Cracking is a reaction in which larger saturated hydrocarbon molecules are broken down into smaller, more useful hydrocarbon molecules, some of which are unsaturated:

  • the original starting hydrocarbonsare alkanes
  • the products of cracking include alkanes and alkenes, members of a different homologous series
  • For example, hexane can be cracked to form butane and ethene:

hexane → butane + ethene

C6H14 → C4H10 + C2H4

The starting compound will always fit the rule for an alkane, CnH2n+2. The first product will also follow this rule. The second product will contain all the other C and H atoms. The second product is an alkene, so it will follow the rule CnH2n.