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.

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:

## 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:

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:

## Example

### Alkene Reactivity and Naming

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

### 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:

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.