Saturday, August 14, 2010

Importance of Carbon

Carbon is the chemical element with symbol C and atomic number 6. It is a member of group 14 on the periodic table. The name "carbon" comes from Latin language carbo, coal.
  • Carbon is Non-metallic
  • Tetravalent
  • Has three naturally occurring isotopes ( 12C and 13C is stable, 14C is radioactive)
  • Has many allotropes of which the best known are graphite, diamond, and amorphous carbon
Carbon is the 15th most abundant element in the Earth's crust, and the fourth most abundant element in the universe by mass after hydrogen, helium, and oxygen. It is present in all known lifeforms, and in the human body carbon is the second most abundant element by mass (about 18.5%) after oxygen. This abundance, along with the unique diversity of organic compounds and their unusual catenation ability at the temperatures commonly encountered on Earth, make this element the chemical basis of all known life.

Formation of the carbon atomic nucleus requires a nearly simultaneous triple collision of alpha particles (helium nuclei) within the core of a giant or supergiant star. This happens in conditions of > 100 megakelvin temperature and helium concentration that the rapid expansion and cooling of the early universe prohibited, and therefore no significant carbon was created during the Big Bang.

Carbon is essential to all known living systems, and without it life as we know it could not exist. The major economic use of carbon other than food and wood is in the form of hydrocarbons, most notably the fossil fuel methane gas and crude oil (petroleum). Crude oil is used by the petrochemical industry to produce, amongst others, gasoline and kerosene, through a distillation process, in refineries.

Cellulose is a natural, carbon-containing polymer produced by plants in the form of cotton, linen, and hemp. Cellulose is mainly used for maintaining structure in plants. Commercially valuable carbon polymers of animal origin include wool, cashmere and silk. Plastics are made from synthetic carbon polymers, often with oxygen and nitrogen atoms included at regular intervals in the main polymer chain. The raw materials for many of these synthetic substances come from crude oil.

Organometallic compounds by definition contain at least one carbon-metal bond. A wide range of such compounds exist; major classes include simple alkyl-metal compounds (e.g. tetraethyllead), η2-alkene compounds (e.g. Zeise's salt, and η3-allyl compounds (e.g. allylpalladium chloride dimer; metallocenes containing cyclopentadienyl ligands (e.g. ferrocene); and transition metal carbene complexes.

Carbon black is used as the black pigment in printing ink, artist's oil paint and water colours, carbon paper, automotive finishes, India ink and laser printer toner. Carbon black is also used as a filler in rubber products such as tyres and in plastic compounds. Activated charcoal is used as an adsorbent in filter material in applications as diverse as gas masks, water purification and kitchen extractor hoods and in medicine to absorb toxins, poisons, or gases from the digestive system. Carbon is used in chemical reduction at high temperatures.

Coke is used to reduce iron ore into iron. Case hardening of steel is achieved by heating finished steel components in carbon powder. Carbides of silicon, tungsten, boron and titanium, are among the hardest known materials, and are used as abrasives in cutting and grinding tools. Carbon compounds make up most of the materials used in clothing, such as natural and synthetic textiles and leather, and almost all of the interior surfaces in the built environment other than glass, stone and metal.
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Pranavam Ravikumar a.k.a. Kochuravi said...

Good to see something which I studied long back... It took me to my degree class...

Keep up this work..!

My wishes.

Aswathy said...

thanks : )

Renie Schmidlkofer said...

Thanks, so much. My 8th grader found this to be useful and to answer her questions. Very informative and at a level where everyone can understand what you are trying to teach.