n-Alkanes are the textbook examples of the odd–even effect: The difference in the periodic packing of odd- and even-numbered n-alkane solids results in odd–even variation of their melting points. However, in the liquid state, in which this packing difference is not obvious, it seems natural to assume that the odd–even effect does not exist, as supported by the monotonic dependence of the boiling points of n-alkanes on the chain length. Herein, we report a surprising odd–even effect in the translational diffusional dynamic properties of n-alkanes in their liquid states. To measure the dynamics of the molecules, we performed quasi-elastic neutron scattering measurements near their melting points. We found that odd-numbered n-alkanes exhibit up to 30 times slower dynamics than even-numbered n-alkanes near their respective melting points. Our results suggest that, although n-alkanes are the simplest hydrocarbons, their dynamic properties are extremely sensitive to the number of carbon atoms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14090-14095
Number of pages6
JournalAngewandte Chemie - International Edition
Issue number45
StatePublished - Nov 2 2016


  • alkanes
  • molecular dynamics
  • odd–even effect
  • quasi-elastic neutron scattering
  • relaxation times

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry


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