Chemistry » Organic Chemistry » Hydrocarbons

# Aromatic Hydrocarbons

## Aromatic Hydrocarbons

Benzene, C6H6, is the simplest member of a large family of hydrocarbons, called aromatic hydrocarbons. These compounds contain ring structures and exhibit bonding that must be described using the resonance hybrid concept of valence bond theory or the delocalization concept of molecular orbital theory. (To review these concepts, refer to the earlier tutorials on chemical bonding). The resonance structures for benzene, C6H6, are:

Valence bond theory describes the benzene molecule and other planar aromatic hydrocarbon molecules as hexagonal rings of sp2-hybridized carbon atoms with the unhybridized p orbital of each carbon atom perpendicular to the plane of the ring. Three valence electrons in the sp2 hybrid orbitals of each carbon atom and the valence electron of each hydrogen atom form the framework of σ bonds in the benzene molecule.

The fourth valence electron of each carbon atom is shared with an adjacent carbon atom in their unhybridized p orbitals to yield the π bonds. Benzene does not, however, exhibit the characteristics typical of an alkene. Each of the six bonds between its carbon atoms is equivalent and exhibits properties that are intermediate between those of a C–C single bond and a $$\text{C}=\text{C}$$$$\text{C}=\text{C}$$ double bond. To represent this unique bonding, structural formulas for benzene and its derivatives are typically drawn with single bonds between the carbon atoms and a circle within the ring as shown in the figure below.

This condensed formula shows the unique bonding structure of benzene.

There are many derivatives of benzene. The hydrogen atoms can be replaced by many different substituents. Aromatic compounds more readily undergo substitution reactions than addition reactions; replacement of one of the hydrogen atoms with another substituent will leave the delocalized double bonds intact. The following are typical examples of substituted benzene derivatives:

Toluene and xylene are important solvents and raw materials in the chemical industry. Styrene is used to produce the polymer polystyrene.

## Example

### Structure of Aromatic Hydrocarbons

One possible isomer created by a substitution reaction that replaces a hydrogen atom attached to the aromatic ring of toluene with a chlorine atom is shown here. Draw two other possible isomers in which the chlorine atom replaces a different hydrogen atom attached to the aromatic ring:

### Solution

Since the six-carbon ring with alternating double bonds is necessary for the molecule to be classified as aromatic, appropriate isomers can be produced only by changing the positions of the chloro-substituent relative to the methyl-substituent: