Petroleum and natural gas are the main sources of alkanes. However, alkanes can be prepared by following methods:
1. From unsaturated hydrocarbons
Dihydrogen gas adds to alkenes and alkynes in the presence of finely divided catalysts like platinum, palladium or nickel to form alkanes. This process is called hydrogenation.
These metals adsorb dihydrogen gas on their surfaces and activate the hydrogen – hydrogen bond. Platinum and palladium catalyse the reaction at room temperature but relatively higher temperature and pressure are required with nickel catalysts.
2. From alkyl halides
i) Alkyl halides (except fluorides) on reduction with zinc and dilute hydrochloric acid give alkanes.
ii) Alkyl halides on treatment with sodium metal in dry ethereal (free from moisture) solution give higher alkanes. This reaction is known as Wurtz reaction and is used for the preparation of higher alkanes containing even number of carbon atoms.
3. From carboxylic acids
i) Sodium salts of carboxylic acids on heating with soda lime (mixture of sodium hydroxide and calcium oxide) give alkanes containing one carbon atom less than the carboxylic acid. This process of elimination of carbon dioxide from a carboxylic acid is known as decarboxylation.
ii) Kolbe’s electrolytic me containing even number of carbon atoms at the anode.thod An aqueous solution of sodium or potassium salt of a carboxylic acid on electrolysis gives alkane containing even number of carbon atoms at the anode.
The reaction is supposed to follow the following path :