explain & guess the physics properties of alkanes consisting of relative bp and also solubility in a mixture


Alkanes are not an extremely reactive and also have little biological activity; every alkanes are colorless and also odorless non-polar compounds. The relative weak London dispersion forces of alkanes result in gas substances for brief carbon chains, volatile liquids v densities approximately 0.7 g/mL for moderate carbon chains, and also solids for lengthy carbon chains. The distinctions in the physical says occurs since there is a direct relationship in between the size and shape of molecules and also the strength of the intermolecular pressures (IMFs).

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Because alkanes have fairly predictable physical properties and undergo relatively couple of yellowcomic.comical reactions various other than combustion, they serve as a communication of comparison because that the nature of countless other organic compound families. Let’s consider their physical properties first.

Boiling Points

Table \(\PageIndex1\) describes some of the properties of some of the first 10 straight-chain alkanes. Because alkane molecules are nonpolar, they room insoluble in water, which is a polar solvent, but are soluble in nonpolar and also slightly polar solvents. Consequently, alkanes themselves are frequently used together solvents because that organic building material of short polarity, such together fats, oils, and also waxes. Almost all alkanes have actually densities less than 1.0 g/mL and are thus less thick than water (the density of H2O is 1.00 g/mL at 20°C). This properties describe why oil and grease perform not mix v water however rather rise on its surface.

Table \(\PageIndex1\): physics Properties of part AlkanesMolecular NameFormulaMelting allude (°C)Boiling point (°C)Density (20°C)*Physical State (at 20°C) *Note the change in systems going from gases (grams per liter) to liquids (grams every milliliter). Gas densities space at 1 atm pressure.
methane CH4 –182 –164 0.668 g/L gas
ethane C2H6 –183 –89 1.265 g/L gas
propane C3H8 –190 –42 1.867 g/L gas
butane C4H10 –138 –1 2.493 g/L gas
pentane C5H12 –130 36 0.626 g/mL liquid
hexane C6H14 –95 69 0.659 g/mL liquid
octane C8H18 –57 125 0.703 g/mL liquid
decane C10H22 –30 174 0.730 g mL liquid

The cook points for the "straight chain" isomers and also isoalkanes isomers are displayed to demonstrate that branching to reduce the surface area, weakens the IMFs, and lowers the cook point.


This following diagrams summarizes the physical states of the an initial six alkanes. The an initial four alkanes space gases in ~ room temperature, and also solids perform not start to appear until about \(C_17H_36\), however this is imprecise due to the fact that different isomers generally have various melting and also boiling points. By the time you acquire 17 carbons into an alkane, there room unbelievable number of isomers!


Cycloalkanes have boiling points that are around 20 K greater than the equivalent straight chain alkane.

There is not a far-reaching electronegativity difference between carbon and hydrogen, thus, over there is not any far-reaching bond polarity. The molecule themselves also have very little polarity. A totally symmetrical molecule prefer methane is totally non-polar, meaning that the just attractions in between one molecule and its neighbors will be Van der Waals dispersion forces. These forces will it is in very little for a molecule favor methane yet will boost as the molecules gain bigger. Therefore, the boiling point out of the alkanes increase with molecule size.

Where you have isomers, the an ext branched the chain, the reduced the boiling allude tends come be. Van der Waals dispersion pressures are smaller sized for shorter molecules and also only operate over very short distances in between one molecule and also its neighbors. The is more complicated for short, fat molecules (with several branching) to lie as close with each other as long, thin molecules.

Example: structure dependent boil Points

For example, the boiling clues of the 3 isomers that \(C_5H_12\) are:

pentane: 309.2 K 2-methylbutane: 301.0 K 2,2-dimethylpropane: 282.6 K

The slightly higher boiling points for the cycloalkanes are presumably since the molecules can obtain closer together because the ring structure renders them tidier and less "wriggly"!


Alkanes (both alkanes and also cycloalkanes) space virtually insoluble in water, however dissolve in necessary solvents. However, fluid alkanes are an excellent solvents for many other non-ionic organic compounds.

Solubility in Water

When a molecular problem dissolves in water, the following must occur:

break the intermolecular forces within the substance. In the instance of the alkanes, these are the valve der Waals dispersion forces. Break the intermolecular forces in the water so that the substance deserve to fit in between the water molecules. In water, the primary intermolecular attractions room hydrogen bonds.

Breaking either of these attractions needs energy, back the lot of energy to break the van der Waals dispersion pressures in something choose methane is fairly negligible; this is no true that the hydrogen bond in water.

As something of a simplification, a substance will dissolve if over there is enough power released when brand-new bonds room made between the substance and the water come compensate for what is used in break the initial attractions. The only new attractions between the alkane and the water molecules space Van der Waals forces. These forces do no release a enough amount of power to compensate for the energy required to break the hydrogen bonds in water.; the alkane does no dissolve.

The energy only description of solvation is one oversimplification since entropic impacts are likewise important once things dissolve.

The lack of water solubility can lead to environmental concerns when oils room spilled into herbal bodies that water as displayed below.


Oil Spills. Crude oil oil coats the water’s surface in the Gulf that Mexico ~ the Deepwater Horizon oil rig sank following an explosion. The leak to be a mile listed below the surface, making it difficult to calculation the dimension of the spill. One liter the oil can produce a slick 2.5 hectares (6.3 acres) in size. This and comparable spills administer a reminder the hydrocarbons and also water don’t mix. Source: picture courtesy of NASA Goddard / MODIS Rapid an answer Team, http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/oilspill/oil-20100519a.html.

Looking Closer: Gas Densities and also Fire Hazards

Table \(\PageIndex1\) suggests that the first four members the the alkane series are gases at plain temperatures. Natural gas is composed chiefly the methane, which has a density of about 0.67 g/L. The thickness of wait is about 1.29 g/L. Because natural gas is less dense than air, that rises. As soon as a natural-gas leak is detected and shut off in a room, the gas can be gotten rid of by opening an upper window. Top top the other hand, bottled gas can be one of two people propane (density 1.88 g/L) or butanes (a mixture the butane and also isobutane; density around 2.5 g/L). Both are lot heavier than air (density 1.2 g/L). If bottled gas escapes into a building, the collects near the floor. This presents a much more serious fire danger than a natural-gas leak because it is more difficult to rid the room that the more heavier gas.

Also displayed in Table \(\PageIndex1\) room the boiling points of the straight-chain alkanes rise with raising molar mass. This general ascendancy holds true because that the straight-chain homologs of all organic link families. Bigger molecules have better surface areas and consequently interact an ext strongly; an ext energy is thus required to separate them. For a given molar mass, the boiling clues of alkanes are reasonably low due to the fact that these nonpolar molecules have only weak dispersion forces to organize them with each other in the fluid state.

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