Hydrocarbons are compounds containing only hydrogen and carbon.
There is a huge diversity in the number of compounds that can be formed from only carbon and hydrogen atoms. They may consist of straight chains, branched chains or ring structures; they may contain only single bonds, double bonds, triple bonds, or aromatic systems in which electrons are delocalised over several carbon atoms.
To make sense of this diversity, hydrocarbons can be categorised into three main groups:
- Aliphatic hydrocarbons – straight and branched molecules
- Alicyclic hydrocarbons – ring structures
- Aromatic hydrocarbons – benzene and other delocalised ring structures
These names do not need to be learned, they are for reference only.