What is Carbon?
Hey it’s professor Dave, let’s talk about carbon you may have heard that carbon is the element of life, but what does that mean? what determines whether an atom is of carbon in the first place? an atom consists of positively charged protons neutrons which have no charge, and negatively charged electrons an element is defined by the number of protons in the nucleus one proton is hydrogen, two is helium 3 lithium, 4 beryllium, 5 boron and six is carbon. the number of neutrons and electrons can change.
But by definition any atom with six protons may be a atom how do they form? hydrogen the only and most abundant of all elements accumulates into clumps thanks to gravity which become stars the tremendous inward pressure triggers fusion which is when protons and neutrons smash together and fuse many elements including carbon and bigger ones like iron are made in stars.
much larger ones need the immense energy a supernova explosion or particle accelerators here on earth.so what’s so special about carbon? let’s look at the electrons. carbon atoms have six. the first two are in the inner shell and the other four are the so-called valence electrons in the outer shell these are the ones available for bonding with other atoms which happens.
when two atoms share two electrons because elements in this part of the periodic table want to have eight electrons in the outermost shell carbon has a tendency to make four bonds. These can be single double or triple bonds and with many different elements. in addition.
while an atom that’s bound to two or three other atoms will adopt a linear or flat shape a atom that’s bound to four other atoms will combat a three-dimensional shape because that’s how the electron clouds on the four atoms are often as distant from one another as possible so it is the ability of carbon to bond during a big variety of shapes with numerous elements including itself that creates it so special.
also, bonds are strong enough to be stable but not so strong that they can not break and rearrange which makes them excellent building blocks. when by itself carbon has many allotropes, or ways a component are often arranged there’s the graphite in your pencil which consists of slippery sheets of carbon that rub off easily there’s diamond, the toughest substance known and that we can even make interesting structures like nanotubes and fullerenes that’s just carbon by itself.
when combined with hydrogen oxygen, and nitrogen and a few other elements it makes all the diverse structures in your body including carbohydrates, proteins, and DNA. We can take nature a step further and synthesize novel materials with an array of purposes putting carbons in the empty spots in an iron lattice makes it stronger we call this steel which is used in most large structures.
we know today Teflon, a carbon-fluorine polymer is an on-stick substance that is highly resistant to chemical degradation and carbon based synthetic drugs like inhibitors which will silence a faulty enzyme hold the prospect of curing numerous diseases. that’s a lotta reasons to love carbon it really is the element of life. see you next time.