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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 a vast number of compounds, more than any other element, with almost ten million compounds described to date, The allotropes of carbon include graphite, one of the softest known substances, and diamond, the hardest naturally occurring substance.
It is nonmetallic and tetravalent—making four electrons available to form covalent chemical bonds.
It belongs to group 14 of periodic table Carbon is the 15th most abundant element in the Earth's crust, and the fourth most abundant element in the universe by mass after hydrogen, helium, and oxygen.
Carbon is the sixth element, with a ground-state electron configuration of 1s, of which the four outer electrons are valence electrons.
Its first four ionisation energies, 1086.5, 2352.6, 4620..7 k J/mol, are much higher than those of the heavier group 14 elements.
Although thermodynamically prone to oxidation, carbon resists oxidation more effectively than elements such as iron and copper that are weaker reducing agents at room temperature.
This exothermic reaction is used in the iron and steel industry to smelt iron and to control the carbon content of steel: Carbon combines with some metals at high temperatures to form metallic carbides, such as the iron carbide cementite in steel, and tungsten carbide, widely used as an abrasive and for making hard tips for cutting tools.
The system of carbon allotropes spans a range of extremes: Atomic carbon is a very short-lived species and, therefore, carbon is stabilized in various multi-atomic structures with different molecular configurations called allotropes.
The three relatively well-known allotropes of carbon are amorphous carbon, graphite, and diamond.
Once considered exotic, fullerenes are nowadays commonly synthesized and used in research; they include buckyballs, The amorphous form is an assortment of carbon atoms in a non-crystalline, irregular, glassy state, not held in a crystalline macrostructure.