Aliphatic Compound Definition

What Is an Aliphatic Compound?

Ethylene is an example of an aliphatic compound.
Ethylene is an example of an aliphatic compound. LAGUNA DESIGN / Getty Images

Aliphatic Compound Definition

An aliphatic compound is an organic compound containing carbon and hydrogen joined together in straight chains, branched chains, or non-aromatic rings. It is one of two broad classes of hydrocarbons, with the other one being aromatic compounds.

Open-chain compounds that contain no rings are aliphatic, whether they contain single, double, or triple bonds. In other words, they may be either saturated or unsaturated.

Some aliphatics are cyclic molecules, but their ring is not as stable as that of an aromatic compound. While hydrogen atoms are most commonly bound to the carbon chain, oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur, or chlorine atoms may also be present.

Also Known As: Aliphatic compounds are also known as aliphatic hydrocarbons or eliphatic compounds.

Examples of Aliphatic Compounds

Ethylene, isooctane, acetylene, propene, propane, squalene, and polyethylene are examples of aliphatic compounds. The simplest aliphatic compound is methane, CH4.

Properties of Aliphatic Compounds

The most significant characteristic of aliphatic compounds is that most of them are flammable. For this reason, aliphatic compounds are often used as fuels. Examples of aliphatic fuels include methane, acetylene, and liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Aliphatic Acids

Aliphatic or eliphatic acids are the acids of nonaromatic hydrocarbons. Examples of aliphatic acids include butyric acid, propionic acid, and acetic acid.

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Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Aliphatic Compound Definition." ThoughtCo, Jun. 27, 2017, Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2017, June 27). Aliphatic Compound Definition. Retrieved from Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Aliphatic Compound Definition." ThoughtCo. (accessed January 17, 2018).