Carbon (Element) Uses, Properties, Facts, Atomic Structure - Embibe
  • Written By Sushmita Rout
  • Last Modified 24-06-2022
  • Written By Sushmita Rout
  • Last Modified 24-06-2022

Carbon: Atomic Structure, Facts, Properties, Uses

Carbon (C) is a nonmetallic chemical element in Periodic Table Group 14 (IVa). Carbon is not especially abundant in nature—it makes up only around 0.025 percent of the Earth’s crust—but it generates more compounds than all the other elements combined. In 1961, the isotope carbon-12 was chosen to replace oxygen as the standard against which all other elements’ atomic weights are measured. The radioactive isotope carbon-14 is utilised in radiocarbon dating and radiolabeling. On this page let us discuss everything about Carbon, its properties in detail.

What is Carbon?

Carbon is made up of just one type of atom. This means the carbon is an element. Carbon atoms are arranged in a regular pattern, meaning carbon is solid at room temperature. It exists in pure or nearly pure forms – such as diamonds and graphite – but can also combine with other elements to form molecules.

These carbon-based molecules are the basic building blocks of humans, animals, plants, trees, and soil. Some greenhouse gases, such as \({\rm{C}}{{\rm{O}}_2}\) and methane, also consist of carbon-based molecules, as do fossil fuels, which are largely made up of hydrocarbons (molecules consisting of hydrogen and carbon).

How is Carbon Formed?

Ever wondered what happens to all the dead plant and animal stuff? It turns into what we call fossil fuels: oil, coal, and natural gas. This is the stuff we now use to energize our world. We burn these carbon-rich materials in cars, trucks, planes, trains, power plants, heaters, speed boats, barbecues, and many other things that require energy.

Carbon is mostly obtained from coal deposits. Amorphous carbon is formed when a material containing carbon is burned without the supply of enough oxygen required for it to burn completely. This black soot, also known as lampblack, gas black, channel black, or carbon black, is used to make inks, paints, and rubber products. It can also be pressed into shapes and is used to form the cores of most dry cell batteries, among other things.

Atomic Structure of Carbon

1. Atomic Number (number of protons in the nucleus): \(6\)

2. Atomic Symbol (on the Periodic Table of Elements): \({\rm{C}}\)

3. Atomic Weight (average mass of the atom): \({\rm{12}}{\rm{.0107}}\,{\rm{g/}}\,{\rm{mol}}\)

4. Carbon is in the \(2\)nd period of the 4th main group of the periodic system of elements. This means that carbon has \(2\) electron shells around its core of \(6\) protons and neutrons each. This means that it has \(4\) valence electrons, which can form bonds.

Atomic Structure of Carbon

Practice Exam Questions

5. Overall, carbon consists of a core with \(6\) protons, \(6\) neutrons, and a \(2\)-layered electron shell with \(6\) electrons in total.

6. This way, the electron configuration for carbon is \(1{{\rm{s}}^2}2{{\rm{s}}^2}2{{\rm{p}}^2}.\) The superscript number always states the number of electrons in the orbital. The s-orbitals are spherical, while the p-orbitals have a double droplet form with a point symmetric arrangement.

Properties of Carbon

Charcoal has the most enormous surface and hence, it is the most reactive form of carbon. The other forms such as diamond, graphite, coal which are denser, are less reactive.

Carbon has two electron shells, with the first holding two electrons and the second holding four out of a possible eight spaces. When atoms bond, they share electrons present in their outermost shell. Carbon has four empty spaces in its outer shell, enabling it to bond to four other atoms to fulfill its Octet configuration.

Carbon is a pattern maker. It can link to itself, forming long, resilient chains called polymers. A carbon atom may form \(4\) covalent bonds and is capable of forming long chains with single, double, or triple bonds between carbon atoms. These chains may be continuous(straight) or branched. The two ends of a chain can bond together to form a ring.

Physical Properties

PhaseSolid (Graphite, Diamond)
Density\(2.2670\,{\rm{g}}\,{\rm{c}}{{\rm{m}}^{ – 3}}\)
Melting Point:\(6422^\circ \,{\rm{F}}\left( {3550^\circ \,{\rm{C}}} \right)\)
Boiling Point\(6872^\circ \,{\rm{F}}\left( {3800^\circ \,{\rm{C}}} \right)\)
Electrical ConductivityGraphite easily conducts electricity whereas diamond does not.
Number of isotopes\(15\)
Most common isotopescarbon-\(12\) (\(6\) protons, \(6\) neutrons and \(6\) electrons) and carbon-\(13\) (6 protons, \(7\) neutrons and \(6\) electrons)

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Chemical Properties

Carbon atoms are unique among all of the other atoms found in nature-thanks to their catenating property. It is the property due to which a carbon atom has the unique ability to link with other carbon atoms through covalent bonds to form long chains of carbon atoms.

They form tetravalent bonds, which means that \(1\) carbon atom forms bonds with \(4\) other carbon atoms. Now, this structure can be repeated endlessly without disturbing the stability of the bonds or the compounds formed, so they have a repeatable structure.

Chains can form branches, which can form sub-branches, which form rings, and more rings. Now carbon compounds can be split into \(2\) groups with the first being open-chain compounds or aliphatic compounds. These are organic compounds that form carbon-carbon chains such as alkanes, alkenes, and alkynes.

Some of the chemical properties which carbon undergoes is as follows:

(i) Combustion Reaction

The process of burning carbon or carbon compound in excess of oxygen to give heat and light is called the combustion reaction. In the reactions, carbon is in its maximum oxidation state of \(4+\) in the product.

