Products From Oil


Cracking Hydrocarbons

Cracking is used to break up larger hydrocarbons into smaller, more useful hydrocarbons. Molecules are broken down by heating them( Thermal decomposition) :

  • You first heat the hydrocarbon to vapourise it
  • Then, the vapour is passed over a powdered aluminium oxide catalyst at 400-700 C
  • The long chain molecules 'split up' on the surface of the catalyst
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Testing for Saturation // Ethanol

If Bromine water is added to:

  • An alkane ( Saturated ), there is no change
  • An alkene ( Unsaturated ), the bromine water turns from orange to colourless


Ethanol can be produced in two ways:


  • Enzymes in yeast break down sugar into ethanol
  • This is used for alcohol


  • Ethene reacts with steam in a catalyst
  • This is used for fuels
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Polymerisation: Alkene molecules (Monomers) joining together to create a polymer

The polymers can be used for fabrics, tooth fillings, wound dressings, biodegradeable packaging etc. 

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Smart Materials

Smart materials: plastic & metal items designed to instantly change their properties when triggered. Some properties that can be changed:

  • Size & shape
  • State ( Solid, Liquid, Gas )
  • Viscosity
  • Conductivity

Different Smart materials can respond to different stimuli:

  • Temperature
  • Pressure
  • Current/ Voltage


  • Absorb a large amount of water
  • Useful for wound dressings & nappies
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Smart Materials (Part 2)

Shape Memory Polymers:

  • Rigid plastics that transform into a derised shape when heated
  • They become stretchy and flexible after heating, so you can shape them
  • When the polymer is cooled, the shape is set
  • They can reshaped many times
  • The 'memory' comes from mechanical energy stored when the polymer was first produced
  • Used for gum shields etc

Light sensitive Plasters:

  • Put on like an ordinary plaster
  • When removing, the top layer comes off first
  • When the light hits the bottom layer, the adhesive becomes less sticky & can be peeled easily
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Plastic Waste

Many plastics are non-biodegradeable, they are difficult to dispose of

Recycling has advantages & disadvantages:


  • We dont have to bury the waste in landfills, which are running out
  • We dont have to burn them , causing toxic fumes
  • We dont have to waste oil to make new plastic


  • It is difficult to sort out the different types of plastics
  • Some people dont think recycling is important
  • There are many types of plastics

Biodegradeable plastics can be made by adding granules of cornstartch into the plastic

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