Hydrocarbons are the simplest of the organic compounds. As the name suggests, hydrocarbons are made from hydrogen and carbon.
Those that contain as many hydrogen atoms as possible are said to be saturated and are also known as alkanes.
At room temperature, the lighter alkanes are gases; the midweight alkanes are liquids; and the heavier alkanes are solids, or tars.
The majority of hydrocarbons found naturally occur in crude oil, where decomposed organic matter provides an abundance of carbon and hydrogen.
When different hydrocarbons bond, or catenate, seemingly limitless chains can be formed. Hydrocarbons are one of the Earth’s most important energy resources. The predominant use of hydrocarbons is as a combustible fuel source.
Hydrocarbons are of prime economic importance because they also encompass the constituents of plastics, paraffin, waxes, solvents, and oils.