All the allotropic forms of carbon burn in air or oxygen forming carbon monoxide \(\left( {{\rm{CO}}} \right)\) and carbon dioxide \(\left( {{\rm{C}}{{\rm{O}}_2}} \right)\) with the liberation of heat and light. This property shows that all the allotropic forms are chemically identical.

1) \({\rm{C}} + {{\rm{O}}_2} \to {\rm{C}}{{\rm{O}}_2} + \) energy
2) \({\rm{2}}{{\rm{C}}_2}{{\rm{H}}_6} + 7{{\rm{O}}_2} \to 4{\rm{C}}{{\rm{O}}_2} + 6{{\rm{H}}_2}{\rm{O}} + \) energy
3) \({\rm{C}}{{\rm{H}}_3}{\rm{C}}{{\rm{H}}_2}{\rm{OH}} + 3{{\rm{O}}_2} \to {\rm{C}}{{\rm{O}}_2} + 3{{\rm{H}}_2}{\rm{O}} + \) energy

Generally, saturated hydrocarbons burn with a clear light blue flame, whereas unsaturated hydrocarbons burn with yellow flame with soot(carbon). If air is not sufficiently available during combustion, even saturated hydrocarbons give sooty flame. Most of the aromatic compounds burn with a sooty flame.
A combustion reaction is always exothermic, that is energy is liberated during the combustion reaction.

(ii) Oxidation Reaction

Carbon is a strong reducing agent. It reduces metallic oxides to corresponding metals. Metallic sulfates to sulfides and water to hydrogen. These reactions occur at very high temperatures.

Combustion is generally an oxidation reaction, all oxidation reactions are not combustion reactions. Oxidation reactions may be carried out using oxidizing agents. Oxidizing agents or Oxidants are substances that oxidize other substances. They undergo reduction.

Eg: Alkaline Potassium permanganate or Acidified Potassium dichromate in solutions act as oxidizing agents and supply oxygen to convert alcohols into carboxylic acids. Ethyl alcohol undergoes oxidation to form the product Acetaldehyde and finally Acetic acid. (see following equation).

Oxidation Reaction

(iii) Addition Reaction

Unsaturated organic compounds that contain multiple bonds (=, ≡ bonds) like alkenes and alkynes undergo additional reactions to become saturated. During the addition of the reaction of the reagent takes place at the double-bonded or triple bonded carbon atoms.

Addition Reaction

In the above reactions ‘Ni’ acts as a ‘catalyst.’

Catalyst: A catalyst is a substance that regulates (increase/decrease) the rate of a given reaction without itself finally undergoing any chemical change. These reactions are commonly used in the hydrogenation of vegetable oils using nickel as a catalyst. Vegetable oils generally have long unsaturated carbon chains, while animal fats have saturated carbon chains.

(iv) Substitution Reaction

A reaction in which an atom or a group of atoms in a given compound is replaced by another atom or group of atoms is called a substitution reaction.

Alkanes, the saturated hydrocarbons are chemically least reactive. Therefore they are also called paraffin (parum = little; affinis = affinity,  i.e., no affinity towards chemical changes). However, they undergo some chemical changes under suitable conditions which are substitution reactions. Methane reacts with chlorine in the presence of sunlight. Hydrogen atoms of CH4 are replaced by chlorine atoms.

Substitution Reaction

Isotopes and Allotropes of Carbon

Isotopes: These are atoms of the same element that have different numbers of neutrons but the same number of protons and electrons. Carbon has two stable, naturally occurring isotopes: carbon-\(12\) and carbon-\(13.\)

Isotopes of Carbon

\({}^{14}{\rm{C}}\) is a radioactive isotope of carbon with a half-life of \(5730\) years. It has a very low natural abundance, decays to \({}^{14}{\rm{N}}\) through beta decay. It is used in radiometric dating to determine the age of carbonaceous samples (of physical or biological origin) up to about \(60,000\) years old.

In total, there are \(15\) known isotopes of carbon and the shortest-lived of these is \({}^8{\rm{C}},\) which decays through proton emission and alpha decay, and has a half-life of \(1.98739\,{\rm{\times}}{10^{ – 21}}\) seconds.


  1. Diamond, the third naturally occurring form of carbon, is one of the hardest substances known. Diamond is a colorless, transparent, and crystalline solid.
  2. Although naturally occurring diamond is typically used for jewellery, most commercial quality diamonds are artificially produced.
  3. These small diamonds are made by squeezing graphite under high temperatures and pressures for several days or weeks and are primarily used to make things like diamond-tipped, saw blades.
  4. Although they possess very different physical properties, graphite and diamond differ only in their crystal structure.
  5. Graphite, one of the softest materials known, is a form of carbon that is primarily used as a lubricant.
  6. Graphite is black and shiny but soft. Naturally occurring graphite occurs in two forms, alpha, and beta. These two forms have identical physical properties but different crystal structures.
  7. All artificially produced graphite is of the alpha type. In addition to its use as a lubricant, graphite, in a form known as coke, is used in large amounts in the production of steel. Coke is made by heating soft coal in an oven without allowing oxygen to mix with it.
  8. Although commonly called a lead, the black material used in pencils is graphite.
  9. Large molecules consisting only of carbon, known as buckminsterfullerenes, or buckyballs, have recently been discovered and are currently the subject of much scientific interest.
  10. A single buckyball consists of \(60\) or \(70\) carbon atoms (\({{{\rm{C}}_{60}}}\) or \({{{\rm{C}}_{70}}}\)) linked together in a structure that looks like a soccer ball.
  11. They can trap other atoms within their framework, appear to be capable of withstanding great pressures, and have magnetic and superconductive properties.
  12. The nano-forms, fullerenes, and graphene, appear as black or dark brown, soot-like powders.

