Benzene (C6H6), simplest organic, aromatic hydrocarbon and parent compound of numerous important aromatic compounds. Benzene is a colorless liquid with a characteristic odour and is primarily used in the production of polystyrene. It is highly toxic and is a known carcinogen; exposure to it may cause leukemia. As a result, there are strict controls on benzene emissions.

Benzene is the smallest of the organic aromatic hydrocarbons. It contains sigma bonds (represented by lines) and regions of high-pi electron density, formed by the overlapping of p orbitals (represented by the dark yellow shaded area) of adjacent carbon atoms, which give benzene its characteristic planar structure.

Characteristics of benzene

Modern bonding models (valence-bond and molecular orbital theories) explain the structure and stability of benzene in terms of delocalization of six of its electrons, where delocalization in this case refers to the attraction of an electron by all six carbons of the ring instead of just one or two of them. This delocalization causes the electrons to be more strongly held, making benzene more stable and less reactive than expected for an unsaturated hydrocarbon. As a result, the hydrogenation of benzene occurs somewhat more slowly than the hydrogenation of alkenes (other organic compounds that contain carbon-carbon double bonds), and benzene is much more difficult to oxidize than alkenes. Most of the reactions of benzene belong to a class called electrophilic aromatic substitution that leave the ring itself intact but replace one of the attached hydrogens. These reactions are versatile and widely used to prepare derivatives of benzene.


Angelina Matthew,

Managing Editor,

Pharmaceutical Analytical Chemistry

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