Alkanes are hydrocarbons with single covalent bonds between the carbon atoms, while alkenes are hydrocarbons with one or more double covalent bonds between the carbon atoms. Hydrocarbons are either aliphatic or aromatic. Alkanes and alkenes are aliphatic hydrocarbons, which means they are both formed when oils or fats are degraded chemically.
Methane, ethane, butane and propane are alkanes that are highly combustible and are used as clean fuels. When burned, alkanes form water and carbon dioxide. Gasoline, kerosene, diesel fuel and motor oils contain alkanes. According to Georgia State University's HyperPhysics, alkane derivatives are also used in paints, cosmetics and detergents. Alkanes are saturated hydrocarbons because there is a hydrogen atom bonded to every possible location on the carbon atoms.
Alkenes are unsaturated hydrocarbons that are very reactive. The double bonds found in alkenes allow for the formation of long chains, or polymers. Ethyne or ethylene, according to HyperPhysics, is an alkene used in the production of ethylene glycol for antifreeze. Also called olefins, alkenes are used in manufacturing plastics, such as PVC, polyethylene and polypropylene. The root names of alkenes are derived from the number of carbon atoms in the longest continuous chain. The suffix "-ene" is added to indicate double carbon bonds, while the suffix "-ane" indicates single carbon bonds.