What is C-14 Dating?

What is C-14 Dating?
  1. Carbon is a key element in biologically important molecules. During the lifetime of an organism, carbon is brought into the cell from the environment in the form of either carbon dioxide or carbon-based food molecules such as glucose; then used to build biologically important molecules such as sugars, proteins, fats, and nucleic acids.
  2. These molecules are subsequently incorporated into the cells and tissues that make up living things. Therefore, organisms from single-celled bacteria to the largest of the dinosaurs leave behind carbon-based remains.
  3. Carbon dating is based upon the decay of \({}^{14}{\rm{C,}}\) a radioactive isotope of carbon with a relatively long half-life (\(5700\) years). While \({}^{12}{\rm{C}}\) is the most abundant carbon isotope, there is a close to constant ratio of \({}^{12}{\rm{C}}\) to \({}^{14}{\rm{C}}\) in the environment, and hence in the molecules, cells, and tissues of living organisms.
  4. This constant ratio is maintained until the death of an organism when \({}^{14}{\rm{C}}\) stops being replenished. At this point, the overall amount of \({}^{14}{\rm{C}}\) in the organism begins to decay exponentially.
  5. Therefore, by knowing the amount of \({}^{14}{\rm{C}}\) in fossil remains, you can determine how long ago an organism died by examining the departure of the observed \({}^{12}{\rm{C}}\) to \({}^{14}{\rm{C}}\) ratio from the expected ratio for a living organism.

What is Carbon Footprint?

Carbon footprint sources

The term carbon also crops up in the phrase carbon footprint, which describes the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions that come from the production, use, and end-of-life of a product or service.

It includes carbon dioxide — the gas most commonly emitted by humans — and others, including methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases, which trap heat in the atmosphere, causing global warming. Usually, the bulk of an individual’s carbon footprint will come from transportation, housing, and food.

Carbon footprint INFOGRAPHIC

How to Reduce Carbon Footprint?

Taking personal action isn’t hard and also comes with great benefits. In addition to reducing your carbon footprint, you’ll also save money and time, avoid traffic, reduce pollution, improve air quality, and enjoy a healthier, more active lifestyle.

10 Easy Ways You Can Start Making a Difference

1. Stop buying your water in plastic. Get a reusable water bottle and keep it filled and with you at all times. You’ll save money and the environment!

Stop buying your water in plastic

2. Incorporate walking or biking to some of your regular short-trip destinations. In most instances, you can walk a mile in less than \(20\) minutes. This is a great way to add exercise to your busy schedule.

Incorporate walking or biking to some of your regular short-trip destinations

3. Turn off lights and unplug devices when you’re not using them. Replace lights with LED lights that use less energy, last up to \(25\) times longer, and are cheaper to run than incandescent lights.

Turn off lights and unplug devices when you’re not using them. Replace lights.

4. Keep the tires on your car properly inflated and get regular tune-ups. When your car’s tires are low on pressure, it has to work harder to move from point \({\text{A}}\) to point \({\text{B}}\), wasting gas and increasing emissions in the process.

Keep the tires on your car properly inflated and get regular tune-ups

5. Eat more food that is grown or made locally and less red meat. Globally, emissions are linked to what we put on our plates. eating a vegan diet is likely to be best for the environment, Go organic, waste less.

Eat more food that is grown or made locally and less red meat.

6. Use the cold water cycle for washing your clothes. And do your laundry in FULL loads. This will decrease the amount of water and energy used, helping you save time and money. Bonus points for line-drying – it takes a lot of energy to power your dryer!

Use the cold water cycle for washing your clothes

7. Set your thermostat to \(78\) in summer and \(67\) in winter. And turn off the heat and AC when you’re not home. You’ll be surprised at the difference it makes in your energy bill.

Set your thermostat to \(78\) in summer and \(67\) in winter

8. Drive efficiently. Use the accelerator lightly, coast to red lights, stay near the speed limit, and park and go inside instead of idling your engine in a drive-thru.

Drive efficiently

9. Keep stuff out of the landfill. Sell items you no longer use to thrift shops, have a yard sale, or donate them to charity. Recycle or repurpose everything you can’t get rid of.

Keep stuff out of the landfill

10. Use alternative transportation (bus, train, carpool, or bike) to get to work one day per week. One of the most effective ways to begin thinking about how to reduce your carbon footprint is to reconsider how much, and how often, you travel. Going carless for a year could save about \(2.6\) tons of carbon dioxide.

