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Carbon and its Compounds

Carbon

The computer screen on which you are reading this article, the clothes that you are wearing, the food that you eat and even the cars in which you ride all have one thing in common. What is this thing? They all are comprised of some element of carbon. Actually, all organic things are made up of carbon. This is why the study of carbon and its components is so important.

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More About Carbon

The origin of the name ‘carbon’ is a Latin word ‘carbo’ which means charcoal. This may come as a surprise to you, but it is the fourth most abundant element in the entire universe. And it is the second most abundant element in our bodies, the first being oxygen. As a matter of fact, all organic substances in the world contain carbon in some form or element, which is why it is the base for the entire branch of organic chemistry.

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Carbon Atom

Carbon Atom

The atomic number of carbon is 6, which represents the number of electrons. It is represented by the symbol C and is a non-metal. It has 6 protons, 6 neutrons and obviously 6 electrons. A carbon atom is considered to be special and unique because it can bond with other carbon atoms to an almost unlimited degree. It is because its atom is very small in size and can conveniently fit in as a part of larger molecules. Each of its atoms has four electrons in its outer shell called valence electrons and can form for chemical bonds with other atoms and molecules.

Physical Properties of Carbon

The physical properties of this element vary according to its allotropes. The two major allotropes are diamond and graphite. These two have almost opposing physical properties.

  • Whereas diamond is transparent and has no colour, graphite is opaque and black
  • Diamond is the hardest substance known to man, graphite is soft and spongy in texture
  • Now diamond cannot conduct electricity at all, graphite is a very good conductor of electricity
  • Both allotropic elements are solid, non-gaseous
  • Also both diamond and graphite are insoluble in water
  • It does not melt when heated, it sublimes which is it turns to gaseous form

Uses of Carbon in daily life

Now you may not even notice but carbon is used in so many daily activities. Some of the most important uses are:

  • It makes up for 18% of the human body. Sugar, glucose, proteins etc are all made of it. The food we eat contains an important source of energy which we call carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are nothing but elements of carbon itself.
  • Carbon in its diamond form is used in jewellery. But diamonds are also used for industrial purposes. It is the hardest substance known to man and so has many uses in manufacturing processes.
  • Amorphous carbon is used to make inks and paints. It is also used in batteries.
  • Graphite is used as the lead in your pencils. It is also used in the production of steel.
  • One of the most important uses is carbon dating. We can actually use carbon to measure the age of things. Scientists use a rare form of carbon called Carbon-14 to measure the age of fossils, bones etc. The release of this carbon-14 is recorded to estimate the life of the said organic substance. This is how scientists find the age and period of dinosaur bones and fossils!

So as you can see from the facts given above carbon is an interesting element with uncountable uses. This is why a detailed study of it is essential in Chemistry.

Solved Example for You

Q: Two adjacent layers in graphite are bonded by comparatively _______ forces.

  1. Strong
  2. Weak
  3. Loose
  4. None of the above

Solution: The correct answer is option “b”. Graphite is an allotrope of carbon. Each atom is covalently bonded to other three atoms. These layers slid over each other easily because of the weak Van der Walls forces between them.

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