What does hydrocarbons mean
Hydrocarbons are naturally occurring chemicals, which are made up of carbon and hydrogen.
These atoms are arranged in different forms, since their chains of carbon atoms can be open or closed and linear or branched, being able to form several types of hydrocarbons, among which, the most significant are petroleum and natural gas.
These substances originate in the deep layers of the earth, through millions of years, caused by the decomposition of plants and animals of remote times. And, this is why, they are the main compounds of organic chemistry.
When the hydrocarbon extraction takes place in a liquid state, from a geological formation, this is called petroleum.
On the other hand, the hydrocarbon that is naturally in the gaseous state, is called natural gas.
The exploitation of these two elements, oil and natural gas, represents an essential industry for the economy, because it allows it to produce fossil fuels, as well as lubricants, plastics, among other products.
Types of Hydrocarbons
Hydrocarbons and their derivative compounds can be classified generally in three broad categories:
- Aliphatic hydrocarbons: they consist of chains of carbon atoms that do not have cyclic structures. They are commonly referred to as open-chain or acyclic hydrocarbons.
Aliphatic hydrocarbons, in turn, can be divided into alkanes, alkenes and alkynes depending on the types of bonding that bond carbon atoms together.
The alkanes are those that contain simple bonds, the alkenes have double bonds and the alkynes are those that are structured by triple bonds.
The general formulas for alkanes, alkenes and alkynes, linearly, are CnH2n + 2, CnH2n and CnH2n-n, respectively.
As, for example, Propane, Pentane and 2-butene.
- Alicyclic: or simply cyclic hydrocarbons are comprised of chained carbon atoms forming one or more rings.
For example, cyclobutane, cyclopentane and bicyclodecane.
- Aromatic hydrocarbons: This is a special group of cyclic compounds which generally have six-membered rings in which single and double bonds alternate. They are classified, independently of aliphatic and alicyclic hydrocarbons, according to their very characteristic physical and chemical properties.
As an example, there is benzene, naphthalene and phenanthrene.
They can also be classified according to their extraction, since the hydrocarbons can go out, from the depths of the earth in a natural way, or through the exploitation or drilling of their deposits.
Benefits and consequences of hydrocarbons
Over the years, and with the emergence of the industrial revolution, hydrocarbons acquired a lot of relevance for economic development, since once they are processed, these can result in a large number of products that are used in everyday life.
For example, they can be converted into fuels for energy generation and / or used industrially for the manufacture of various products such as asphalt, plastics, cosmetics, vehicle lubricants, among others.
In addition, the gas in its natural form is used in the day to day of humans, for use in the kitchen and thus prepare food.
However, although hydrocarbons can become very positive or useful, they can also negatively affect the environment and humans.
Because they can cause respiratory diseases, leading to serious poisoning. In addition, in the case of oil, if it is spilled either by sea transport or while its exploitation, if it comes into contact with water, it produces pollution.
It should also be noted that hydrocarbons can lead to severe poisoning, with severe respiratory disorders. When a person is intoxicated with a hydrocarbon, intubation is performed and mechanical ventilation is imposed.
Because hydrocarbons are included in the group of organic solvents (liquids that can emanate vapor) it is quite common for poisonings to occur through the inhalation route, although they can also occur through ingestion or contact with the skin.
La Definición de Hidrocarburos (Spanish Version)