Use alternative transportation (bus, train, carpool, or bike) to get to work one-day per. week

Simple actions add up when everyone joins in! Deciding to take action means that you want to take care of this place we call home

Importance of Carbon

  1. Carbon is essential to life. This is because it can form a huge variety of chains of different lengths. It was once thought that the carbon-based molecules of life could only be obtained from living things. 
  2. Carbon and its components are widely distributed in nature. The Earth’s atmosphere contains an ever-increasing concentration of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, from fossil fuel burning, and methane \(\left( {{\rm{C}}{{\rm{H}}_4}} \right),\) from paddy fields and cows.
  3. Free carbon is found in big reservoirs like hard coal, an amorphous form of the element with other complex compounds of carbon-hydrogen-nitrogen. Pure crystalline carbon is found in the form of graphite and diamond.
  4. Living things get almost all their carbon from carbon dioxide, either from the atmosphere or dissolved in water. Photosynthesis by green plants and photosynthetic plankton uses energy from the sun to split water into oxygen and hydrogen. The oxygen is released to the atmosphere, freshwater, and seas, and the hydrogen joins with carbon dioxide to produce carbohydrates.
  5. Some of the carbohydrates are used, along with nitrogen, phosphorus, and other elements, to form the other monomer molecules of life. These include bases and sugars for RNA, DNA,meagerThe and amino acids for proteins.
  6. Living things that do not photosynthesize have to rely on consuming other living things for their source of carbon molecules. Their digestive systems break carbohydrates into monomers that they can use to build their meagre cellular structures. Respiration provides the energy needed for these reactions. In respiration oxygen rejoins carbohydrates, to form carbon dioxide and water again. The energy released in this reaction is made available for the cells.
  7. Coal is also a key component in steel production, while graphite, another form of carbon, is a common industrial lubricant.

Is Carbon in the Air Good, Bad, or Just Ugly??


Here’s the big, important thing about \({\rm{C}}{{\rm{O}}_2}:\) It’s a greenhouse gas. That means \({\rm{C}}{{\rm{O}}_2}\) in the atmosphere works to trap heat close to Earth. It helps Earth to hold on to some of the energy it gets from the Sun so the energy doesn’t all leak back out into space.

If it weren’t for this greenhouse effect, Earth’s oceans would be frozen solid. Earth would not be the beautiful blue and green planet of life that it is.

So, \({\rm{C}}{{\rm{O}}_2}\) and other greenhouse gases are good—up to a point. But \({\rm{C}}{{\rm{O}}_2}\) is so good at holding in heat from the Sun, that even a small increase in \({\rm{C}}{{\rm{O}}_2}\) in the atmosphere can cause Earth to get even warmer.

Throughout Earth’s history, whenever the amount of \({\rm{C}}{{\rm{O}}_2}\) in the atmosphere has gone up, the temperature of Earth has also gone up. And when the temperature goes up, the \({\rm{C}}{{\rm{O}}_2}\) in the atmosphere goes up even more. Carbon dioxide- which is present in a meagre amount in the atmosphere is widely used by plants for photosynthesis. How come it has not depleted yet?

Carbon Cycle

  1. Carbon dioxide, an essential component that plants need to carry out photosynthesis, is maintained with the help of the carbon cycle. The whole ecosystem depends on these primary producers.
  2. Our atmosphere contains \(0.035%\) of carbon dioxide. This acts as a source of carbon for the green plants. They absorb the carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere into a biologically usable form of carbon, namely glucose.
  3. During respiration, this glucose is broken down releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
  4. Animals eat the leaves of plants to fulfill their carbon needs and also release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by the process of respiration.
  5. Dead plants and animals are decomposed by microorganisms to liberate carbon dioxide. The coil and the oil used in factories also release carbon dioxide.

Carbon dioxide is used up only in the process of photosynthesis, which is approximately equal to the carbon dioxide given out by the process of respiration, decomposition, and combustion. This helps to maintain the level of carbon in nature.

Uses of Carbon

  1. Carbon is unique among the elements in its ability to form strongly bonded chains, sealed off by hydrogen atoms. These hydrocarbons, extracted naturally as fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas), are mostly used as fuels. A small but important fraction is used as a feedstock for the petrochemical industries producing polymers, fibers, paints, solvents, and plastics, etc.
  2. Impure carbon in the form of charcoal (from wood) and coke (from coal) is used in metal smelting. It is particularly important in the iron and steel industries.
  3. Graphite is used in pencils, to make brushes in electric motors and furnace linings. Activated charcoal is used for purification and filtration. It is found in respirators and kitchen extractor hoods.
  4. Carbon fiber is finding many uses as a very strong, yet lightweight, material. It is currently used in tennis rackets, skis, fishing rods, rockets, and airplanes.
  5. Industrial diamonds are used for cutting rocks and drilling. Diamond films are used to protect surfaces such as razor blades.
  6. The more recent discovery of carbon nanotubes, other fullerenes, and atom-thin sheets of graphene has revolutionized hardware developments in the electronics industry and nanotechnology generally.

Future of Carbon

Carbon is a long-studied element, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t more to discover. In fact, the same element that our prehistoric ancestors burned as charcoal may be the key to next-generation tech materials.

Perhaps one of the hottest areas in carbon research today, however, involves the “miracle material” graphene. Graphene is a sheet of carbon only one atom thick. It’s the strongest material known while still being ultralight and flexible. And it conducts electricity better than copper.

A carbon nanotube (CNT) is a minuscule, straw-like structure made of carbon atoms. These tubes are extremely useful in a wide variety of electronic, magnetic, and mechanical technologies.  Carbon nanotubes are at least \(100\) times stronger than steel, but only one-sixth as heavy, so they can add strength to almost any material.

Useful Carbon Compounds

There are nearly ten million known carbon compounds and an entire branch of chemistry, known as organic chemistry, is devoted to their study. Many carbon compounds are essential for life as we know it.

