Teflon).

Alkynes are hydrocarbons with a triple carbon bond somewhere in the compound. Each triple bond reduces the number of hydrogen atoms by four. Alkynes are much more reactive than alkanes and alkenes. One of the best-known alkynes is ethyne, also known as acetylene. This organic compound is used in welding torches as fuel for the high-temperature flame.

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