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This unit studies the origins, characteristics and uses of fuels, focusing in particular on fossil fuels. Students will learn how to identify hydrocarbon molecules and to write balanced chemical equations for their combustion reactions. Endothermic and exothermic reactions will be discussed and illustrated by experiment. Fractional distillation of crude oil and the industrial importance of its products will be discussed. The structure of simple alkanes and alkenes will be introduced.

Learning targets


Global Citizens - The scientific community has certain common principles, methods and understandings that provide a framework for their endeavours

C12. Organic chemistry

C12.1 Fuels

  • Recall coal, natural gas and petroleum as fossil fuels that produce carbon dioxide on combustion
  • Name methane as the main constituent of natural gas
  • Describe petroleum as a mixture of hydrocarbons and its separation into useful fractions by fractional distillation
  • State the use of:
    • refinery gas for bottled gas for heating and cooking
    • gasoline fraction for fuel (petrol) in cars
    • diesel oil/gas oil for fuel in diesel engines
  • Supplement: Understand the essential principle of fractional distillation in terms of differing boiling points (ranges) of fractions related to molecular size and intermolecular attractive forces

C12.2 Hydrocarbons

  • Describe the properties of alkanes (exemplified by methane) as being generally unreactive, except in terms of burning
  • State that the products of complete combustion of hydrocarbons, exemplified by methane, are carbon dioxide and water
  • Supplement: Name, identify and draw the structures of methane, ethane and ethene
  • Supplement: Recognise alkanes and alkenes from their chemical names or from molecular structures
  • Supplement: Describe the manufacture of alkenes by cracking
  • Supplement: Distinguish between alkanes and alkenes by the addition reaction of alkenes with bromine

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