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<---Boron       Nitrogen--->

Elements for Kids

Carbon

The element carbon

  • Symbol: C
  • Atomic Number: 6
  • Atomic Weight: 12.011
  • Classification: Nonmetal
  • Phase at Room Temperature: Solid
  • Density: amorphous: 1.8 to 2.1, diamond: 3.515, graphite: 2.267 grams per cm cubed
  • Melting Point (diamond): 3550°C, 6442°F
  • Boiling Point (diamond): 4200°C, 7600°F
  • Sublimation Point (graphite): 3642°C, 6588°F
  • Discovered by: Carbon has been known about since ancient times
Carbon is one of the most important elements to life on planet Earth. It forms more compounds than any other element and forms the basis to all plant and animal life. Carbon is the fourth most abundant element in the universe by mass and the second most abundant element in the human body.

Carbon is constantly cycled through the Earth's oceans, plant life, animal life, and atmosphere. Click here to learn more about the carbon cycle.

Characteristics and Properties

Carbon is found on Earth in the form of three different allotropes including amorphous, graphite, and diamond. Allotropes are materials made from the same element, but their atoms fit together differently. Each allotrope of carbon has different physical properties.

In its diamond allotrope, carbon is the hardest known substance in nature. It also has the highest thermal conductivity of any element. Diamond is transparent in color. Graphite, on the other hand, is one of the softest materials and is black-gray in color. Graphite is a good electrical conductor. Amorphous carbon is generally black and is used to describe coal and soot.

One of the key characteristics of carbon is its ability to make long chains of molecules through linking up with other carbon atoms. Carbon also has the highest melting point of all the elements.

Where is carbon found on Earth?

Carbon is found throughout the earth. It is a major element in many rock formations such as limestone and marble. It is found in its allotropic forms of diamond, graphite, and amorphous carbon throughout the world.

Carbon is also found in many compounds including carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere and dissolved in the oceans and other major bodies of water. Hydrocarbons that form many fuels such as coal, natural gas, and petroleum also contain carbon.

Carbon is found in all forms of life. It makes up 18 percent of the human body by mass.

How is carbon used today?

Carbon is used in some way in most every industry in the world. It is used for fuel in the form of coal, methane gas, and crude oil (which is used to make gasoline). It is used to make all sorts of materials including plastics and alloys such as steel (a combination of carbon and iron). It is even used to make black ink for printers and painting.

Graphite is often used in making batteries, brakes, and lubricants. It is also used to make the writing (black) part of pencils.

Diamonds are used to make fine jewelry and are considered the most valuable of all the gemstones. Diamonds are also used for their hardness in cutting tools and precision instruments.

How was it discovered?

People have known about carbon as a substance since ancient times. French scientist Antoine Lavoisier determined that diamond was made of carbon in 1772.

Where did carbon get its name?

Carbon gets its name from the Latin word "carbo" meaning charcoal or coal.

Isotopes

There are two stable naturally occurring isotopes of carbon, carbon-12 and carbon-13. Carbon-12 makes up almost 99% of the carbon found on Earth. There are 15 known isotopes of carbon. Carbon-14 is used to date carbon based materials in "carbon dating."

Interesting Facts about Carbon

More on the Elements and the Periodic Table

Elements
Periodic Table

Alkali Metals
Lithium
Sodium
Potassium

Alkaline Earth Metals
Beryllium
Magnesium
Calcium
Radium

Transition Metals
Scandium
Titanium
Vanadium
Chromium
Manganese
Iron
Cobalt
Nickel
Copper
Zinc
Silver
Platinum
Gold
Mercury
Post-transition Metals
Aluminum
Gallium
Tin
Lead

Metalloids
Boron
Silicon
Germanium
Arsenic

Nonmetals
Hydrogen
Carbon
Nitrogen
Oxygen
Phosphorus
Sulfur
Halogens
Fluorine
Chlorine
Iodine

Noble Gases
Helium
Neon
Argon

Lanthanides and Actinides
Uranium
Plutonium

More Chemistry Subjects

Matter
Atom
Molecules
Isotopes
Solids, Liquids, Gases
Melting and Boiling
Chemical Bonding
Chemical Reactions
Radioactivity and Radiation
Mixtures and Compounds
Naming Compounds
Mixtures
Separating Mixtures
Solutions
Acids and Bases
Crystals
Metals
Salts and Soaps
Water
Other
Glossary and Terms
Chemistry Lab Equipment
Organic Chemistry
Famous Chemists


Science >> Chemistry for Kids >> Periodic Table





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