Where is carbon found in the world?
Carbon is also found in the atmosphere where it's a part of carbon dioxide gas emitted when fossil fuels are burned and when living organisms breathe. It's in organic matter in the soil, and it's in rocks. But far and away the most carbon on Earth is stored in a surprising place: the ocean.
Uses of Carbon. Carbon (in the form of coal, which is mainly carbon) is used as a fuel. Graphite is used for pencil tips, high temperature crucibles, dry cells, electrodes and as a lubricant. Diamonds are used in jewelry and – because they are so hard – in industry for cutting, drilling, grinding, and polishing.
- Carbon is an important constituent of living beings. Along with Nitrogen and oxygen, carbon is one of the essential building blocks of organic life. Carbon forms about 18% of the human body. Carbon is integral because of its unique ability to form four different bonds with other elements.
- Hydrogen is easily the most abundant element in the universe. It is found in the sun and most of the stars, and the planet Jupiter is composed mostly of hydrogen. On Earth, hydrogen is found in the greatest quantities as water.
- Wood contains carbon because it comes from a plant that once completed photosynthesis, taking in carbon dioxide to produce glucose and build its cell walls out of cellulose. Plastic is derived from petroleum, which contains hydrocarbons, compounds composed entirely of hydrogen and carbon.
Carbon is most commonly obtained from coal deposits, although it usually must be processed into a form suitable for commercial use. Three naturally occurring allotropes of carbon are known to exist: amorphous, graphite and diamond. All artificially produced graphite is of the alpha type.
- The early stars are massive and short-lived. They consume their hydrogen, helium and lithium and produce heavier elements. When these stars die with a bang they spread the elements of life, carbon and oxygen, throughout the universe.
- Carbon sublimes in a carbon arc, which has a temperature of about 5,800 K (5,530 °C; 9,980 °F). Thus, irrespective of its allotropic form, carbon remains solid at higher temperatures than the highest-melting-point metals such as tungsten or rhenium. Carbon is a solid at normal temperature.
- Impure carbon in the form of charcoal (from wood) and coke (from coal) is used in metal smelting. It is particularly important in the iron and steel industries. Graphite is used in pencils, to make brushes in electric motors and in furnace linings. Activated charcoal is used for purification and filtration.
There are both natural and human sources of carbon dioxide emissions. Natural sources include decomposition, ocean release and respiration. Human sources come from activities like cement production, deforestation as well as the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas.
- A carbon sink is a natural or artificial reservoir that accumulates and stores some carbon-containing chemical compound for an indefinite period. The process by which carbon sinks remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere is known as carbon sequestration.
- Lithosphere; carbon in the lithosphere is held in soil in the form of both organic and inorganic carbon (often as calcium carbonate). Carbon can leave the soil through soil respiration – which releases CO2, or by erosion – which can carry it into rivers or the ocean, where it then enters the hydrosphere.
- All three were formed many hundreds of millions of years ago before the time of the dinosaurs – hence the name fossil fuels. The age they were formed is called the Carboniferous Period. It was part of the Paleozoic Era. "Carboniferous" gets its name from carbon, the basic element in coal and other fossil fuels.
Updated: 25th November 2019