Some of the most common carbon compounds are carbon dioxide \(\left( {{\rm{C}}{{\rm{O}}_2}} \right),\) carbon monoxide \(\left( {{\rm{CO}}} \right),\) chloroform \(\left( {{\rm{CHC}}{{\rm{l}}_3}} \right),\) carbon tetrachloride \(\left( {{\rm{CC}}{{\rm{l}}_4}} \right),\) methane \(\left( {{\rm{C}}{{\rm{H}}_4}} \right),\) ethylene \(\left( {{{\rm{C}}_2}{{\rm{H}}_4}} \right),\) acetylene \(\left( {{{\rm{C}}_2}{{\rm{H}}_2}} \right),\) benzene \(\left( {{{\rm{C}}_6}{{\rm{H}}_6}} \right),\) ethyl alcohol \(\left( {{{\rm{C}}_2}{{\rm{H}}_5}{\rm{OH}}} \right)\) and acetic acid \(\left( {{\rm{C}}{{\rm{H}}_3}{\rm{COOH}}} \right).\)

Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide is a one-carbon compound is produced during respiration by all animals, fungi, and microorganisms that depend directly or indirectly on living or decaying plants for food.


Carbon Dioxide

It is one of the most important gases on the earth because plants use it to produce carbohydrates in a process called photosynthesis. Since humans and animals depend on plants for food, photosynthesis is necessary for the survival of life on earth.



  1. Bonding- Carbon dioxide has the molecular formula \({{\rm{C}}{{\rm{O}}_2}}\) in which the carbon is attached to each oxygen atom by a double bond. Carbon and oxygen atoms share their valence electrons to obtain octet configuration.
  2. Molecular weight- \(44\,{\rm{gms}}/{\rm{mol}}.\)
  3. It is a one-carbon compound, a gas molecular entity, and a carbon oxide.
  4. Relatively non-toxic and non-combustible.
  5. Heavier than air.
  6. Soluble in water. Forms carbonic acid, a mild acid. Under prolonged exposure to heat or fire, the container may rupture violently and rocket.


  1. It has a role as a solvent, a vasodilator agent, an anaesthetic, an antagonist, a member of greenhouse gas, a human metabolite, a member of food packaging gas, a food propellant, a refrigerant. 
  2. Used to freeze food, to control chemical reactions, and as a fire extinguishing agent.

For several reasons, carbon dioxide is one of the most important gases on Earth. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is also important because it captures heat radiated from Earth’s surface.

That heat keeps the planet warm enough for plant and animal (including human) life to survive. Increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may be responsible for long-term changes in Earth’s climate. Those changes may have both beneficial and harmful effects on humans and other forms of life on the planet.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a one-carbon compound in which the carbon is joined to an oxygen atom.


Carbon monoxide


  1. Bonding- Carbon monoxide has the molecular formula \({\rm{CO}}.\) Following the octet rule for both carbon and oxygen, the two atoms form a triple bond, with six shared electrons in three bonding molecular orbitals, rather than the usual double bond found in organic carbonyl compounds.
  2. Molecular weight- \(28.01\,{\rm{g}}/{\rm{mol}}.\)
  3. Carbon Monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, poisonous gas, \({\rm{CO,}}\) that results from the incomplete combustion of carbon.
  4. Carbon monoxide condenses to the liquid at -\({\rm{192}}^\circ \,{\rm{C}}\left( { – 314^\circ \,{\rm{F}}} \right)\) and it freezes at -\({\rm{199}}^\circ \,{\rm{C}}\left( { – 326^\circ \,{\rm{F}}} \right).\)
  5. It is only slightly soluble in water, and its physical properties closely resemble those of nitrogen.
  6. It is easily ignited. It is just lighter than air. Under prolonged exposure to fire or intense heat, the containers may violently rupture and rocket.
  7. For use in manufacturing processes, carbon monoxide is made by passing air through a bed of incandescent coke or coal, or by the reaction of natural gas with oxygen at high temperatures in the presence of a catalyst.


  1. Carbon monoxide is used in the industry, primarily as a source of energy and as a reducing agent. As a reducing agent, carbon monoxide is used to convert the naturally occurring oxide of metal to pure metal. When carbon monoxide is passed over hot iron oxides, for example, the oxides are converted to metallic iron.
  2. It has a role as a neurotoxin, a signaling molecule, a vasodilator agent, a neurotransmitter, a metabolite, a ligand, a biomarker, a probe, a human metabolite, a mouse metabolite.
  3. Carbon monoxide’s toxicity is a consequence of its absorption by red blood cells in preference to oxygen, thus interfering with the transport of oxygen from the lungs to the tissues, in which it is required.
  4. Indication of carbon monoxide poisoning includes headache, weakness, dizziness, nausea, fainting, and, in severe cases, coma, weak pulse, and respiratory failure.


Chloroform is a colourless, volatile, liquid derivative of trichloromethane with an ether-like odour. Other names for chloroform are trichloromethane and methyl trichloride.




  1. Bonding- Chloroform has the molecular formula \({\rm{CHC}}{{\rm{l}}_3}.\) Chloroform contains a covalent intramolecular bond, which is slightly polar. This bond causes chloroform to have a tetrahedral shape and to be soluble in water.
  2. Its molar mass is \(119.38\,{\rm{g/mol}}.\)
  3. Chloroform appears as a clear colorless liquid with a characteristic odor, slightly sweet taste.
  4. Denser \(\left( {1.49\,{\rm{g/c}}{{\rm{m}}^3}} \right)\) than water and slightly soluble in water. Hence sinks in water.
  5. Non-Flammable under most conditions, but burns under extreme conditions.


