All alkanes readily burn in excess of air or oxygen to form carbon dioxide and water.
On the other hand, controlled oxidation under various conditions, leads to different products. Extensive oxidation gives, a mixture of acids consisting of the complete range of C1 to Cn carbon atoms. Less extensive oxidation gives a mixture of products in which no chain fission has occurred. Under moderate conditions mixed ketones are the major products and oxidation in the presence of boric acid produces a mixture of secondary alcohols. The oxidation of alkanes in the vapour state occurs via free radicals, e.g. alkyl (R•) alkylperoxy (ROO•) and alkoxy (RO•). oxidising reagents such as potassium permanganate readily oxidises a tertiary hydrogen atom to hydroxyl group. For example, isobutane is oxidised to t-butanol.
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