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35 Uses of Alkanes

An alkane is an example of an organic structure, under the topic of organic chemistry. Organic chemistry is the study of the structures and reactions of organic compounds, mostly which contain covalent bonds and not forgetting other compounds such as nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen. An alkane, also known as paraffin is a saturated hydrocarbon with a single carbon-carbon bond. The commonly known types of alkanes are methane, ethane, and propane. However, there are other types of this organic compound, namely butane, pentane, hexane, heptane, octane, nonane, and decane. From the names of the compounds, it is evident that each name represents the number of carbon atoms present in the organic compound. For instance, methane represents one carbon atom, propane represents three, heptane represents seven, and decane represents ten. These alkanes have different uses as we are going to discuss below.



This is a type of alkane with a single carbon bond and has the chemical formula of CH4. Methane gas is an odorless and colorless gas which is lighter than air and has a slight solubility in water. This particular gas readily burns in air to form water vapor and carbon dioxide. Methane gas falls under the paraffin sequence of hydrocarbons. Some of the uses of methane are listed below.

1. Greenhouse gas.

An increase in the amount of methane in the atmosphere leads to the production of greenhouse gases, that is carbon dioxide, water vapor, and methane. These gases are absorbed into the atmosphere and are released back into the atmosphere, trapping heat and leading to change in the climate.

2. Manufacture of ammonia and fertilizers

One method of synthetic production of fertilizer requires the use of natural gases and air. Fertilizers are matters that are added to the soil to enhance the growth of plants and yields. Methane is used in fertilizer manufacturing to substitute the chemical constituents that are taken from the ground by growing plants.

3. Fuel for homes

Methane gas is used as a fuel in homes due to its ability to combust with oxygen. The fuel can be used in ovens and water heaters.

4. Generation of electricity

Methane gas creates electricity through a process known as distributed generation.

5. Vehicle fuel

The gas that this particular alkane emits is environmentally friendly, making it the best for use as a vehicle fuel as compared to petrol, but as liquefied natural gas.

6. Industrial applications

In companies where clay or stone is used, such as food processing companies and refiners, the energy that this gas produces is used in such scenarios.


This is another type of alkane which is colorless and odorless and has the chemical formula of C2H6. Just like methane, ethane also has various uses some of which include;

7. Ethylene production

Ethylene is commonly used in the manufacture of plastics, detergents and antifreeze agents.

8. Natural gas production

Ethane is used for heating and cooking purposes.

9. Refrigerant

Ethane gas is best used as a refrigerant in the refrigeration systems due to its odorless ness.


This is an alkane with three carbon atoms, with a chemical formula of C3H8. It is also a colorless and odorless gas that comes in a bottle. Some of its uses include;

10. Domestic and Industrial fuel

Propane is used at homes and in industries for heating water and even cooking.

11. Hot air balloons.

This is the gas that is responsible for making balloons float in the air.

12. Explosions

Ever wondered how moviemakers manage to make an explosion look so real? Well, this is because they use propane gas for explosions and other side effects.

13. Propellant

In air fresheners, propane is used to propel the air freshener molecules, releasing the scented smell, which can cover the whole house.

14. Home heat production

In homes where the use of electricity is minimal due to a lack of natural gas pipelines, propane is used to generate heat.


This is an alkane with four carbon atoms and has the formula of C4H10. This gas is highly liquified, colorless and highly flammable with the following uses;

15. Fuel in lighters.

Cigarette lighters use butane, which is present in their lighters to light their cigarettes.

16. Camping stoves

The fuel canisters are used in camping stoves to generate heat, especially in cold areas.

17. Synthetic rubber

Butane is used in the production of artificial rubber which is widely used in automobiles and making of truck treads.

18. Cooking

The gas cylinders use butane, which aids in the cooking process.


This is an organic compound which has the formula C5H12, meaning there are five carbon atoms present in the compound.

19. Solvent

Pentane is an organic liquid that has been used for quite some time as a solvent and petrol fuel.

20. Plastic foam filling

Pentane is used in plastic foam filling as a substitute for other chemicals which are considered as risky for the environment.

21. Dissolution of non-polar compounds

Pentane is used in dissolving non-polar compounds in experiments.

22. Pesticide

Pentane is used as an active ingredient in pesticide formation.


Hexane is an alkane and a volatile organic compound with six carbon atoms and a chemical formula of C6H14.

23. Glue formation

Hexane is used in the production of glue used for shoes, roofing, and leather products.

24. Cooking oil extraction

In addition to that, hexane is also used in the extraction of cooking oil such as soy oil from the seeds.

25. Degreasing

It is also used in removing grease from different items in manufacturing and textile industry.


This is a straight-chain alkane with the chemical formula of C7H16 derived from petroleum.

26. Laboratory reagent

In schools and universities, heptane is used as a laboratory reagent due to its low reactivity with chemicals.

27. Fingerprint

In law enforcement agencies, heptane is used as a solvent in the processing of hidden fingerprints.

28. Pharmaceutical manufacturing

Pure heptane is used in the research and development and the manufacture of some drugs.


This is an organic compound with eight carbon atoms and a chemical formula of C8H18.

29. Gasoline

Octane is used as a component of petrol.

30. Engine

Octane is used in engines to prevent quick damage of the engines.


This is a linear hydrocarbon with nine carbon atoms and a chemical formula of C9H20. It is a colorless and flammable liquid occurring as a kerosene component.

31. Aviation fuel

Higher alkanes, that is, alkanes with nine to sixteen carbon atoms, have high viscosity, making them less suitable for use as gasoline and more ideal for use as jet fuels.

32. Biodegradable detergents

Nonane is used in the production of recyclable detergents as a distillation chaser.


This is an alkane hydrocarbon with ten carbon atoms and twenty-two hydrogen atoms, and a chemical formula of C10H22. In addition to that, decane is a component of kerosene and gasoline and does not dissolve in water.

34. Paint manufacturing

Decane is used in the manufacturing of paint as a hydrocarbon solvent.

35. Engine fuel

Decane is an essential commercial chemical used in fuels such as gasoline and as a component of engine fuel

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