Formerly used as an inhaled anaesthetic during the surgery, the primary use of chloroform today is in industry, where it is used as a solvent and in the production of refrigerant freon. Acute chloroform toxicity results in impaired liver function, cardiac arrhythmia, nausea, and central nervous system dysfunction. As a byproduct of water chlorination, chloroform may be present in small amounts in chlorinated water.

Carbon Tetrachloride

Carbon Tetrachloride is a clear, colourless, volatile, and very stable chlorinated hydrocarbon. It is also called methane tetrachloride, perchloromethane.


Carbon Tetrachloride


  1. Bonding-The chemical formula for carbon tetrachloride is \({\rm{CC}}{{\rm{l}}_4}.\) In the carbon tetrachloride molecule, four chlorine atoms are positioned symmetrically as corners in a tetrahedral configuration joined to a central carbon atom by single covalent bonds. Because of this symmetric geometry, \({\rm{CC}}{{\rm{l}}_4}\) is nonpolar.
  2. Molecular weight- \(153.82\,{\rm{g/mol}}.\)
  3. Carbon tetrachloride is a manufactured chemical that does not occur naturally.
  4. It is a clear liquid with a sweet smell that can be detected at low levels.
  5. It is not flammable and does not dissolve in water very easily.
  6. Denser than water.
  7. Carbon tetrachloride boils at \(77^\circ \,{\rm{C}}\left( {171^\circ \,{\rm{F}}} \right)\) and freezes at -\(23^\circ \,{\rm{C}}\left( {9^\circ \,{\rm{F}}} \right);\)


  1. Carbon Tetrachloride is used as a solvent for oils and fats, as a refrigerant, and as a dry-cleaning agent.
  2. It was used in the production of refrigeration fluid and propellants for aerosol cans, as a pesticide, as a cleaning fluid and degreasing agent, in fire extinguishers, and spot removers. Because of its harmful effects, these uses are now banned and it is only used in some industrial applications.

Formerly used as a dry-cleaning solvent, carbon tetrachloride has been almost entirely displaced from this application by tetrachloroethylene, which is much more stable and less toxic


Methane is the simplest of saturated hydrocarbons. It is also known as marsh gas or methyl hydride.




  1. Bonding-The chemical formula of methane is \({\rm{C}}{{\rm{H}}_4}.\) It consists of four hydrogen atoms and one carbon atom and is the simplest alkane. Methane is a one-carbon compound in which the carbon is attached by single bonds to four hydrogen atoms.
  2. Molecular weight- Its molecular weight is \(16.04\;{\rm{g}}/{\rm{mol}}.\)
  3. Methane is a colorless, odorless gas. It is easily ignited. 
  4. Its boiling point is \(- 161^\circ \,{\rm{C}}.\)
  5. The vapours are lighter than air. Under prolonged exposure to fire or intense heat, the containers may rupture violently. 
  6. It is used in making other chemicals and as a constituent of the fuel, natural gas.


  1. It is used in automobiles, ovens, and water heater as a fuel
  2. It is used in the generation of electricity
  3. It is used as rocket fuel in its refined liquid form
  4. It is used as  an antifreeze ingredient in industries
  5. It is a common ingredient in fertilizer
  6. It is used to sanitize products
  7. It is used in gas-fired power stations
  8. It is used in gas cookers
  9. It is used in the testing of gas appliances

Methane is a greenhouse gas. Methane warms the planet \(86\) times as much as carbon dioxide over \(20\) years. Increasing amounts of atmospheric methane will potentially contribute to climate change. Agriculture is the key emitting sector of methane emissions, responsible for about \(40%\).


Ethene is also known as Ethylene the simplest of the organic compounds known as alkenes, which contain carbon-carbon double bonds.




  1. Bonding- The molecular formula of ethene is \({{\rm{C}}_2}{{\rm{H}}_4}.\) Ethene has a double bond between the carbons and a single bond between hydrogen and carbon: each bond is represented by a pair of dots, which represent electrons. Each carbon requires a full octet and each hydrogen requires a pair of electrons.
  2. Molecular weight- Its molar mass is \(28.05\;{\rm{g}}/{\rm{mol}}{\rm{.}}\)
  3. It is a colorless gas at room temperature and pressure
  4. Melting point \(= – 169^\circ \,{\rm{C}},\) Boiling point \(= – 104^\circ \,{\rm{C}},\)
  5. It has a slightly sweet smell and is flammable.
  6. It is a nonpolar molecule.
  7. Vapours rising from the boiling liquid are lighter than air. Easily ignited.
  8. It is soluble in non-polar solvents
  9. It is insoluble in polar solvents like water
  10. It is reactive: the active site is the double bond

For example, ethene readily undergoes additional reactions


  1. Natural sources of ethylene include both natural gas and petroleum; it is also a naturally occurring hormone in plants, in which it inhibits growth and promotes leaf fall, and in fruits, in which it promotes ripening.
  2. Used as an anaesthetic, a refrigerant, and to make other chemicals.
  3. Polyethene is a white powder (microbeads). Tough and flexible at room temperatures
  4. Ethylene acts as a monomer, from which longer carbon chains (Polymers) are formed. The polymerization of ethylene gives polyethene, a polymer having many uses, particularly in the production of packaging films, wire coatings, and squeeze bottles.


Ethyne, also known as acetylene, is an unsaturated hydrocarbon. Ethyne is regarded by many to be the simplest alkyne since it consists of only two carbon atoms, which are triply bonded to each other.




