What's Up With Carbon?

Carbon is a really cool chemical element, and is the sixth most common element in the universe! It is non-metallic and is essential to all life on earth. Nearly all living organisms’ molecules contain carbon.

You have probably seen carbon in its pure form as graphite, or diamonds, and in its less-than-pure form, lumps of coal, the most common form of carbon. Humans have been aware of carbon since the very early times when cave people would make a fire. The black smoke would leave soot on the ceilings of the caves. The black smoke is caused by the unburned specks of carbon.

Carbon atoms combine freely with other elements. The carbon in plants ends up combining with hydrogen, oxygen, and other elements to form the food we eat.

One of its forms is as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere - a gas that has no color, so you can’t see it, and no odor, so you can’t smell it either. A carbon dioxide molecule is made up of one carbon atom (symbol = C) and two oxygen atoms (symbol = O). The “di” before oxide indicates two oxygen atoms. Therefore, carbon dioxide is represented by the chemical symbol CO2.