The chemistry of Carbon and its compounds is an interesting study. If we compare diamond and charcoal, one is an attractive, shiny, hard rock, whereas the other is an ashy, black, and soft substance. However, both these are carbon elements! Their varied properties are only because of the different arrangements of the carbon atoms.
The entire field of organic chemistry is based on carbon and the bonds it forms. The study of chemical carbon and its compounds is undoubtedly essential for understanding the elements available around us. In general, carbon compounds are organic.
What is Carbon?
The computer/mobile screen on which we are reading this concept, the clothes that we are wearing, the cars we ride, and even the food we eat all have one thing in common. What is this one thing? All these are composed of some elements of carbon, even in a negligible count. All organic things are made up of carbon. This is why the study of science carbon and its compounds is essential for everyone.
The name 'carbon' originated from the Latin word 'carbo' which means charcoal. This may be a surprise to us, but it is the fourth most abundant element to that of the entire universe And the second most abundant element in our bodies (the first being oxygen). As a piece of fact, all organic substances present in the world contain carbon in at least some form or element, which is why it is the base for the entire organic chemistry branch.
Carbon's atomic number is 6, which denotes the number of electrons. Carbon is a non-metal and is represented by the symbol C. It has protons, neutrons, and electrons, all with a count of 6 each. A carbon atom is considered to be unique and special because it can bond with other carbon atoms to an almost unlimited degree. This is because its atom is too small in size and can fit in as a part of larger molecules conveniently. In its outer shell, each of its atoms has four electrons called valence electrons and can form chemical bonds with molecules and other atoms.
Properties of Carbon Compounds
The physical and chemical properties of carbon and its compounds are given below. Let us have a look at them briefly.
Physical Properties of Carbon Compounds
Carbon's physical properties vary according to its allotropes. The two significant allotropes are graphite and diamond. Almost both of these have opposing physical properties.
Diamond is transparent with no colour, and graphite is black and opaque
Graphite is soft and spongy in texture and diamond is the hardest substance known to man
Now graphite is a perfect conductor of electricity, and diamond cannot conduct electricity at all
Both allotropic elements are non-gaseous and solid
Also both graphite and diamond are insoluble in water
It sublimes which is it turns to gaseous form; it does not melt when heated
Chemical Properties of Carbon Compounds
The critical chemical properties of carbon compounds are given below.
The carbon compound undergoes a combustion reaction to form CO2 and H2O with the evolution of light and heat.
CH4 +O2 > CO2 + 2O + light and heat
CH3CH2OH ⟶ CH3COOH
(ethanol) (ethanoic acid)
The substance which is used for oxidation is known as an oxidising agent.
For example, acidified K2Cr2O7, alkaline KMnO4.
3. Addition Reaction
Unsaturated hydrocarbons (alkynes and alkenes) undergo an additional reaction in the presence of catalysts. An example of a similar reaction is given below.
CH3CH2OH ⟶ CH3COOH
(ethanol) (ethanoic acid)
4. Substitution Reaction
Saturated hydrocarbons provide a substitution reaction. For example, methane in the presence of sunlight undergoes chlorination.
Uses of Carbon in Daily Life
Some of the most important uses of carbon are:
Carbon makes up 18% of the human body. The food we eat contains a vital energy source called carbohydrates, which are elements of carbon. Sugar, glucose and proteins found in our body are all made of it.
Hydrocarbons, extracted naturally as fossil fuels like oil, coal, and natural gas, are used as fuel. Some of the hydrocarbons are used as a feedstock for the petrochemical industries to produce polymers, paints, fibres, solvents and plastics.
Amorphous carbon is used in the making of paints, inks and batteries.
Impure carbon in the form of charcoal and coke is used in metal smelting in the iron and steel industries.
Graphite is used in pencils, brushes in electric motors, furnace linings and steel production.
Activated charcoal is used for purification and filtration, and can be found in respirators.
Carbon fibre is used as a strong, yet lightweight material, in tennis rackets, fishing rods, skis, and even rockets and aeroplanes.
Carbon in diamond form is used in jewellery. Diamonds are the hardest substance known to man, and so industrial diamonds are used to cut rocks and conduct drilling. Also, diamond films are used in razor blades, to protect surfaces.
Carbon nanotubes, fullerenes and atom-thin graphene sheets are used in the electronics industry and nanotechnology.
Carbon is used in carbon dating, a process used by scientists to measure the age of things. Scientists use the rare carbon form, Carbon-14, to measure the age of fossils, bones and other things.