Carbon

Difficulty:
Danger:
Duration:
5 minutes
Carbon

Safety

General safety rules
  • Do not allow chemicals to come into contact with the eyes or mouth.
  • Keep young children, animals and those not wearing eye protection away from the experimental area.
  • Store this experimental set out of reach of children under 12 years of age.
  • Clean all equipment after use.
  • Make sure that all containers are fully closed and properly stored after use.
  • Ensure that all empty containers are disposed of properly.
  • Do not use any equipment which has not been supplied with the set or recommended in the instructions for use.
  • Do not replace foodstuffs in original container. Dispose of immediately.
General first aid information
  • In case of eye contact: Wash out eye with plenty of water, holding eye open if necessary. Seek immediate medical advice.
  • If swallowed: Wash out mouth with water, drink some fresh water. Do not induce vomiting. Seek immediate medical advice.
  • In case of inhalation: Remove person to fresh air.
  • In case of skin contact and burns: Wash affected area with plenty of water for at least 10 minutes.
  • In case of doubt, seek medical advice without delay. Take the chemical and its container with you.
  • In case of injury always seek medical advice.
Advice for supervising adults
  • The incorrect use of chemicals can cause injury and damage to health. Only carry out those experiments which are listed in the instructions.
  • This experimental set is for use only by children over 12 years.
  • Because children’s abilities vary so much, even within age groups, supervising adults should exercise discretion as to which experiments are suitable and safe for them. The instructions should enable supervisors to assess any experiment to establish its suitability for a particular child.
  • The supervising adult should discuss the warnings and safety information with the child or children before commencing the experiments. Particular attention should be paid to the safe handling of acids, alkalis and flammable liquids.
  • The area surrounding the experiment should be kept clear of any obstructions and away from the storage of food. It should be well lit and ventilated and close to a water supply. A solid table with a heat resistant top should be provided
  • Substances in non-reclosable packaging should be used up (completely) during the course of one experiment, i.e. after opening the package.

Scientific description

The small display case from this set contains samples of charcoal , graphite , and diamond . Believe it or not, they all consist of exactly the same chemical element—Carbon , denoted as "C." But why on earth do they look so different if they are made of the same thing? It all boils down to the way their atoms are arranged!

In charcoal , carbon atoms  are arranged in no particular order and form a porous structure. This makes it so fragile that it easily crumbles into dust. However, this structure allows impurities to adhere to it easily, making it an excellent adsorbent and leading to its use in water filters.

Meanwhile, the carbon atoms  in graphite  form honeycomb-shaped layers that easily separate from each other. This allows it to leave traces on paper, making it useful in pencils. Also, this peculiar structure makes graphite, in contrast to other forms of carbon, a good conductor of electricity.

Finally, in diamond , all the atoms  form a dense, consistent structure, which gives it a characteristic brilliance and outstanding strength. That's why diamonds are used not only in jewelry, but also as abrasives for cutting hard materials.

Does carbon exist in other forms?

Of course! Carbon is the record holder among the elements in the number of structures its atoms can form. These structures are called allotropic modifications.

In fact, carbon atoms are almost like the Legos of nature: a plethora of structures can be formed from carbon atoms alone. Scientists are constantly discovering new ones, each with its own unique and interesting properties. Among them are such bizarre structures as fullerenes and carbon nanotubes. Molecules of fullerene С60 look like soccer balls, and a nanotube is a honeycomb-shaped layer of carbon rolled up into a hollow tube.

Carbon nanotubes can make space elevators possible!

Sci-fi books and films often explore the idea of ​​a space elevator – a futuristic device that can send people and cargo from Earth into space inside capsules that slide up along a giant cable. The future is closer than it seems! Scientists believe that carbon nanotubes can make the creation of the space elevator possible!

The cable of such an elevator needs to be incredibly strong and extremely light so as not to break under its own weight. Currently, carbon nanotubes are the only material that are suited to this task. Only short fragments of nanotubes are available now, but scientists predict that we will be able to create sufficiently long nanotubes by 2030. Who knows – maybe the space elevator really isn’t a fantasy, but only a matter of time

Organic chemistry — the chemistry of carbon

Due to its ability to arrange in different ways, carbon forms a whole class of compounds known as organic compounds and a whole branch of chemistry called organic chemistry. Their names are derived from the fact that many of these substances are the building blocks of living organisms. Basically, proteins, fats, and carbohydrates are composed of chains and rings of carbon atoms bonded to atoms of other elements, most commonly hydrogen H, oxygen O, or nitrogen N. Did you know that carbon – the same element that diamonds are made of – is one of the main constituent elements of our body?

What is the difference between an atom and a chemical element?

If we compare atoms to Legos, then elements are the different types of these “Legos” that exist in nature. They differ from one another in size and in how they bond to each other. Some substances are made of atoms of the same element, while others consist of atoms of different elements. For instance, graphite is made exclusively of carbon C atoms, while sucrose, which you know as ordinary table sugar, consists of carbon C, hydrogen H, and oxygen O.

In order to keep all the existing chemical elements straight, scientists use a special “catalog” of them known as the Periodic Table of Elements, where they are arranged according to their properties.

That’s interesting!

Can we turn coal or graphite into diamond?

Since coal, graphite, and diamond are made of the same atoms, differing only in how the atoms are bonded to each other, then a logical question follows: is it possible to somehow rearrange these bonds and turn one form of carbon into another? Can we turn coal or graphite into diamond, for example?

Let's start by looking at how diamonds are formed in nature. In the Earth's mantle, carbon atoms are exposed to intense heat (thousands of degrees) and pressure (hundreds of thousands of atmospheres), which arranges them into the extremely dense structure of diamond. Then, as a result of volcano eruptions, geological shifts, and erosion they rise to and spread over the surface of the Earth. Scientists have learned how to obtain synthetic diamonds by using special devices to simulate natural conditions – extremely high pressures and temperatures – and apply them to sources of carbon. Graphite can act as such a source, but coal is not used for this purpose. What's the difference? It's all about purity.

Colorless diamonds are made of very pure carbon. Minor traces of other elements can tint them a certain color (boron, for example, makes diamonds blue, while nitrogen turns them yellow), but such traces are present at quantities of only one atom per million carbon atoms. More impurities will simply prevent the structure of the diamond from forming, so a source of pure carbon is crucial. Coal’s porous structure allows it to absorb impurities easily, making it unsuitable for this purpose. Conversely, graphite, also due to its structure, does not let foreign particles inside. Therefore, graphite is widely used in industry to produce synthetic diamonds, such as those presented in your display case.