What is the difference between Naphthalene and Camphor
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What is the difference between Naphthalene and Camphor

The key difference between naphthalene and camphor is that naphthalene is a white crystalline hydrocarbon manufactured from coal tar, whereas camphor is a white transparent waxy crystalline isoprenoid ketone having a strong, pungent odor.

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Naphthalene and camphor are closely related compounds. They share a similar appearance. This makes people think that these two substances are the same. However, these are two different substances.

What is Naphthalene?

Naphthalene is an organic compound with the chemical formula C10H8. It is the simplest polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon compound. Naphthalene occurs as a white crystalline solid that has a  characteristic odour that resembles the odor of coal tar, even at very low concentrations. Naphthalene has fused pair of benzene rings.

A naphthalene molecule is a fusion of a pair of benzene rings. This leads to the classification of naphthalene as a benzenoid polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon or PAH. There are eight carbon atoms that are not shared between the two ring structures. Each of these eight carbon atoms contains one hydrogen atom per carbon atom. In the nomenclature of this naphthalene molecule, the eight carbon atoms are numbered from 1 to 8 in a sequence around the perimeter of the molecule. This numbering starts with the carbon atom that is adjacent to a shared one. Generally, the shared carbon atoms are numbered 4a and 8a.

Furthermore, the naphthalene molecule has a planar structure. However, unlike in the benzene ring, the C-C bonds in this molecule have different lengths. We can find this difference through X-ray diffraction, and it is consistent with the valence bond model in naphthalene.

Naphthalene substance is useful as a precursor to other chemical compounds for the production of phthalic anhydride, many azo dyes, insecticides, and other useful agrochemicals.

What is Camphor?

Camphor is a waxy solid with a strong aroma. Camphor is a terpenoid substance with the chemical formula C10H16O. It is flammable and transparent. It occurs naturally in the wood of camphor laurel (Cinnamomum camphora), which is a large evergreen tree found in East Asia. However, it can also be synthetically produced from the oil of turpentine.

There are two possible enantiomers of camphor. Among them, the one on the left is the naturally occurring form of camphor we can name it (+)-camphor. The structure on the right side is the mirror image of the naturally occurring camphor structure.

Camphor occurs as white, translucent crystals. It has a fragrance that is penetrating. For centuries, camphor was produced as a forest product through condensation from the vapour given off by the roasting of wood chips cut from the relevant trees and later by passing steam through the pulverized wood and condensing the vapour. However, we can produce camphor from alpha-pinene (this substance is abundant in the oils of coniferous trees). We can also produce it from the distillation of turpentine, which is produced as a byproduct of the chemical pulping process.

There are many different uses of camphor due to its sublimating capability. It’s used in plastic production as a plasticizer, as a pest deterrent, a preservative, a perfume ingredient, etc. In addition to these, there are some culinary uses of camphor (such as using it as an ingredient in sweets), medicinal uses (as a topical medication as a skin cream or ointment to relieve itching caused by insect bites), in Hindu religious ceremonies, etc.

What are the Similarities Between Naphthalene and Camphor?

  1. Both naphthalene and camphor have a similar appearance.
  2. These are volatile substances.
  3. They have a strong scent.
  4. Both are organic solids.

What is the Difference Between Naphthalene and Camphor?

Naphthalene and camphor are two different substances that share the same appearance. Generally, naphthalene is considered a toxic substance, but camphor is a nontoxic substance. The key difference between naphthalene and camphor is that naphthalene is a white crystalline hydrocarbon manufactured from coal tar, whereas camphor is a white transparent waxy crystalline isoprenoid ketone having a strong, pungent odor.

The below infographic presents the differences between naphthalene and camphor in tabular form for side-by-side comparison.

Summary – Naphthalene vs Camphor

There are some differences between camphor and naphthalene, but they look alike. The key difference between naphthalene and camphor is that naphthalene is a white crystalline hydrocarbon manufactured from coal tar, whereas camphor is a white transparent waxy crystalline isoprenoid ketone having a strong, pungent odor.

Reference:

1. “Naphthalene.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Compound Database, U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Naphthalene-from-xtal-3D-balls” By Ben Mills – Own work (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Alcanfor-2D” By Manuel Almagro Rivas – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia

courtesy: Madhu

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