How do I distinguish between benzene & cyclohexane?

Written by jack brubaker
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How do I distinguish between benzene & cyclohexane?
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Benzene possesses a chemical formula of C6H6. Structurally, benzene molecules consist of six carbon atoms in a hexagonal six-membered ring with alternating single and double bonds between the carbon atoms. Cyclohexane--chemical formula C6H12--also consists of molecules with a hexagonal six-membered carbon ring, but with single bonds only. Chemists refer to certain compounds with alternating single and double bonds between carbon atoms, like benzene, as “aromatic” compounds. Organic-chemistry students learn to test for aromaticity in hydrocarbons by the ignition test (See References 2). When burnt, aromatic hydrocarbons produce a sooty, yellow flame due to incomplete combustion, whereas nonaromatic hydrocarbons tend to burn more cleanly.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Propane torch or Bunsen burner
  • 6-inch piece of metal wire or metal spatula

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  1. 1

    Set up a propane torch or Bunsen burner and adjust the flame until it exhibits a blue-coloured cone.

  2. 2

    Dip the tip of a metal wire or metal spatula into the liquid being tested.

  3. 3

    Hold the wire or spatula in the tip of the flame and observe the colour of both the flame and the smoke produced by the combustion. A yellow flame with black, sooty smoke indicates benzene. A yellow flame with white smoke indicates cyclohexane.

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