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Two allotropes of carbon have crystalline structures: diamond and graphite.
In a crystalline material, atoms are arranged in a neat orderly pattern.
Carbon also occurs in a form, discovered only recently, known as fullerenes or buckyballs.
Buckyball carbon holds the promise for opening a whole new field of chemistry (see accompanying sidebar).
Carbon was officially classified as an element near the end of the eighteenth century.
Carbon occurs extensively in all living organisms as proteins, fats, carbohydrates (sugars and starches), and nucleic acids.
Humans have been aware of carbon since the earliest of times. The black color of smoke is caused by unburned specks of carbon.
It is not unusual for two atoms of an element to combine with each other. Carbon has the ability to make virtually endless strings of atoms. There is almost no limit to the size and shape of molecules that can be made with carbon atoms.
If one could look at a molecule of almost any plastic, for example, a long chain of carbon atoms attached to each other (and to other atoms as well) would be evident. (See accompanying diagrams.) Buckyballs are a recently discovered form of pure carbon.