Bromine water is an orange solution of bromine. It becomes colourless when it is shaken with an alkene. Alkenes can decolourise bromine water, but alkanes cannot. The slideshow shows this process.
The reaction between bromine and alkenes is an example of a type of reaction called an addition reaction. The bromine is decolourised because a colourless dibromo compound forms. For example:
ethene + bromine → 1,2-dibromoethane
C2H4 + Br2 → C2H4Br2
CH2=CH2 + Br–Br → CH2BrCH2Br
Other addition reactions of alkenes: