The Uniqueness of Carbon

An essay on the various properties of carbon.

Carbon is probably the most unique element on the periodic table. For this reason it is studied separately from all the other elements. It forms chains rings and polymers. It has four valence electrons and forms strong covalent bonds.

Unlike most other elements, carbon can form all three types of covalent bonds. These include single, double, and, triple bonds.

The forms it can take are chains, rings, and polymers. The chains are lines of carbon atoms with a hydrogen atom on each end and attached to each carbon atom on the sides. These are called hydrocarbon chains. The ring could be thought of as a hexagon with a carbon atom on each turn. This is the cyclo structure. It is also a hydrocarbon. The polymers could be thought of as large molecules that go on without end. They appear as rows of carbon atoms chained together with hydrogen molecules sticking off the side.

Carbon can produce both fast and slow reactions. An example of a slow reaction is CH3CH2CH3+Br2→CH3CH2CH2+Br. This is a reaction between a hydrocarbon chain containing three carbon atoms with two atoms of bromine. This type of reaction is subtractive. Then there are the fast reactions. An example of one of these reactions is CH3CHCH2→CH3CHBrCH2Br. This is the opposite of a subtractive reaction.

The history of the study of carbon chemistry goes back to the mid 1800s when the German chemist Herman Kolhe, produced acetic acid artificially from hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen atoms. This acid comes from vinegar which originally comes from grapes. This is an organic substance. Therefore, carbon chemistry became known as organic chemistry.

Later on in the same century, William Perkin began making synthetic dye and artificial odors with carbon.

Then in the early 1900s, Leo Baekeland made the earliest plastic. He called this bakelite.

The numbers of new carbon compounds discovered since then has rocketed. Chemists of Perkins’ day knew of twelve thousand carbon compounds. By the time of Baekeland, they knew of one hundred fifty thousand carbon compounds. By the beginning of the 2000s, three million had been discovered. Now it grows by one hundred thousand per year.

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2 Responses to “The Uniqueness of Carbon”
  1. awesome11 Says...

    On October 15, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Wonderful write.


  2. dominic Says...

    On August 19, 2011 at 11:49 am

    The Importance of Organic Chemistry
    in Medicine
    CS316: Advanced Organic Chemistry
    Prepared by Lynn McMullin at NSAC

    Organic chemistry has been highly disregarded as a

    discipline of importance for medical and premedical

    curriculums. At present, however, people are

    beginning to make the connection between organic

    chemistry and its importance in the medical field.

    New curriculums are being designed that unite organic

    chemistry and biomedical processes. Task forces

    consisting of chemistry and biology researchers and

    professors have been formed to design curriculums that

    incorporate organic chemistry courses to suit the

    needs of students in medical fields. These task forces

    are attempting to develop a practical, comprehensive

    approach to organic chemistry as it applies to medicine.

    Organic chemistry is essential in biological and medical

    fields. All living organisms are composed of abundances

    of organic substances. Evolution of life has been

    postulated to have been developed from one single organic

    compound called a nucleotide. Nucleotides polymerize, or

    join together to form the building blocks of all life,

    DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid).

    Organic compounds constitute various substances in the

    body which are vital for life to be sustained. Proteins,

    carbohydrates and lipids are organic compounds that

    contribute to the structure of the human body.

    Organic compounds also make up enzymes and catalysts

    that are mandatory for essential biological processes

    to occur. Also, organic compounds are responsible for

    governing ion transport channels in the cell which

    function in carrying information from one cell to another

    and mediating cell to cell communication. Failure of ion

    transport may result in failure of important biological

    processes in the body.

    Pharmaceuticals are also comprised mainly of organic

    compounds. What doctor would be efficient if he or she

    was not familiar with the structure and function of the

    drugs they were administering? Organic chemistry of

    pharmaceuticals must be understood to properly prescribe

    a drug to a patient.

    The function of organic processes in the body must also

    be known by the doctor even before they attempt to

    administer any drugs. Many medical disorders are due

    to disruption of organic molecules in the body: for

    example, hemophilia. This is a disease in which

    caroxyglutamic acid is deficient in the body. This

    organic compound is essential for blood clotting to

    occur within the body. People who lack this substance

    may die due to a minor cut or small bruise. This

    demonstrates the importance of organic compounds in

    the body.

    Carbon monoxide poisoning is an example of a very

    simple, yet extremely toxic organic compound that even

    in small quantities can cause death. Many toxic

    substances are of organic descent. Doctors must be

    able to determine the effects of these toxic substances

    in the body, recognize the symptoms they are associated

    with, and prescribe the appropriate pharmaceutical to

    combat the poison.

    It is evident that organic molecules are essential for

    the sustenance of all life. Understanding these compounds

    is crucial in the medical field not only to understand

    basic biological functions, but also to predict scenarios

    in the body which may be due to disruption of organic

    substances, or adverse reactions due to foreign organic

    substances in the body. Complete medical efficiency will

    only be achieved when the science of organic chemistry

    is understood.


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