Chemistry » Organic Chemistry » Hydrocarbons

Alkenes

Alkenes

Organic compounds that contain one or more double or triple bonds between carbon atoms are described as unsaturated. You have likely heard of unsaturated fats. These are complex organic molecules with long chains of carbon atoms, which contain at least one double bond between carbon atoms. Unsaturated hydrocarbon molecules that contain one or more double bonds are called alkenes.

Carbon atoms linked by a double bond are bound together by two bonds, one σ bond and one π bond. Double and triple bonds give rise to a different geometry around the carbon atom that participates in them, leading to important differences in molecular shape and properties. The differing geometries are responsible for the different properties of unsaturated versus saturated fats.

Ethene, C2H4, is the simplest alkene. Each carbon atom in ethene, commonly called ethylene, has a trigonal planar structure. The second member of the series is propene (propylene) (see the figure below); the butene isomers follow in the series. Four carbon atoms in the chain of butene allows for the formation of isomers based on the position of the double bond, as well as a new form of isomerism.

Lewis structural formulas show carbon and hydrogen element symbols and bonds between the atoms. The first structure in this row shows two bonded C atoms with a double bond between them. Each C atom has two H atoms bonded to it as well. The second structure in the row shows three bonded C atoms with a double bond up and to the right between the first and second C atoms moving left to right across the chain, and a single bond down and to the right between the second and third C atom. The first C atom has two H atoms bonded to it, the second C atom has one H atom bonded to it, and the third C atom has three H atoms bonded to it. The third structure shows four bonded C atoms with one bonded up and to the right to a C atom, down and to the right to a C atom, and double bonded up and to the right to a C atom. The first C atom, moving from left to right, has three H atoms bonded to it. The second C atom has two H atoms bonded to it. The third C atom has one H atom bonded to it, and the fourth C atom has two H atoms bonded to it. In the second row, ball-and-stick models for the structures are shown. In these representations, single bonds are represented with sticks, double bonds are represented with two parallel sticks, and elements are represented with balls. Carbon atoms are black and hydrogen atoms are white in this image. In the third row, space-filling models are shown. In these models, atoms are enlarged and pushed together, without sticks to represent bonds. In the final row, names are provided. The molecule with the double bond between two C atoms is named ethene. The molecule with the double bond between the first and second C atoms in the chain of three is named propene. The molecule with the double bond between the carbon atoms in the chain of four is named 1 dash butene.

Expanded structures, ball-and-stick structures, and space-filling models for the alkenes ethene, propene, and 1-butene are shown.

Ethylene (the common industrial name for ethene) is a basic raw material in the production of polyethylene and other important compounds. Over 135 million tons of ethylene were produced worldwide in 2010 for use in the polymer, petrochemical, and plastic industries. Ethylene is produced industrially in a process called cracking, in which the long hydrocarbon chains in a petroleum mixture are broken into smaller molecules.

The name of an alkene is derived from the name of the alkane with the same number of carbon atoms. The presence of the double bond is signified by replacing the suffix -ane with the suffix -ene. The location of the double bond is identified by naming the smaller of the numbers of the carbon atoms participating in the double bond:

Four structural formulas and names are shown. The first shows two red C atoms connected by a red double bond illustrated with two parallel line segments. H atoms are bonded above and below to the left of the left-most C atom. Two more H atoms are similarly bonded to the right of the C atom on the right. Beneath this structure the name ethene and alternate name ethylene are shown. The second shows three C atoms bonded together with a red double bond between the red first and second C atoms moving left to right across the three-carbon chain. H atoms are bonded above and below to the left of the C atom to the left. A single H is bonded above the middle C atom. Three more H atoms are bonded above, below, and to the right of the third C atom. Beneath this structure the name propene and alternate name propylene is shown. The third shows four C atoms bonded together, numbered one through four moving left to right with a red double bond between the red first and second carbon in the chain. H atoms are bonded above and below to the left of the C atom to the left. A single H is bonded above the second C atom. H atoms are bonded above and below the third C atom. Three more H atoms are bonded above, below, and to the right of the fourth C atom. Beneath this structure the name 1 dash butene is shown. The fourth shows four C atoms bonded together, numbered one through four moving left to right with a red double bond between the red second and third C atoms in the chain. H atoms are bonded above, below, and to the left of the left-most C atom. A single H atom is bonded above the second C atom. A single H atom is bonded above the third C atom. Three more H atoms are bonded above, below, and to the right of the fourth C atom. Beneath this structure the name 2 dash butene is shown.

Isomers of Alkenes

Molecules of 1-butene and 2-butene are structural isomers; the arrangement of the atoms in these two molecules differs. As an example of arrangement differences, the first carbon atom in 1-butene is bonded to two hydrogen atoms; the first carbon atom in 2-butene is bonded to three hydrogen atoms.

The compound 2-butene and some other alkenes also form a second type of isomer called a geometric isomer. In a set of geometric isomers, the same types of atoms are attached to each other in the same order, but the geometries of the two molecules differ. Geometric isomers of alkenes differ in the orientation of the groups on either side of a \(\text{C}=\text{C}\)\(\text{C}=\text{C}\) bond.

