Summary
Naphthalene is an organic compound with formula C10H8. It is the simplest polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, and is a white crystalline solid with a characteristic odor that is detectable at concentrations as low as 0.08 ppm by mass. As an aromatic hydrocarbon, naphthalene's structure consists of a fused pair of benzene rings. It is the main ingredient of traditional mothballs. In the early 1820s, two separate reports described a white solid with a pungent odor derived from the distillation of coal tar. In 1821, John Kidd cited these two disclosures and then described many of this substance's properties and the means of its production. He proposed the name naphthaline, as it had been derived from a kind of naphtha (a broad term encompassing any volatile, flammable liquid hydrocarbon mixture, including coal tar). Naphthalene's chemical formula was determined by Michael Faraday in 1826. The structure of two fused benzene rings was proposed by Emil Erlenmeyer in 1866, and confirmed by Carl Gräbe three years later. A naphthalene molecule can be viewed as the fusion of a pair of benzene rings. (In organic chemistry, rings are fused if they share two or more atoms.) As such, naphthalene is classified as a benzenoid polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH). The eight carbon atoms that are not shared by the two rings carry one hydrogen atom each. For purpose of the standard IUPAC nomenclature of derived compounds, those eight atoms are numbered 1 through 8 in sequence around the perimeter of the molecule, starting with a carbon atom adjacent to a shared one. The shared carbon atoms are labeled 4a (between 4 and 5) and 8a (between 8 and 1). The molecule is planar, like benzene. Unlike benzene, the carbon–carbon bonds in naphthalene are not of the same length. The bonds C1−C2, C3−C4, C5−C6 and C7−C8 are about 1.37 Å (137 pm) in length, whereas the other carbon–carbon bonds are about 1.42 Å (142 pm) long. This difference, established by X-ray diffraction, is consistent with the valence bond model in naphthalene and in particular, with the theorem of cross-conjugation.
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