In organic chemistry, a hydrocarbon is an organic compound consisting entirely of hydrogen and carbon.:620 Hydrocarbons are examples of group 14 hydrides. Hydrocarbons from which one hydrogen atom has been removed are functional groups called hydrocarbyls. Because carbon has 4 electrons in its outermost shell (and because each covalent bond requires a donation of 1 electron, per atom, to the bond) carbon has exactly four bonds to make, and is only stable if all 4 of these bonds are used.
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Saturated hydrocarbons are the simplest of the hydrocarbon species. They are composed entirely of single bonds and are saturated with hydrogen. The formula for acyclic saturated hydrocarbons (i.e., alkanes) is CnH2n+2.:623 The most general form of saturated hydrocarbons is CnH2n+2(1-r), where r is the number of rings. Those with exactly one ring are the cycloalkanes. Saturated hydrocarbons are the basis of petroleum fuels and are found as either linear or branched species. Substitution reaction is their characteristics property (like chlorination reaction to form chloroform). Hydrocarbons with the same molecular formula but different structural formulae are called structural isomers.:625 As given in the example of 3-methylhexane and its higher homologues, branched hydrocarbons can be chiral.:627 Chiral saturated hydrocarbons constitute the side chains of biomolecules such as chlorophyll and tocopherol..