  1. Bonding- The molecular formula of ethyne is \({{\rm{C}}_2}{{\rm{H}}_2}.\) Ethyne is a linear molecule. Each carbon atom makes \(2\) sigma bonds and has no lone pairs of electrons. Ethyne has a triple bond between the two carbon atoms
  2. Molecular weight \(- 26.038\) grams per mole.
  3. Under standard conditions for temperature and pressure (usually abbreviated to STP), ethyne is known to exist as a colourless gas that does not have any distinct odour.
  4. The density of this compound is known to be approximately equal to \(1.097\) grams per litre.
  5. The melting point of ethyne is roughly equal to \(-80.8\) degrees Celsius (or \(192.3\) Kelvin).
  6. Ethyne is known to be slightly soluble in water.


  1. Ethyne is useful for artificial ripening and preservation of fruits.
  2. It is useful in acetylene lamps to generate light.
  3. Ethyne is used to prepare various organic compounds.
  4. It is also useful to manufacture important organic compounds like acetic acid, acetaldehyde, ethyl alcohol, and polymers like PVC…etc.
  5. It is useful to produce an oxyacetylene flame used for welding metals.


It is one of the elementary petrochemicals. It is a natural constituent of crude oil.




Bonding- The molecular formula \({{\rm{C}}_6}{{\rm{H}}_6}.\) The benzene molecule is composed of six carbon atoms joined in a planar ring with one hydrogen atom attached to each. Because it contains only carbon and hydrogen atoms, benzene is classed as a hydrocarbon. The carbon atom is bonded to two other carbon atoms and a single Hydrogen atom. It has alternate double bonds between the carbon atoms. Due to the cyclic conjugated pi bonds between the carbon atoms, benzene is classed as an aromatic hydrocarbon.

  1. It is a clear, colourless, highly flammable, and volatile, liquid aromatic hydrocarbon with a gasoline-like odour.
  2. It evaporates into the air very quickly and dissolves slightly in water.
  3. Less dense than water and slightly soluble in water. Hence floats on water. Vapours are heavier than air.


Benzene is found in crude oils and is a by-product of oil-refining processes. In industry, benzene is used as a solvent, as a chemical intermediate, and is used in the synthesis of numerous chemicals. Benzene is used mainly as an intermediate to make other chemicals, above all ethylbenzene, cumene, cyclohexane, nitrobenzene, and alkylbenzene.

More than half of the entire benzene production is processed into ethylbenzene, a precursor to styrene, making polymers and plastics like polystyrene and EPS. Some \(20%\) of the benzene production is used to manufacture cumene, which is needed to produce phenol and acetone for resins and adhesives. Smaller amounts of benzene are used to make some types of rubbers, lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs, explosives, and pesticides.


Ethanol, also called alcohol, ethyl alcohol and grain alcohol, is a clear, colourless liquid, the principal ingredient in alcoholic beverages like beer, wine, or brandy. As it can readily dissolve in water and other organic compounds, ethanol also is an ingredient in a range of products, from personal care and beauty products to paints and varnishes to fuel.



Bonding- It is simple alcohol with the chemical formula \({{\rm{C}}_2}{{\rm{H}}_6}{\rm{O}}.\) Its formula can be also written as \({\rm{C}}{{\rm{H}}_3} – {\rm{C}}{{\rm{H}}_2} – {\rm{OH}}\) or \({{\rm{C}}_2}{{\rm{H}}_5}{\rm{OH}}\) and is often abbreviated as EtOH. The bonds between the hydrogen and carbon atoms are nonpolar covalent bonds. The hydrogen-oxygen and carbon-oxygen bonds are polar covalent bonds.

Molecular weight = \(46.07\;{\rm{g}}/{\rm{mol}}.\)

  1. Ethanol is soluble in water.
  2. Ethanol acts as a very good solvent.
  3. Drinking dilute alcohol causes drunkenness.
  4. Boiling point: \(78.37\;^\circ \,{\rm{C}}\)
  5. Melting point:  \(-114.1\;^\circ \,{\rm{C}}\)

Ethanol is a natural byproduct of plant fermentation and also can be produced through the hydration of ethylene.

Ethanol is effective in killing microorganisms like bacteria, fungi, and viruses, it is a common ingredient in many hand sanitisers.


  1. Ethanol mixes easily with water and many organic compounds and makes an effective solvent for use in paints, lacquers, and varnish, as well as personal care and household cleaning products.
  2. As an additive to cleaning products, ethanol is also used as a preservative because it is effective in knocking out organisms that could pose a danger to consumers.
  3. As a food additive, ethanol can help evenly distribute food colouring, as well as enhance the flavour of food

What is Denatured Alcohol?

Denatured alcohol is ethanol made unfit for human consumption by adding one or more chemicals (denaturants) to it. Denaturing refers to removing a property from the alcohol (being able to drink it), not chemically altering or decomposing it, so denatured alcohol contains ordinary ethyl alcohol.

  1. Denaturants may be either chemicals that make the alcohol taste bad or they may be toxic.
  2. One common toxic denaturant is methanol or methyl alcohol. Methanol is absorbed through the skin and produces symptoms resembling intoxication if ingested. However, it also causes nervous system damage and other serious health effects. It is very difficult to separate from ethanol.

Is rubbing alcohol and denatured alcohol the same?

