Carbon is a vital element present in all known life forms. Carbon has an atomic number of 16 and is denoted by the symbol C. Due to its tetravalent nature, it can participate in chemical bonding and form covalent bonds with various other elements. It is the 15th most abundant element found in the Earth’s crust and the 4th most abundant element in the universe. It is also the second most abundant element in the human body. Some more important properties and characteristics of carbon can be found in this article.
The bonding between carbon atoms can vary and the resulting allotropes of carbon vary in properties. Common examples of these allotropes of carbon include graphite and diamond. These differences in the properties of carbon allotropes are highlighted below.
- Graphite is a black opaque substance whereas diamond is quite transparent.
- Graphite is very soft and forms streaks on paper whereas diamond is one of the hardest naturally occurring materials.
- Graphite is a fairly good conductor of electricity whereas diamond has a fairly low electrical conductivity
- Graphite crystallizes in a hexagonal system whereas diamond crystals have a cubic system.
Carbon has the ability to form long chains which are connected by carbon-carbon bonds. This property of carbon is often referred to as catenation and these carbon-carbon bonds tend to be quite strong and stable.
Carbon forms a huge number of compounds due to this characteristic and the compounds that contain carbon are also called organic compounds (because all known life forms are carbon-based). There are many named reactions which have been discovered in order to synthesize specific carbon compounds. Examples of such named reactions are the Cannizzaro reaction, the Finkelstein reaction, and Gabriel Synthesis.
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