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The element carbon can be found is numerous compounds. It is the sixth most common element in the universe. It can be found in the food you consume, the clothing you wear, the cosmetics you use, and fuel for cars. Carbon is considered a very important element because it plays such a key role in the chemistry of life. It was discovered in ancient times by the burning of organic materials thus producing charcoal. Carbon has four known allotopes: amorphous, graphite, diamonds, and fullerene. Recently, a fifth spongy and extremely lightweight allotrope of carbon was found. Carbon has six electrons, four of which are in its valence shell. Since it only holds 4 out of eight possible valences in the outer shell, carbon can combine with other elements and itself. This allows many different possibilities of compounds to form varying in size and shape. Carbon alone can form graphite and diamonds. Graphite is a very soft and slippery. Diamonds are known to be the hardest substance known to man. The manor of the way carbon atoms bond allows them to take on different proprieties. Although carbon contains very strong covalent bonds between atoms, the layers between the carbon atoms have week bonds allowing them to slide over each other, thus creating graphite's slippery property. Diamonds on the other hand have a different structure. All the carbon bonds are equidistant from the neighboring carbon atom. This shows why diamonds are so hard and have such a high melting point.

Carbon has many uses. It can be combined with lead to form graphite in pencils, diamonds are worn as jewelry, added to iron to make steal, used as control rods in nuclear reactors, graphite carbon can be used in cooking as well as artwork, and used in medicine to absorb toxins or poison the digestive system.



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