Chemistry of Carbon
By: David Nathaniel N. Niro
If you’re all unique, then what makes you special? You should, therefore, be common in your own special way.
The element to be introduced this time is one of the most common, abundant and naturally occurring elements on Earth. After H, He, and O, this element is the fourth most abundant in the universe and fifteenth among those on Earth’s crust. Such abundance, in addition to its ability to form polymers on temperatures common to Earth, paves way to the diversity of organic compounds. Thus, this element was called “the common element of all known life.”
Carbon, (Latin: carbo or coal), the sixth element on the periodic table, is nonmetallic and tetravalent, which means that four electrons could form covalent bonds with it. It naturally occurs in three isotopes, with 12C and 13C being stable and 14C being radioactive. It is one of the oldest discovered elements, known since antiquity.
As stated earlier, C is so diverse since it can be configured in more than a million ways with each configuration leading to a different compound. For instance, Carbon can exist in more than one form in the same physical state (allotropy), like graphite, diamond, buckminsterfullene, and graphene sheets, which are resulted from the different bonding of C atoms. This entails widely varied physical properties.
Moreover, carbon is the basis of Organic Chemistry and organic compounds, which are compounds whose molecules contain C. Common examples would be hydrocarbons, which are compounds whose composition includes only Hydrogen and Carbon; the simples of which is methane. Different number of C atoms and different bonding structure would result to an entirely different, yet connected, compounds.
From the soft Graphite to the hardest mineral Diamond, such C-based allotropes vary in their physical properties depending merely on how its atoms are bonded. This is the reason as to why the chemical basis of all living organisms is linked to how carbon bonds with other atoms, or how its structure is configured.
Carbon is very common, abundant, and naturally-occurring on Earth, but this does not keep it from able to transform into unique, utterly relevant versions of itself.