Uses of Oxides of Carbon Group

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Carbon Oxides and Their Uses

The carbon group is group 14 of the modern Periodic Table. The elements in the group are Carbon, Silicon, Germanium, Lead, and Tin. These elements have four valence electrons in their outermost shell. These elements combine with oxygen to form various oxides which are of significant usage to mankind. Carbon dioxide is an oxide of carbon that is essential for the life-supporting process of photosynthesis which supports all kinds of life on earth. Group 14 elements are known to form two types of oxides. These are of the type MO and MO2 (here M is C, Si, Ge, Sn, or Pb). Lead is known to form a mixed oxide Pb3O4 which is a mixed oxide of PbO and PbO2.

The Commonest Carbon Oxides are:

  1. Carbon monoxide

  2. Carbon dioxide 

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Uses of Oxides of Carbon

The two known oxides of carbon are carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.

Carbon monoxide is a highly toxic gas with the chemical formula CO. It is colourless, odourless and highly inflammable. It finds its use in the following:

  • It finds its application in modified atmosphere packaging systems for keeping meat fresh.

  • It is used in high power infrared lasers as a lasing medium.

  • It is an important gas for the manufacturing of several compounds. Aldehydes are produced by hydroformylation of alkenes with carbon monoxide and dihydrogen. Phosgene, another industrially important gas is produced by passing carbon monoxide and chlorine gas over activated carbon.

Carbon dioxide is a non-poisonous gas. It is colourless and odourless. It is an extremely important gas for the existence of life on earth. The main carbon dioxide uses are-

  • Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. It helps in maintaining the optimum temperature for life existence on the planet.

  • Carbon dioxide is required by green plants for the process of photosynthesis. It is the only biological process by which food can be prepared by autotrophs.

  • It is used for manufacturing urea which is an important fertilizer.

  • Carbon dioxide is used as a coolant in refrigerators and heat pumps.

  • It is used for the preservation of fruits.

  • Carbonated drinks are because of the addition of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is an important component of soft drinks.

  • Carbon dioxide is used in fire extinguishers. It instantly cuts off the oxygen supply and does not support combustion.

  • Carbon dioxide is used in baking. While making bread with yeast, carbon dioxide is evolved which causes the bread to rise.

The uses of the other oxides of Group 4 (to which carbon belongs in the periodic table) elements are: 

Uses of Oxide of Silicon

Silicon does not form a double bond with oxygen hence only the dioxide form exists. Silicon dioxide is also known as silica and is found in a good abundance in the earth's crust. Silica is used in the following-

  • It is used for the production of glass.

  • Silicon dioxide is used in the food industry as an additive. Silicon dioxide helps maintain a good bone density which reduces diseases like arthritis and osteoarthritis.

  • Silica is used in the production of cement which is a very important construction ingredient.

  • Fibres made out of silica i.e. optical fibres made out of silica-based class can transmit information without loss of intensity.

Silicones are polymers made out of repeating siloxane. It is made of alternating oxygen and silicon atoms. Silicones are heat resistant and have several uses such as lubricants in the automobile industry.

Zeolites are oxides of aluminosilicates. Zeolites find their use in the nuclear industry for their porosity.

Uses of Oxides of Germanium

Germanium oxide is an amphoteric oxide that dissolves in both acid and bases. It is the main commercial source of germanium. The various uses of germanium dioxide are:

  • Germanium dioxide finds its use in an optical instrument.

  • It is used as a diatom growth inhibitor which helps in algal culture.

Uses of Oxides of Tin

Tin oxide finds its application in:

  • The production of designer glasses

  • For polishing quarried rocks like granite and marble

Tin dioxide is a commercially important compound due to its remarkable electronic and optical properties. It is an amphoteric oxide and finds usage in-

  • Ceramic glasses are white due to the presence of tin dioxide.

  • Tin dioxide is used as the mordant in dying.

  • Tin dioxide is a good polishing compound. It is used to polish jewellery, marble, etc.

Uses of Oxides of Lead

Lead monoxide is an amphoteric oxide used in the ceramics and glass industry.

  • It is used for the production of glass on a scale.

  • It is used in a cathode ray tube to block X-ray emission.

  • It is used in the vulcanization of rubber.

Lead (II, IV) oxide is known as red lead and finds its usage in the following-

  • It is used as a pigment in the paint for iron.

  • It is in engineering scrapping.

Interesting Facts:

  • Carbon dioxide is responsible for the increase of a tree.

  • If we lose 10kg of fat 8.4kg is exhaled out as carbon dioxide and the rest is turned into water.

  • Holes in Swiss cheese are formed because of releasing carbon dioxide from the bacteria.

  • Exploding lake syndrome which is a natural disaster in which large quantities of carbon dioxide all of a sudden erupts lake water forming a gas cloud that would suffocate animals and humans within many miles.

All the oxides of the carbon group have varied importances and usages. However, most of these should be handled with extra care and with proper knowledge. These are economically important as they are used in various manufacturing industries.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What are the Two Carbon Oxides? Mention Uses of Each.

Ans: The two carbon oxides are carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. These are economically very important as they have several uses in various industries-

Use of carbon monoxide: Carbon monoxide is used for the production of several organic and inorganic compounds like aldehydes, phosgene, etc. It is used in infrared lasers also.

Uses of carbon dioxide (elements- carbon and oxygen): Carbon dioxide is a life-supporting gas on earth that maintains optimal temperatures on the earth. It is used for photosynthesis by green plants. It finds its usage in soft drinks, fire extinguishers, manufacture of urea, etc.

2. What Do Understand By Amphoteric Oxides?

Ans: Oxides can be acidic, basic, amphoteric or neutral. Amphoteric oxides are those which can neutralize both acids and bases. They dissolve in water to give an alkaline solution. Examples of amphoteric oxides are SnO, ZnO, and PbO.