Carbon - the basis of life
Carbon forms the basis of all organic life and has the amazing ability to bond with itself and a wide range of other elements, forming nearly 10 million known compounds. It is in the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the shampoo we use and the petrol that fuels our cars. Because carbon has the largest range of subtle bonding capabilities, 95% of everything that exists in the universe is made up of carbon atoms that are stuck together.
It is an extraordinary element for many reasons: the carbon-nitrogen cycle provides some of the energy produced by the sun and the stars; it has the highest melting point of all the elements; and its different forms include one of the softest and one of the hardest substances known.
What gives carbon its great ability to bond with other atoms? What is the significance of the recent discovery of a new carbon molecule - the C60? What role does carbon play in the modern chemistry of nanotechnology? And how should we address the problem of our diminishing carbon energy sources?
Harry Kroto, Professor of Chemistry at Florida State University
Monica Grady, Professor of Planetary and Space Sciences at the Open University
Ken Teo, Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellow at Cambridge University
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