Unsaturated Hydrocarbon: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 What Are Unsaturated…
  • 0:45 Types of Unsaturated…
  • 2:53 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Nissa Garcia

Nissa has a masters degree in chemistry and has taught high school science and college level chemistry.

Hydrocarbons are compounds that only consist of the elements hydrogen and carbon. In this lesson, we will focus on one type of hydrocarbon: unsaturated hydrocarbons, and its three types - alkenes, alkynes and aromatic hydrocarbons.

What are Unsaturated Hydrocarbons?

Unsaturated hydrocarbons are something that we encounter every day. Have you ever used an acetylene torch to work on a home project? Acetylene is the fuel used to activate this torch and it is an unsaturated hydrocarbon. Did you know that styrofoam food containers are also made of an unsaturated hydrocarbon called styrene?

Unsaturated Hydrocarbons Uses

Unsaturated hydrocarbons are compounds that consist only of the elements carbon (C) and hydrogen (H) and contain at least one carbon-carbon double or triple bond. Here are examples of the unsaturated hydrocarbons. On the left is the chemical structure of acetylene, which contains a triple bond, and on the right is the chemical structure of styrene, which contains several double bonds.

Unsaturated Hydrocarbons Examples

Types of Unsaturated Hydrocarbons

There are three types of unsaturated hydrocarbons: alkenes, alkynes and aromatic hydrocarbons.

Alkenes are unsaturated hydrocarbons that have one or more carbon-carbon double bond, with a general structure of (R-C=C-R'), where R and R' are hydrocarbon groups attached to either side of the carbon atoms. The convention for naming alkenes includes the suffix 'ene' in its name, which notifies us that a double bond is present.


Alkenes have many uses in different industrial processes. They are commonly used as the starting materials for synthesizing plastic, lacquer, fuel, detergent and alcohol.

Alkenes: Examples, Structures, Uses

Alkynes are unsaturated hydrocarbons that have one or more carbon-carbon triple bonds. When naming alkynes, the suffix 'yne' is used, which notifies us that there is a triple bond present in the compound. Its general structure is shown here:


The most widely used alkyne is ethyne, also known as acetylene, due to its ability to undergo various chemical reactions, which results in various products in the chemical industry. Here are examples of alkynes, their structures and their common uses:

Alkynes: Examples, Structures, Uses

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