Discovery of Carbon
Carbon, the sixth most abundant chemical element in the universe
and is represented by its chemical symbol C and an atomic designation
6. Carbon is a free element. It develops into allotropes from
various carbon-carbon bonds including graphite and diamond.
In 1789 A.L. Lavoisier named the element carbon. In 1594, D.L.G.
Harsten and A.G. Werner named the substance graphite that was
being used in pencils at the time.
The main source of the mineral carbon is coal, extracted 95-percent
from anthracite. Carbon exhibits high strength-to-weight ratio characteristics,
branched out into different compounds that can be used in advanced
structural composite materials. Aside from carbon bonding by itself,
it creates a chain with a series of other elements, thus forming
nearly ten million other compounds.
Carbon comes from the Latin language carbo, which literally means
coal or the word both signifies element and coal. Carbon is a pre-historic
discovery, made possible by burning organic material in casks with
insufficient supply of oxygen (charcoal making).
This element is endemic in the solar system, found in the sun,
the stars, comets and present in the atmosphere of most known planets.
Traces of carbon in microscopic forms can also be found in some
How important is the element carbon?
Carbon is present in organic life and is the basis for organic
chemistry. Carbon, when bonded with oxygen produces the compound
carbon dioxide, the main element needed by plants to sustain life.
The hydrocarbon is a combination of carbon and hydrogen, a fusion
of different flammable compounds that are vital to various industries
because it serves as fossil fuel.
Carbon is also found in other living plant components like carotenoids
and terpenes. When carbon is mixed with oxygen and hydrogen, it
develops into groups of vital biological compounds like sugar, cellulose,
lignan, chitin, alcohol, fats and aromatic esters.
When nitrogen is added to carbon it transforms into alkaloids and
adding in sulfur, it becomes a potent antibiotic, amino acid and
protein. Grouping the three elements with phosphorous transforms
into DNA and RNA, the chemical blueprint of life. In industrial
applications, carbon contains polymer and often combined with oxygen
and nitrogen atoms at regular intervals, which serves as the foundation
for basically all known industrial commercial plastic.
Different forms of carbon appear such as the hardest naturally-occurring
substance, the diamond and the extremely malleable substance known
as graphite. Under normal temperature and pressure, carbon resists
all strong oxidizers (fluorine and nitric acid included), it does
not however react to sulfuric acid, chlorine or alkali. Of course,
at higher temperatures it reacts together with oxygen, particularly
What are the other applications of carbon?
The major economic uses for carbon come in the form of hydrocarbons
such as fossil fuels, methane gas and crude oil (petroleum). Crude
oil is used in petrochemical industries to produce gasoline and
kerosene. Likewise, it is also the raw material for synthetic substances
Discovered in February 27, 1940, Carbon-14 is used in radiocarbon
dating. Carbon as industrial diamonds are for cutting, drilling
and polishing. Standard diamonds are for decorative use and other
applications requiring hardness. Carbon as graphite is mixed with
clay to form the lead in pencils. Coke, a by-product of carbon is
added with iron to produce steel. Carbon is also used as a neutron
moderator in nuclear reactors.
Carbon fiber is used for high-temperature gas filtration. Carbon
black is the additive for rubber products. Powdered and caked
graphite is used for charcoal grilling and artwork. Activated
carbon serves medicinal purposes. Carbon compounds indeed form
the basis of life on earth.