Cracking of Hydrocarbons

Cracking of Hydrocarbons

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  • Hey, did you know where the fuel that powers these airplanes and other vehicles come from?
  • Nope, tell me more about it!
  • This oil has to undergo a process called 'cracking'. But before this can be done, we must first split it through fractional distillation, because crude oil is a very large mixture of compounds.
  • Basically, most of these fuels come from a fossil fuel, called crude oil. These are mainly found in underground areas called reservoirs.There may even be some beneath me right now!
  • During fractional distillation, the crude oil is first heated until it forms vapor, which enters through the bottom of a fractionating column, and rises and condenses at the each compounds' respective boiling points. The trays collect the condensed liquids at various fractions. This creates hydrocarbons of different lengths. The short chain hydrocarbons are useful as fuel, but the long chains tend to be less valuable and demanded. 
  • This is where cracking comes into play. This process helps break down large chain hydrocarbons into smaller, more useful ones. The reaction produces a smaller alkane and alkene molecule. By the way, alkenes are also useful for the manufacturing of plastics!
  • Here is an example:As you can see, there isn't a set product, and the same hydrocarbon could be broken down into different products! However, all the reactions must follow one rule: the number of C and H atoms must be equal on both sides.
  • There are 2 methods of cracking: thermal cracking and catalytic cracking.
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