What is Naphthalene? - Formula, Structure & Properties

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  • 0:04 What Is Naphthalene?
  • 0:29 Synthesis & Properties
  • 3:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson goes over a strange name but a very common compound: naphthalene. You'll learn its other names, how it's made, its properties, structure, and formula.

What Is Naphthalene?

Have you ever walked into your grandmother's closet where all her winter clothes are hanging, only to be repulsed by an extremely strong odor coming from the pockets of her winter coat? You're not the only one that was repulsed. The moths were probably nowhere to be seen either! That's because that smell was coming from naphthalene, the ingredient found in mothballs.

Let's go over some of the chemistry behind this compound.

Synthesis & Properties

Naphthalene is also known as napthene, naphthalin, camphor tar, and white tar. Actually, the tar bit is not out of line even if it makes little sense right now. This is because naphthalene is an important compound of coal tar.

As such, it's produced via crystallization from condensed coal tar and from cracked (broken-up) petroleum. It crystallizes into a white solid with a very noticeable coal-tar odor. Now you know why it smells so bad. This is also where it gets the name white tar from, given its color and where it's derived from. It's called camphor tar as well because it can be found in cork samples from camphor trees.

Napthalene is denser than water but doesn't mix with water. It can be set on fire, but it's hard to ignite. Its melting point is 80.2 degrees C, and its boiling point is 217.9 degrees C. It has a molecular weight of 128.174 g/mol.

Formula & Structure

The chemical (molecular) formula of naphthalene is pretty easy to remember. It's simply:

C10 H 8

The C stands for carbon and the H stands for hydrogen. As such, naphthalene is a hydrocarbon since it's composed of hydrogen ('hydro-') and carbon. Its chemical structure is actually really cool.


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