Faculty Mentors

Dr. Kenneth C. McGill


The number of carbon atoms bonded in the ring of a cycloalkane has a large effect on its energy. A molecule's energy has a vast impact on its stability. Determining the most stable form of a molecule is a useful technique in the world of chemistry. One of the major factors that influence the energy (stability) of cycloalkanes is the molecule's ring strain. Ring strain is normally viewed as being directly proportional to the instability of a molecule. It is defined as a type of potential energy within the cyclic molecule, and is determined by the level of "strain" between the bonds of cycloalkanes. For example, propane has the highest ring strain of all cycloalkanes. Each of propane's carbon atoms is sp3-hybridized. The normal bond angle of sp3-hybridized carbons (tetrahedral arrangement) is 109.5°; however, in cyclopropane, the bond angles are approximately 60°. This large deviation from the normal bond angle causes cyclopropane to exhibit a high level of angle stain, which is the source of its ring strain.

Included in

Chemistry Commons



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.