In organic chemistry, an alkane, or paraffin (a historical name that also has other meanings), is an acyclic saturated hydrocarbon. In other words, an alkane consists of hydrogen and carbon atoms arranged in a tree structure in which all the carbon-carbon bonds are single. 

Alkanes have the general chemical formula CnH2n+2. The alkanes range in complexity from the simplest case of methane, CH4 where n = 1 (sometimes called the parent molecule), to arbitrarily large molecules.

Besides this standard definition by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, some authors are still confused by the term alkane, and use it to denote any saturated hydrocarbon, including those that are either monocyclic (i.e. the cycloalkanes) or polycyclic. Such usage is clearly in conflict with the general formula for alkanes (i.e. CnH2n+2), because cycloalkanes are different from alkanes, in that they have the general chemical formula CnH2n.

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