To summarize, rubbing alcohol works as a minor cleaning solvent and is meant to be applied as an antiseptic. Denatured alcohol is used as a solvent, a fuel additive, and for sanding or finishing purposes and should never be applied as an antiseptic or consumed.

Ethanoic Acid or Acetic Acid

It is commonly known as vinegar.


Ethanoic acid or Acetic acid


  1. Bonding- The chief acetic acid formula is \({{\rm{C}}_2}{{\rm{H}}_4}{{\rm{O}}_2}.\) In acetic acid, there are seven bonds between atoms. Even though the carbonyl carbon has a double bond, there is still a bond between carbon and oxygen. The acetic acid formula represents two carbons, four hydrogens, and two oxygens. Another way of expressing the acetic acid formula is \({\text{C}}{{\text{H}}_3}{\text{COOH}}\). This better demonstrates its carboxyl group \(\left( { – {\rm{COOH}}} \right).\)
  2. Molecular weight = \(60.052\;{\rm{g}}/{\rm{mol}}.\)
  3. Acetic or ethanoic acid is a weak carboxylic acid. Acetic acid forms when ethanol is combined with oxygen in the air, yielding ethanoic (acetic) acid and water. This is called the oxidation of ethanol.
  4. Ethanoic acid has no colour, but it has a sharp, strong odour very much like vinegar.
  5. This is a flammable chemical.
  6. Its boiling point is \(118\) degrees Celsius. Acetic acid is designated as a volatile organic compound.
  7. Acetic acid absorbs moisture, so it is classified as hygroscopic. 
  8. It can react powerfully with either bases or acids.
  9. Acetic acid at high concentrations will also corrode metal and degrade plastics and rubber. Other acetic acid common names include vinegar acid, ethylic acid, methane carboxylic acid, glacial acetic acid, and glacial ethanoic acid.

Uses of Ethanoic or Acetic Acid

  1. Acetic acid is used in the manufacture of plastic items such as bottles and other synthetic materials.
  2. Ethanoic or acetic acid is used in making dyes, pigments, and paint and coating additives. It is used in printing on fabric. It is a component of wood glue and other sealants.
  3.  Acetic acid is also used as a cleaning and degreasing solvent. It can be used to etch inorganic films.
  4. Acetic acid is commonly used in photographic materials such as film and chemical solutions.
  5. It is also used in the petroleum industry and is used to plate and treat surfaces, such as on cars.
  6. Acetic acid is also used in the production of pharmaceuticals.
  7. In the food industry, acetic acid in lower concentrations is used as a food additive, flavouring, and preservative. Acetic acid regulates food acidity.
  8. Pickling vegetables and fruits with vinegar preserve them because acetic acid prevents bacterial growth.
  9. Acetic acid is a component of antifreeze and de-icing agents, and it is used in pest-control agents like herbicides and insecticides.
  10. It is a component of some car polishes.
  11. In medicine, acetic acid possesses both antifungal and antibacterial benefits.


Carbon’s incredible ability to bond with many other elements is a major reason that it is crucial to almost all life. No element is more essential to life than carbon, because only carbon forms strong single bonds to itself that are stable enough to resist chemical attack under ambient conditions.

This gives carbon the ability to form long chains and rings of atoms, which are the structural basis for many compounds that comprise the living cell, of which the most important is DNA. From stars to steel, from petrol to pencil, from clothes to creams- all are made up of this magic element- CARBON.

FAQs on Carbon


1. Where is carbon found in nature?

Carbon is stored on our planet in the following major sinks \((1)\) as organic molecules in living and dead organisms found in the biosphere; \((2)\) as the gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; \((3)\) as organic matter in soils; \((4)\) in the lithosphere as fossil fuels and sedimentary rock deposits such as limestone, dolomite and chalk; and \((5)\) in the oceans as dissolved atmospheric carbon dioxide and as calcium carbonate shells in marine organisms.

2. Is Carbon present in our body?

Yes, carbon is present in our bodies. It is the second most abundant element in the human body, after oxygen. Around \(18.5%\) of our body is made up of carbon.

3. What is carbon used for?

Carbon (in the form of coal, which is mainly carbon) is used as a fuel. Graphite is used for pencil tips, high-temperature crucibles, dry cells, electrodes, and a lubricant. Diamonds are used in jewellery and – because they are so hard – in the industry for cutting, drilling, grinding, and polishing.

4. Why Does Carbon Not Form Ionic Bonds?

It could gain four electrons forming \({\rm{C}}_4^ – \) anion. But it would be difficult for the nucleus with six protons to hold on to ten electrons, that is, four extra electrons.

It could lose four electrons forming a \({\rm{C}}_4^ + \) cation. But it would require a large amount of energy to remove four electrons leaving behind a carbon cation with six protons in its nucleus holding on to just two electrons.

5. Is carbon toxic to humans?

\({\rm{C}}{{\rm{O}}_2}\) is not poisonous; as a gas, \({\rm{C}}{{\rm{O}}_2}\) itself will not hurt you. This is an important fact to remember, as carbon dioxide is a vital part of the environment. The human breathing mechanism revolves around \({\rm{C}}{{\rm{O}}_2,}\) not oxygen. Without carbon dioxide, humans wouldn’t be able to breathe. It’s only when the percentage of \({\rm{C}}{{\rm{O}}_2}\) increases after a certain level, affects our health.

Now that you have a detailed article on Carbon, we hope you do not face issues while studying for the exam. Do let us know in case of any queries in the comments section below and we will get back to you soon.


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