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Element Carbon

The universe is bombarded with chemical elements and the sixth most abundant is carbon. This element is present in many aspects of life, whether in the food that we take, water that we drink, or materials for our houses. In addition, the element carbon is in vegetation, in rocks, you name it.

Element Carbon

The element carbon comes in many forms. Some benefit mankind while others pose as threat to our existence. Since carbon is a universal element, this serves as basis for organic chemistry.

Carbon has an atomic number of 6 and an atomic weight of 12.0107. The melting point of carbon is 6422°F. The boiling point of carbon is 6917°F.

Chemistry in plants and animals is carbon-based, as derived by the process from which they thrive. In photosynthesis, carbon dioxide is fed into the plant to digest food in the cavities of the leaves that in turn expel oxygen and moisture into the atmosphere. Animals inhale oxygen to speed-up the process of metabolism and exhale carbon dioxide, which supports plant life.

A symbiotic relationship exists between plants and animals thereby one is dependent on the other for their existence. Since the beginning of time, this delicate balance has been adequately satisfied. Today, this balance has been severely hampered to crisis proportions.

Because of man's diverse need for energy, oil wells were set up and fossil fuel deposits were extracted from the deep chasms of the earth. Fuel is extensively used to feed the voracious energy requirement pertinent to the industrial revolution in order to mass produce cars, appliances, food items and shelter materials, all in the intent of providing modern conveniences to mankind.

These productive activities however resulted in excessive environmental pollution, caused by carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere which increased the build up of greenhouse gasses developing the phenomenon called global warming. These same industries also produce chemical hazards such as the ingestion of carbon monoxide, a lethal gas produced from partially burned hydrocarbons, and airborne carbon black particles that affects human health.

Natural carbon and its uses

At this stage of human evolution, the element carbon has more than ever made our lives livable as shown by the many convenience products developed. Although most by-products come from fossil fuels, they undergo scientific processing to suit commercial processes. There are three known natural carbon allotropes. One is amorphous, the other is graphite and the dearest of them all is the diamond.

Amorphous carbon is formed by partially burning hydrocarbons. The smoke generated is collected and particles are separated to form the nucleus called carbon black. This is used as an additive for ink, paint and rubber based products. This can also be pressed to serve as core for most dry-cell batteries.

Graphite carbon is a soft material used primarily as a lubricant. This type of carbon is developed from coke, a black tar residue derived from the refinements made on crude oil, which is extensively used in steel production and to some degree as the black central core of pencils, commonly known as lead.

The third natural form of carbon is diamond, which is one of the hardest substances discovered by man. Most natural diamonds are traded commercially as jewelry to adorn well-to do patrons. Artificially manufactured diamonds have been used for industrial applications as a major component of diamond tipped saw blades, drill bits and other equipment.

What is carbon-14?

Carbon-14 is one of the most important discoveries of the 20th century. It is an important component in the process called radiocarbon dating. Carbon-14 is a radioactive isotope with a half-life of 5,730 years and is primarily used to determine the accurate age of ancient living things and organisms.

Ever wondered how scientists were able to gauge accurately the fossils of dinosaurs living several million years ago or how they concluded that the "Shroud of Turin" was faked? This is possible with technologies that employ the isotope carbon-14.

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