Hydrocarbons are organic compounds that consist entirely of carbon and hydrogen atoms. Hydrocarbons can form different functional groups based upon their carbon bonding patterns as alkanes, alkenes, alkynes, or arenes.
Pentane and higher alkanes have conformational preferences similar to ethane and butane. Each dihedral angle tries to adopt a staggered conformation and each internal C-C bond attempts to take on an anti conformation to minimize the potential energy of the molecule.
For cyclic alkanes, only partial rotation of carbon-carbon single bonds can occur. The actual shape of the carbon ring distorts from the traditional geometric shapes to reduce steric hindrance and ring strain to lower the overall potential energy of the molecule.
Because six-membered rings are so common among natural and synthetic compounds and its conformational features are rather well understood, we shall focus on the six-membered cyclohexane ring to study the energetic relationship of conformation and overall potential energy.
Alkanes (the most basic of all organic compounds) undergo very few reactions. The two reactions of more importaces is combustion and halogenation, (i.e., substitution of a single hydrogen on the alkane for a single halogen) to form a haloalkane. The halogen reaction is very important in organic chemistry because it opens a gateway to further chemical reactions.