Hydrocarbons are some of the most important chemicals in our life. They are the most dominant component of combustible materials such as crude oil, petroleum, etc. When burnt with oxygen, hydrocarbons will release energy, which will literally keep the wheels of your car turning.
However, hydrocarbons are not easily dissolvable organic compounds. They do not dissolve in water and are soluble in particular solvents such as alcohol, toluene, hexane, and xylene. Why are hydrocarbons insoluble in water? What are the implications of hydrocarbons’ insolubility? The article will provide the information you need.
What exactly are hydrocarbons?
Hydrocarbons are organic compounds that are composed entirely of hydrogen and carbon molecules. This means that they feature several connected carbon molecules with outlying hydrogen molecules. There are four main kinds of hydrocarbons: Alkanes, Alkenes, Alkynes, and Aromatic hydrocarbons. Each of these kinds differs from one another in many aspects but the core difference is the number of carbon-to-carbon bonds in their structure.
Hydrocarbons are mostly used in fossil fuels, due to their combustible nature. However, they are also used for other purposes such as lubricating oils, greases, wax, etc.
Why are hydrocarbons insoluble in water?
The very first thing to keep in mind when exploring this question is a rule in chemistry:” Like dissolves like”. This means that only compounds with polar bonds can dissolve in substances with polar bonds. Conversely, non-polar compounds can only dissolve in non-polar substances.
If we apply the same rule in the case of water and hydrocarbons, it should be quite clear why hydrocarbons are insoluble in water: because both of these substances have very different kinds of chemical bonds. Hydrocarbons feature non-polar bonds between their molecules, while water has polar bonds in their molecules. As a result, they are completely not alike to one another. This is the main reason why hydrocarbons are completely insoluble in water.
The chemical mechanism behind this theory is actually quite complex. When two compounds are mixed together, the molecules at the boundary of each compound will break off, and these molecules will exchange position with one another. For this exchange process to happen, the type of bonds between the molecules must be the same. If the types of bonds are not the same, the process cannot happen, so the mixtures cannot form a solution.
If you wish to dissolve hydrocarbons, you will have to use other solvents that feature non-polar bonds. For example, alcohol, benzene, and hexane are some of such solvents. These solvents will have to be handled with care, however, since they are not as completely harmless as water is.
Sometimes, hydrocarbons can become solvents themselves. Benzene, xylene, and kerosene are the most popular kinds of hydrocarbon solvents. These compounds are produced during the crude distillation processes at an oil refinery. Once the compounds are produced, they go through another treatment process that removes bad odor and discoloration.
Hydrocarbon solvents can be used to dissolve other simpler hydrocarbons, but they can also be used to create cleaning substances. Hydrocarbon solvents are also used to inhibit corrosion. If there are oil spills, hydrocarbon solvents are particularly useful in dealing with them.
Why are hydrocarbons important?
Hydrocarbons are extremely important to human life, because they release energy when burnt with oxygen. This released energy is vital for the survival of the human race, because it can help to start a fire, keep an engine running, etc. Coincidentally, hydrocarbons are present in fossil fuels such as crude oil, processed petrol, etc. The hydrocarbons in these substances will provide energy for almost all vehicles. Roughly 85% of the world’s energy consumption is due to hydrocarbons.
However, the role of hydrocarbons is even more important, as it also plays many different roles in other industries as well. For example, hydrocarbons can also be used to make lubricants, which are crucial to several heavy industries. Benzene, a common hydrocarbon that is abundant in petroleum, is used to synthesize aspirins. Even foods have some degrees of hydrocarbons! Foods with waxy surfaces are coated with paraffin wax, which is made up of different hydrocarbon molecules. Thus, it can be seen that hydrocarbons are extremely important parts of our daily life.
Due to the fact that hydrocarbons are causing worldwide pollution, there have been some proposed alternatives to these compounds. The most popular ones include solar energy, wind energy, and geothermal energy. They are considered the future of the energy industry.
Hydrocarbons are very important organic compounds that form the foundation of many industries, especially the energy industry. Because of the non-polar bonds of their molecules, hydrocarbons are inherently different from water, which features polar bonds. Thus, when the molecules mix together, they cannot break away and bond with the molecules from the other compound. This is the principal reason why hydrocarbons are insoluble in water. Hydrocarbons can, however, be soluble in other hydrocarbon solvents.