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CARBON AND HOW IT EFFECT OUR LIVESAlthough widely distributed in nature carbon is not particularly plentiful it makes up only about 0025 percent of the Earths crust Yet it forms more compounds than all the other elements combined In 1961 the isotope carbon-12 was selected to replace oxygen as the standard relative to which the atomic weights of all the other elements are measured carbon-14 which is radioactive is the isotope used in radiocarbon dating and radio labelingElemental carbon exists in three forms each of which has its own physical characteristics Two of the forms diamond and graphite are crystalline in structure They differ in physical properties because the arrangements of the atoms in their structures are dissimilar The third form known as carbon black is amorphous in structure and includes charcoal lampblack coal and coke although X-ray examination has revealed that these substances do possess a low degree of crystallinity Diamond and graphite can be produced synthetically they are chemically inert but do combine with oxygen at high temperatures just as amorphous carbon doesPure diamond is the hardest naturally occurring substance known and is a poor conductor of electricity Graphite on the other hand is a soft slippery solid that is a good conductor of both heat and electricity Because of their beauty diamonds are valued as jewels and because of their hardness as abrasives for cutting grinding and drilling Graphite is used as a lubricant in paint and mixed with clay as the lead of pencils because it conducts electricity but does not melt graphite also is used for electrodes in electric furnaces and dry cells as well as for making crucibles in which metals are meltedEach of the amorphous forms of carbon has its own specific character hence each has its own particular applications All are products of oxidation and other forms of decomposition of organic compounds Coal and coke for example are used extensively as fuels charcoal is used as an
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