Carbon chemistry

Carbon chemistry involves many different homologous series of compounds.

A homologous series is a family of hydrocarbons with similar chemical properties who share the same general formula.

Homologuos series and their feature
SeriesGeneral formulaFunctional group
CycloalkanesCnH2nRing of single C-C bonds
Carboxylic acidsCnH2n+1COOHCOOH

Those with only carbon-carbon single bonds are saturated.

If a compound contains at least one carbon-carbon double bond it is unsaturated and can undergo addition reactions.

For example, alkenes can undergo addition reactions with hydrogen to become the corresponding alkanes.

Addition of bromine solution allows saturated and unsaturated compounds to be distinguished. Unsaturated compounds will decolourise bromine solution quickly, whereas it will remain a brown colour with saturated compounds. This is due to the bromine-bromine bond breaking and adding to the double bonds of unsaturated compounds.

Addition reactions

Alkenes are more reactive than alkanes and cycloalkanes because they have a double bond.

In an addition reaction, the double bond of the alkene partially breaks when the reactant molecule attacks and adds on across it.


Ethene is added to bromine. 1,2-dibromoethane is formed.

Addition of bromine water can be used as a test for unsaturation.

Alkenes quickly turn bromine water from red/brown to colourless, while alkanes and cycloalkanes do not.

The experiment shown below is an example of how to distinguish between alkanes and alkenes by adding bromine water.

Two stoppered test tubes contain bromine water, which is an orange-brown colour. An alkane is added to one, and an alkene added to the other.

Step one

Two test tubes of bromine water. An alkane is added to one, an alkene to the other.

The addition of bromine to an alkene is called bromination.