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What is Carbon?

11/5/2013 3:47:46 PM | by Anonymous

Carbon

Carbon is a form of naturally abundant non metallic element that forms the basis of most living things. It is the fourth most abundant element in the universe or planet earth. It plays a crucial role in the stability and health of the planet through the carbon cycle. The carbon cycle is extremely complex and illustrates the interconnection between the organisms on earth. Most carbon consumers are familiar with the element along with the numerous forms it appears in.

 

Carbon is essential to all living things and without it, life as we know and see could not exist as it is. The major economic use of carbon besides food and wood is in the form of hydrocarbons. They are most notably the fossil fuel methane gas and crude oil.

 

Crude oil is widely used by the petrochemical industry to produce gasoline and kerosene through a distillation process taking place in refineries. The uses of carbon and its compounds are varied. They can form alloys with iron which is the most common carbon steel. It is also used as a lubricant and pigment, in electrodes for dry batteries and in electroplating and electroforming for brushes for electric motors. Commerically valuable caron polymers can also include wool, silk and cashmere. Plastics are also made from synthetic carbon polymers together with oxygen and nitrogen atoms included at intervals in the main polymer chain. The raw materials for many of these substances come from crude oil.

 

Carbon can be found on the periodic table with the atomic number of the element six and commonly identified by the symbol “C”. The structure of the carbon molecules is such that the molecules are readily available to bond with the wide range of other elements. Thus, it leads to the formation of thousands of compounds.

 

The molecules also bond with one another in many different ways that creates different forms of carbon compounds such as graphite which is one of the softest materials on the planet and diamond being one of the hardest substances on earth. The changing personality depends on what bonds are with and how it does it which in turn makes it a very unique element.

 

All living things contain carbon as they change and decay. They will continuously contain the element. Limestone, coal and petroleum are all examples of fossilized forms of living organisms containing abundant amounts of carbon. Animal and plant life which have died millions of years ago are slowly compressed into these substances. Their integral carbon was then preserved. These remains are then used in everything from children’s dolls to jet fuels.

 

Along with many of its compounds, carbon itself is already relatively non reactive. During the combination with other elements such as hydrogen, carbon becomes more reactive. The reactiveness is used to the advantage of the industry. In some cases like hydrocarbons, the compound is used as a source of energy. The immense versatility of this element makes it highly useful in a handful of industries. Carbon is used to filter various substances, burned to create fuel and also combined with iron to create steel. It is also used as the basis of charcoals and drawing pencils, to create synthetic materials like plastic and in the form of an isotope or as a dating tool for archaeologists.

 

Carbon is not extremely dangerous on its own since it is generally non reactive and non toxic. However, some forms of carbon can be particularly harmful to certain organisms such as carbon monoxide. The element can also appear in conjunction with other more dangerous elements and generate harmful dust in the case of diamonds and coal. It is always a good idea to consult the material safety data sheet when concerned about a specific product. Individual safety precautions can be taken towards different types of carbon materials.

 

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