Carbon and Its Importance

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What is Carbon?

Carbon can be defined as a chemical element that is the most common, having the symbol C with atomic number 6. In the periodic table, this element is a member of group 14.

The name carbon has derived from the Latin word “carbo,” which is meant by coal. The crust of Earth is the 15th most abundant element and the 4th most abundant element after helium, hydrogen, and oxygen.

In this article, you will get to discuss more on the importance of the carbon element.

Carbon Element Explained

When Carbon atoms are bonded together in various forms, they are referred to as allotropes of carbon. A few of the best-known allotropes are graphite, amorphous carbon, and diamond. Graphite is one of the known substances for its softness, and diamond is known for its hardness. The physical properties of carbon may vary from the allotropic form. 

For Example, Diamond is transparent, and Graphite is opaque. It bonds with the other small atoms, including other carbon atoms, and it can develop multiple stable covalent bonds.

Characteristics of Carbon

  • Carbon is Non-metallic, and it has a Tetravalent bond.

  • Naturally, it has 3 occurring isotopes( 12C, 13C - stable, and 14C - radioactive)

  • It also has various allotropes, and the best known can be given as diamond, amorphous carbon, and graphite.

  • It holds a high melting point and can combine easily with oxygen at elevated temperatures.

  • This element acts as an excellent hardener for iron and yields different steel alloys.

  • The radioactive isotope of carbon can be given as C-14, used to date the ancient objects of organic origin.

Importance of Carbon

  • Carbon is more important for every known living system, and life could not exist without this element. 

  • It can be available in hydrocarbons form other than food and wood, such as methane gas, crude oil, and fossil fuel. 

  • Carbon fibres contain multiple uses because they have the attributes as, yet lightweight, strong, and durable material. 

  • These fibres can be used in making fishing rods, tennis rackets, even rockets, and airplanes. Industrial diamonds are used for cutting and drilling rocks.

Physical and Biological Role

Carbon dioxide (CO₂) is one of the carbon forms, an essential element present in the water and air to sustain life on earth. Photosynthesis through green plants collects their energy from the sun in order to break down water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. The living organisms that cannot continue the photosynthesis process are bound to rely on other living organisms to consume their carbon dioxide molecules as the minimum requirements. Therefore, a balance of carbon and oxygen is essential for the survival of almost all living organisms on this entire planet.

Some Important Carbon Compounds

1. Saturated Carbon Compounds

Carbon compounds, satisfied by the single bond between them, are called saturated compounds. One of the examples of this is Ethane - C\[_{2}\]H\[_{6}\]. Here, the octet or duplet of both the atoms is fully completed only by a single bond.

2. Unsaturated Carbon Compounds

Atoms that are only satisfied either by double or triple bonds are called unsaturated carbon compounds. One of the examples of this is Ethene - C\[_{2}\]H\[_{4}\], which is an unsaturated carbon compound, having a double bond.

Biological Importance of Carbon

Let us look at the importance of carbon compounds in biology because there is a need for carbon compounds.

Probably, carbon is the most important building block in almost all organic molecules (except for water) required for life. Compounds such as proteins, DNA, and fat all contain carbon.

A carbon molecule can make a huge compound array because the carbon atoms can form 4 bonds with several other elements such as nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, other carbon atoms, halogens, and even some metals too. These can further form into the simple amino acids, which are the building blocks of life, but they can also form into the long molecular chains that create compounds such as bones in our body or wood in trees.

Carbon is capable of forming bonds because the outer valence of a carbon molecule holds 4 electrons but needs 8 to be filled. Hence, it will share the remaining electrons with other atoms to fill its outer valence. There are very few stable elements similar to carbon that can readily react with as many elements as possible, making the carbon atom quite a good building block.

Uses of Carbon Compounds

Some common uses of carbon compounds are:

  • Carbon can be used as a decorative tool in jewelry pieces.

  • Fossil fuels such as crude oil, methane gas, diesel, petrol contain high carbon percentages.

  • It is used as a base for the ink to use in inkjet printers.

  • It can be used in the automobile rims as a black fume pigment.

Uses of Carbon in the Human Body

  • Carbon acts as a macronutrient for the body in carbohydrates form. This is substantiated by the fact that each body part requires and contains large amounts of carbon.

  • Activated charcoal can be used in medicine to absorb multiple gases or toxins produced in the human body.

Carbon Uses in Everyday Life

Let us look at some uses of carbon compounds in everyday life.

  • Graphite can be used as the lead in pencils and is also used in steel production.

  • Amorphous carbon can be used in making paints and inks and in batteries.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Explain How Carbon Does Affect the Environment?

Ans: The water vapor percent present in the atmosphere, and the greenhouse effect scale are regulated by the carbon dioxide compound. Whereas, now, the increasing emissions of carbon dioxide are causing the earth to heat up more. Since the ocean soaks up the heat, this greenhouse warming does not happen instantly.

2. Explain the Carbon Cycle and Its Importance?

Ans: In the ecosystems, the carbon cycle is essential because it transfers carbon, which is considered a life-sustaining factor, through species from the oceans & atmosphere, and back to the oceans & atmosphere again. Currently, Scientists are researching ways where humans can use other substituent fuels containing non-carbon for electricity purposes.

3. How is Carbon Formed?

Ans: The carbon atomic nucleus formation occurs by the triple-alpha mechanism either within a giant or supergiant star. As per the latest theory of physical cosmology, carbon is created in the interior of stars in the horizontal branch. Since the big stars die like a supernova, carbon is dispersed in the ashes from space.

4. Explain the Function of the Carbon Cycle?

Ans: Carbon shapes important molecules such as DNA and protein as a new life is created. Also, in our atmosphere, it is present in carbon dioxide, or CO2 form. The carbon cycle is how nature reuses the carbon atoms that migrate from the atmosphere into the species of Earth and back into the atmosphere over and over again then.