What are Alkynes?

Daniel Liden

Alkynes are one of many different families of hydrocarbons, or compounds made up exclusively of hydrogen and carbon atoms. Alkynes are specifically characterized by the presence of triple bonds between two carbon atoms. Most chemical bonds are single bonds, meaning they are made up of two bonding electrons. Triple bonds, on the other hand, are made up of six bonding electrons. Like most hydrocarbons, many alkynes are important organic molecules that are commonly studied in organic chemistry.

Alkynes are a form of hydrocarbons, which are made from hydrogen and carbon atoms.
Alkynes are a form of hydrocarbons, which are made from hydrogen and carbon atoms.

The synthesis of certain alkynes is important in both science and in some industries. One of the main concerns of organic chemistry research is the synthesis of new organic compounds, some of which have alkyne components that must be synthesized. Alkynes such as acetylene, for example, can be used as a fuel or can serve as starting points from which other useful compounds can be derived.

There are several different pharmaceuticals that have an alkyne component as well. Certain varieties of some medications, such as antifungal, antiviral, or contraceptive medications, have alkyne components. Alkynes are also highly important parts of some antitumor agents. Highly-reactive complexes known as calicheamicins are composed of an alkyne and other organic components and are able to directly attack the DNA within cancerous cells.

Alkynes are referred to as unsaturated hydrocarbons because the carbons in an alkyne are not bound to three hydrogen atoms. Alkanes, hydrocarbons in which carbon atoms are bound to hydrogen atoms and to other carbon atoms with only single bonds, are referred to as saturated compounds because all of the binding electrons in the compound are used to bind either carbon or hydrogen. In an alkene or alkyne, on the other hand, some of the binding electrons are used to form double or triple bonds between carbon atoms instead of binding to hydrogen atoms, so the hydrocarbon is said to be unsaturated.

An alkyne molecule may either be a terminal alkyne or an internal alkyne, based on the location of the triple bond. If the triple bond is internal—that is, if the carbons involved in the triple bond are each bound to other carbons by single bonds and are not at the "edge" of the molecule—the alkyne is considered to be internal. If, on the other hand, at least one of the carbons in the molecule is bound only to a hydrogen atom and the molecule does not extend past that point, the alkyne is considered to be terminal.

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I have been reading about many different types of alternative cancer treatment lately and there are some studies showing certain foods also have odd forms of chemical reactions that might fight cancerous cells- one of the most intriguing to me is apricot seeds, which have some unusual nutrients which supposedly can help fight free radicals.

It makes me really curious about how all these different treatments might be combining in medicine a decade, or even less time, from now.


@orangey03 – I use an acetylene torch myself, and this alkyne is super sensitive to static electricity. In fact, even the small amount of static electricity you make by scooting your socks across your rug is over a thousand times more powerful than what is required to ignite acetylene.

Of course, acetylene is super easy to set on fire. Hydrogen is the only gas that has a lower ignition temperature than acetylene.

I am very careful to follow all the instructions on my acetylene torch, because I know how sensitive it can be. For instance, if I were to let out some acetylene that had not been burned from my torch, it could make static electricity. If I then were to touch the torch to an object, the static charge could cause a spark that would make the acetylene catch fire.


My husband is a miner, and he uses a powerful cutting torch powered by the alkyne acetylene. It is used as fuel to produce the extremely hot flames miners need to cut through tough material.

I asked him how the torch is able to produce such a powerful flame, and he told me that the triple carbon bond stores up lots of energy that gets turned into heat. For this same reason, the bond is unstable.

So, if he were to store his torch in a place with too much heat, static electricity, or too much pressure, it would explode violently. He and the other miners have a special climate-controlled storage building where they keep their torches.


@OeKc05 – It is intriguing how cancer treatments are born when alkynes are combined with certain bacteria. One major source of potential cancer cures that I keep reading about is the ocean. All kinds of undiscovered creatures live in the deep, and as scientists learn more about them, they often find that they could be used in the destruction of cancer.

I read about one marine bacteria called namenamicin. It is like calicheamicin, and it has been found to damage the cells of tumors. It also can be used to ward off infection, like an antibiotic.

This bacteria was found living on sea squirts in Fiji. It's weird how the potential cure for what ails us lurks in such places and on organisms most of us have never heard of before.


My niece developed leukemia last year, and she has been getting injections of calicheamicin. It is produced by the metabolism of bacteria, and her doctor said it is one of the most powerful substances that can currently be used to fight cancer.

Once she started receiving treatment, I became interested in this substance. I read an article about it and learned that it was first extracted from a rock that a chemist found on a hiking trip in Texas. He must have been a genius to know that a cancer treatment could come from the bacteria on that rock.

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