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20 Amazing Carbon Facts You Should Know

1 element – about 10 million compounds – present in every known living organism on Earth – well, carbon is definitely one of the most incredible elements on the Period Table. We have definitely delayed a lot in writing about this fascinating element. So, here we are today, making up for the lost time. In this article, we will learn 20 amazing carbon facts that will simply leave you surprised. Be sure that this isn’t the only article on carbon facts that we will write. There will be at least one more article. So, enjoy!
But, before we start…

Element NameCarbon
Element SymbolC
Element FamilyGroup 14 (modern IUPAC notation), Group IV or Carbon Group
ColorBlack if in graphite form and transparent if in diamond form.
Atomic Weight12.011
Melting Point3550°C or 3823 K (Please note that when carbon is heated, it will simply change phase from solid to gas without melting into liquid. However, when pressure is gradually increased to reach 10 atmosphere graphite (carbon) will melt at the said temperature).
Boiling Point3825°C or 4098 K (Please note that the boiling point that has been mentioned here is when graphite vapor pressure attains 1 atmosphere above subliming graphite).
Density at 20°C2.267 g/cm3
Number of Electrons6
Number of Protons6
Number of Neutrons (As found in most abundant isotope)6
Electron Configuration1s22s22p2
Known Isotopes8C
12C (Stable and naturally occurring)
13C (Stable and naturally occurring)
14C (Natural and Radioactive with 5,730 years of half-life)
Element StructureFor diamond it has tetrahedral structure | For Graphite, it has hexagonal layers.
Atomic Radius70 pm
HardnessGraphite (0.5 mohs) | Diamond (10.0 mohs).

Okay, now that we have the basic information in hand, it is time we start with our facts list. Ready?

Amazing Carbon Facts: 1-5

1. Heard about organic chemistry? Carbon forms the very base of organic chemistry. Why like that? That’s because, every living organism that we know today has carbon.

2. Diamond is one of the hardest known substance to mankind. Graphite on the other hand is one of the softest known substance that we know of. Both are carbon.

3. It is the fourth most abundant element in universe. First one is hydrogen, second one is helium and the third one is oxygen.

4. Carbon was not formed during Big Bang. It is created inside stars (like our Sun).

5. Carbon is classified as a nonmetal. However, carbon is known for not only bonding with itself but also with almost every known element. This means that there are too many carbon compounds. Just how many? Almost 10 million!

Amazing Carbon Facts: 6-10

6. Wondering whether pure carbon can exist in nature? Yes it does! Diamond and graphite are pure carbon. Pure carbon has been known to mankind since antiquity.

7. Pure carbon is not at all toxic. However, there is a small problem. If fine particles of pure carbon (such as soot) are inhaled, the lung can get damaged.

8. There are four different forms in which pure carbon is present on Earth. First – diamond, second – graphite, third – amorphous and fourth – fullerene. The last form was discovered only a few years back.

9. The carbon cycle has a very complicated loop. This ensures that the amount of carbon that is present on Earth remains more or less constant.

10. 18% of human body mass is made of carbon. This means that after oxygen, carbon is the second most abundant element present in our body.

Amazing Carbon Facts: 11-15

11. We know that pencil leads are made of graphite. However, we are not really told that graphite is too soft to form the lead and hence, it is mixed with clay to form the lead.

12. Carbon is extremely important for life on Earth. However, it is also responsible for increased Green House Effect, which is leading to increasing in temperature of Earth’s atmosphere.

13. We have heard of a term called Carbon Footprint. What does that mean? It simply means that amount of greenhouse gas that is emitted by an individual person or a company or a country as a whole.

14. Heard the term hydrocarbon? It is one of the most extensively studied part of organic chemistry. Hydrocarbons actually refer to compounds made of just two elements – carbon and hydrogen.

15. Carbon combines with oxygen to form carbon dioxide. This is a greenhouse gas and is also important for the survival of plants. We breathe out carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is formed by combining one atom of carbon and two atoms of oxygen.

Amazing Carbon Facts: 16-20

16. While inhaling carbon dioxide can actually suffocate a person and kill him or her, there is something far more dangerous out there than carbon dioxide. There is something called carbon monoxide (CO). It is a gas that is formed when carbon combines with oxygen but oxygen content is very low.

17. Carbon monoxide is a lethal gas. It is colorless and completely odorless. Once inhaled, it starts replacing oxygen in blood. When that happens, vital organs like brain, heart and nervous tissues will get less oxygen and health affects will show. When greater amounts of CO is inhaled, it kills humans and even animals.

18. Diamond, which is one of the hardest substance that mankind knows of, is capable of scratching every other known material. It is an extremely good conductor of heat and even sound.

19. Graphene, which is an allotrope of carbon is know to be thinnest and strongest material ever found. Graphene has atomic crystals of 2 dimensions.

20. Just how thin is Graphene? Take a pencil and check the lead. The graphite and clay mixed together forms a diameter as small as 0.7mm. Now, stack 2 million layers of Graphene and the thickness you get is 0.7 mm. That’s how thin Graphene is.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11