Carbon atoms are free to rotate around a single bond but not around a double bond; a double bond is rigid. This makes it possible to have two isomers of 2-butene, one with both methyl groups on the same side of the double bond and one with the methyl groups on opposite sides.

When structures of butene are drawn with 120° bond angles around the sp2-hybridized carbon atoms participating in the double bond, the isomers are apparent. The 2-butene isomer in which the two methyl groups are on the same side is called a cis-isomer; the one in which the two methyl groups are on opposite sides is called a trans-isomer (see the figure below). The different geometries produce different physical properties, such as boiling point, that may make separation of the isomers possible:

The figure illustrates three ways to represent isomers of butene. In the first row of the figure, Lewis structural formulas show carbon and hydrogen element symbols and bonds between the atoms. The first structure in this row shows a C atom with a double bond to another C atom which is bonded down and to the right to C H subscript 2 which, in turn, is bonded to C H subscript 3. The first C atom, moving from left to right, has two H atoms bonded to it and the second C atom has one H atom bonded to it. The second structure in the row shows a C atom with a double bond to another C atom. The first C atom is bonded to an H atom up and to the left and C H subscript 3 down and to the left. The second C atom is bonded to an H atom up and to the right and C H subscript 3 down and to the right. Both C H subscript 3 structures appear in red. The third structure shows a C atom with a double bond to another C atom. The first C atom from the left is bonded up to a the left to C H subscript 3 which appears and red. It is also bonded down and to the left to an H atom. The second C atom is bonded up and to the right to an H atom and down and to the left to C H subscript 3 which appears in red. In the second row, ball-and-stick models for the structures are shown. In these representations, single bonds are represented with sticks, double bonds are represented with two parallel sticks, and elements are represented with balls. C atoms are black and H atoms are white in this image. In the third row, space-filling models are shown. In these models, atoms are enlarged and pushed together, without sticks to represent bonds. In the final row, names are provided. The molecule with the double bond between the first and second carbons is named 1 dash butene. The two molecules with the double bond between the second and third carbon atoms is called 2 dash butene. The first model, which has both C H subscript 3 groups beneath the double bond is called the cis isomer. The second which has the C H subscript 3 groups on opposite sides of the double bond is named the trans isomer.

These molecular models show the structural and geometric isomers of butene.

Alkenes are much more reactive than alkanes because the \(\text{C}=\text{C}\)\(\text{C}=\text{C}\) moiety is a reactive functional group. A π bond, being a weaker bond, is disrupted much more easily than a σ bond. Thus, alkenes undergo a characteristic reaction in which the π bond is broken and replaced by two σ bonds. This reaction is called an addition reaction. The hybridization of the carbon atoms in the double bond in an alkene changes from sp2 to sp3 during an addition reaction. For example, halogens add to the double bond in an alkene instead of replacing hydrogen, as occurs in an alkane:

This diagram illustrates the reaction of ethene and C l subscript 2 to form 1 comma 2 dash dichloroethane. In this reaction, the structural formula of ethane is shown. It has a double bond between the two C atoms with two H atoms bonded to each C atom plus C l bonded to C l. This is shown on to the left of an arrow. The two C atoms and the double bond between them are shown in red. To the right of the arrow, the 1 comma 2 dash dichloroethane molecule is shown. It has only single bonds and each C atom has a C l with three pairs of electron dots bonded beneath it. The C and C l atoms, single bond between them, and electron pairs are shown in red. Each C atom also has two H atoms bonded to it.

Example

Alkene Reactivity and Naming

Provide the IUPAC names for the reactant and product of the halogenation reaction shown here:

The left side of a reaction and arrow are shown with an empty product side. On the left, C H subscript 3 is bonded down and to the right to C H which has a double bond to another C H. The second C H is bonded up and to the right to C H subscript 2 which is also bonded to C H subscript 3. A plus sign is shown with a C l atom bonded to a C l atom following it. This is also followed by a reaction arrow.

Solution

The reactant is a five-carbon chain that contains a carbon-carbon double bond, so the base name will be pentene. We begin counting at the end of the chain closest to the double bond—in this case, from the left—the double bond spans carbons 2 and 3, so the name becomes 2-pentene. Since there are two carbon-containing groups attached to the two carbon atoms in the double bond—and they are on the same side of the double bond—this molecule is the cis-isomer, making the name of the starting alkene cis-2-pentene. The product of the halogenation reaction will have two chlorine atoms attached to the carbon atoms that were a part of the carbon-carbon double bond:

C H subscript 3 is bonded down and to the right to C H which is bonded down and to the left to C l. C H is also bonded to another C H which is bonded down and to the right to C l and up and to the right to C H subscript 2. C H subscript 2 is also bonded to C H subscript 3.

This molecule is now a substituted alkane and will be named as such. The base of the name will be pentane. We will count from the end that numbers the carbon atoms where the chlorine atoms are attached as 2 and 3, making the name of the product 2,3-dichloropentane.

[Attributions and Licenses]


This is a lesson from the tutorial, Organic Chemistry and you are encouraged to log in or register, so that you can track your progress.

Log In

Share Thoughts