Can we still have fun if the UK goes carbon neutral?

Will Britain going carbon neutral mean no more fun? Experts from the University of Surrey have urged local policy makers to put in place infrastructure that will enable people to enjoy recreation and leisure while keeping ...

A metal-free, sustainable approach to carbon dioxide reduction

Researchers in Japan have presented an organic catalyst for carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction that is inexpensive, readily available and recyclable. As the level of catalytic activity can be tuned by the solvent conditions, ...

Carbon-neutral fuels move a step closer

Chemists at EPFL have developed an efficient process for converting carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide, a key ingredient of synthetic fuels and materials.

Squid could thrive under climate change

Squid will survive and may even flourish under even the worst-case ocean acidification scenarios, according to a new study published this week.

Soon, air pollution could be measured on every street corner

Air pollution is responsible for 550,000 premature deaths a year in Europe and 7 million worldwide, according to the WHO. Measuring it can be a challenge, however, as the equipment tends to be large and expensive. But soon, ...

Organic carbon hides in sediments, keeping oxygen in atmosphere

A new study from researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and Harvard University may help settle a long-standing question—how small amounts of organic carbon become locked away in rock and sediments, ...

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Carbon

Carbon (pronounced /ˈkɑrbən/) is the chemical element with symbol C and atomic number 6. As a member of group 14 on the periodic table, it is nonmetallic and tetravalent—making four electrons available to form covalent chemical bonds. There are three naturally occurring isotopes, with 12C and 13C being stable, while 14C is radioactive, decaying with a half-life of about 5730 years. Carbon is one of the few elements known since antiquity. The name "carbon" comes from Latin language carbo, coal, and, in some Romance and Slavic languages, the word carbon can refer both to the element and to coal.

There are several allotropes of carbon of which the best known are graphite, diamond, and amorphous carbon. The physical properties of carbon vary widely with the allotropic form. For example, diamond is highly transparent, while graphite is opaque and black. Diamond is among the hardest materials known, while graphite is soft enough to form a streak on paper (hence its name, from the Greek word "to write"). Diamond has a very low electrical conductivity, while graphite is a very good conductor. Under normal conditions, diamond has the highest thermal conductivity of all known materials. All the allotropic forms are solids under normal conditions but graphite is the most thermodynamically stable.

All forms of carbon are highly stable, requiring high temperature to react even with oxygen. The most common oxidation state of carbon in inorganic compounds is +4, while +2 is found in carbon monoxide and other transition metal carbonyl complexes. The largest sources of inorganic carbon are limestones, dolomites and carbon dioxide, but significant quantities occur in organic deposits of coal, peat, oil and methane clathrates. Carbon forms more compounds than any other element, with almost ten million pure organic compounds described to date, which in turn are a tiny fraction of such compounds that are theoretically possible under standard conditions.

Carbon is one of the least abundant elements in the Earth's crust, but the fourth most abundant element in the universe by mass after hydrogen, helium, and oxygen. It is present in all known lifeforms, and in the human body carbon is the second most abundant element by mass (about 18.5%) after oxygen. This abundance, together with the unique diversity of organic compounds and their unusual polymer-forming ability at the temperatures commonly encountered on Earth, make this element the chemical basis of all known life.

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