We explain what carbon is and what its main characteristics are. Also, its applications and what is the carbon cycle.
Carbon is one of the most important elements on the periodic table , at least in terms of its abundance and its need for organic life . More than 16 million substances are known to contain carbon, including many essential compounds for living things . This element makes up 0.2% of the earth's crust.
Carbon exists in numerous forms , depending on the environmental conditions in which it is found, and constitutes one of the elements with the most human uses and the greatest presence in society . In fact, our body exhales carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) as a product of respiration , and it is found as carbon monoxide (CO) in the gases released by the exhaust of combustion engines.
Many substances essential for life are based on carbon. Fatty acids (made from combinatorial carbon, oxygen and hydrogen ), esters present in fruits, most amino acids, enzymes and proteins that support life , benzene, carbohydrates that give us energy, all from of carbon combinations.
The chemistry of carbon is known as the chemistry of life , since living beings known to date are based on molecular structures based on carbon. CO 2 is essential for photosynthesis, for example.
Carbon-based inorganic compounds
In its extremely high capacity for combination, carbon is also found in many inorganic substances. Carbonates (calcites (CaCO 3 )), numerous salts and acids (carbonic acid (H 2 CO 3 )) , or metallic forms such as carbides and acetylides (calcium carbide (CaC 2 )), both with excess acidity, are forms of inorganic compound from carbon.
China , the United States and the European Union are the three largest coal exploiters on the planet, although it is abundantly distributed throughout the 100 countries that extract it . In contrast, the much more coveted fossil hydrocarbons are found in large deposits in the Middle East , Russia, Alaska, Mexico and Venezuela , mainly.
The exploitation of diamonds is mainly concentrated in South Africa and South America , although there are other smaller-scale mines in North America and South Asia. African exploitation has been highly controversial , due to its human and political costs on the local population .
Hydrocarbons, above all, are an indispensable part of modern industrial gear as they are high-performance fuels for all types of transport thanks to the fact that oil allows a wide range of usable derivatives such as plastic or nylon. The same is true of the automotive lubricant industry.
Coal, on the other hand, is used mostly as fuel to generate electricity, although its polluting effects are feared and proven. It is also used as a combustible material for domestic use.
Graphite is essential for the pencil industry and the protection rods of atomic reactors. Diamonds, paradoxically, are traded as decorative objects or in the manufacture of scalpels and tools that take advantage of their hardness.
Finally, the radioactive isotope Carbon-14 is used in numerous scientific and archaeological investigations as a marker of the age of organic remains.
This CO 2 is utilized, with water and light sun , by the photosynthesis of plants , the immediate product is oxygen and new organic matter (fruit, leaves, bark, dead animals) then decomposes. And the cycle begins again, sustaining life in its turn.
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