Carbon forms the largest number of compounds, next only to hydrogen. It ranks seventeenth in the order of abundance in the earth's crust. Carbon occurs in the free native state as well as in the combined state. Carbon and its compounds are widely distributed in nature.

In its elemental form, carbon occurs in nature as diamond and graphite. Coal, charcoal and coke are impure forms of carbon. The latter two are obtained by heating wood and coal in the absence of air, respectively. In the combined state, carbon is present as carbonate in many minerals, such as hydrocarbons in natural gas, petroleum etc. In air, carbon dioxide is present in small quantities, (0.03%).

Our food also contains carbon in the combined form. All living systems contain carbon compounds. Indeed, life as we know today, would be impossible without such carbon compounds.

Carbon is a non-metallic element and the first member of group 14 of the periodic table

Symbol: C, Electronic configuration1s2, 2s22p2, Melting point = 800K
Atomic mass: 12.01amu, Atomic radius 77pm, Atomic number: 6

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