Significance of Carbon Study Guide

Carbon is a chemical element that is used in numerous industries. It is one of the main elements in organic compounds. Therefore, the importance of carbon is in its significance for sustaining life.

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The most essential compound needed to sustain life is carbon, an astonishing element that exists naturally as carbon-12, which makes up almost 99% of the carbon in the universe; carbon-13, which makes up approximately 1%; and carbon-14, which makes up a minuscule fraction of overall carbon but is highly significant in dating biological materials.

Versatility of carbon

Carbon is derived from the Latin word “carbo,” which means “coal.” It is a chemical element with atomic number 6 and is denoted by the symbol C. It is tetravalent and nonmetallic - that is, it can form covalent chemical bonds with four electrons.

  • Carbon belongs to Periodic Group 14 in the periodic table.
  • It accounts for just approximately 0.025% of the earth’s crust.
  • Natural isotopes include 12C and 13C, which are stable, and 14C, which is radioactive with a half-life of around 5,730 years.
  • Carbon is one of the few elements that has been known from antiquity.

Carbon creates patterns. It can bind to itself, producing long, durable chains known as polymers. Because of its electron configuration, it may also form bonds with up to four additional atoms. Atoms are structured in a nucleus surrounded by an electron cloud, with electrons zinging around at various distances from the nucleus. Chemists think of these distances as shells, and the characteristics of atoms are defined by what is in each shell.

Why is carbon important?

Carbon is a vital element of life since it is the 15th most plentiful element in the earth’s crust and the fourth most abundant element in the universe by mass. Carbon is a principal element due to its availability, remarkable spectrum of organic compounds, and unusual ability to form polymers at typical earth temperatures.

Why is Carbon so abundant in living things when oxygen is the most abundant element on earth?

The reason is carbon’s ability to form stable bonds with many elements, including itself! This property allows carbon to form a huge variety of very large and complex molecules. There are nearly 10 million carbon-based compounds in living things! However, these organic compounds can be grouped into just four major types: carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids.

Why is carbon the basis for life?

Think about this - why is carbon found in all living things, and why is carbon essential to life?

  • Without carbon, there would be no life on earth. This is partially due to carbon’s capacity to quickly form bonds with other atoms, which allows for more flexibility in the shape and function of biomolecules such as DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) and RNA (Ribonucleic acid), which are required for the defining traits of life: growth and replication. Carbon molecules are thus sought after by all organisms, resulting in intricate carbon cycles in all biological systems.

  • An animal eats glucose (C6H12O6) through its dietary metabolism and respiration, which mixes with oxygen (O2) to generate carbon dioxide (CO2), water (H2O), and energy, which is released as heat. The carbon dioxide is unnecessary for the animal; thus, it is expelled into the atmosphere.

  • On the other hand, a plant employs photosynthesis to perform the opposite response of an animal. It consumes carbon dioxide, water, and solar energy to produce glucose and oxygen gas. The glucose produced is needed for chemical energy, which the plant metabolizes in the same manner as a mammal does. The excess oxygen is subsequently released into the environment by the plant.

Why is carbon integral in biology?

  • Carbon, which many of us take for granted, is one of the essential ingredients of life as we know it. It accounts for over 20% of an organism’s weight and is required to survive, develop, and reproduce.

  • Carbon’s capacity to establish these bonds allows it to generate extraordinarily massive and complex molecules known as macromolecules, which are the building blocks of living beings. This is one of the reasons why this adaptable element is regarded as the backbone, or the basic structural component, of these molecules.

Use of carbon in the human body

  • Carbon, in the form of carbs, serves as a macronutrient. This is supported by the fact that each body part requires and contains a significant quantity of carbon.
  • In medicine, activated charcoal can absorb a variety of gases and poisons generated by the human body.

Use of carbon compounds

Carbon compounds are commonly used for a variety of purposes:

  • Carbon can be used as a decorative element in jewelry.
  • Carbon ratios in fossil fuels such as crude oil, methane gas, diesel, and gasoline are high.
  • It serves as a foundation for the ink used in inkjet printers.
  • It can be used as a black fume pigment in automotive rims.

Carbon Compund - Diamonds Source


  • Humans can not survive without carbon.
  • Every organic complex is formed around this critical element, which is required for life. This element’s existence or absence affects whether something is organic or inorganic.
  • It will always be a part of our life as the fourth most prevalent element, not only on earth but throughout the cosmos.
  • It’s worth noting that there are more carbon-containing compounds than non-carbon-containing molecules.


1. What is carbon? Explain its importance.

Carbon is essential for all known biological systems, and without it, life would not exist. Besides food and wood, carbon is accessible in hydrocarbons such as fossil fuel, methane gas, and crude oil. Carbon fibers have a wide range of applications since they are strong, lightweight, and long-lasting.

2. Why is carbon very significant to human life?

Life on earth would not be possible without carbon. Carbon’s ability to form bonds with other atoms gives flexibility to biomolecules, such as DNA and RNA. This is essential for growth and replication, which are the defining characteristics of life in a multi-planetary world. Carbon atoms are special because they may link together to create very long, durable chains with varying diameters of branches or rings and frequently comprise thousands of carbon atoms.

Some of the reasons which make it significant are:

● Carbon in its diamond form is used in jewelry.

● Amorphous carbon is used to make inks and paints.

● Graphite is used as the lead in pencils.

● One of the most important uses is carbon dating.

3. What is the importance of carbon in the environment?

Carbon is found in carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that helps to trap heat near the earth. It aids the earth in retaining the energy it gets from the sun, preventing it from escaping back into the space. The oceans on earth would be frozen solid if it weren’t for carbon dioxide.

4. What are the uses of carbon in daily life?

● Carbon in its diamond form is used in jewelry.

● Amorphous carbon is used to make inks and paints.

● Graphite is used as the lead in your pencils.

5. What is the importance of carbon dioxide in the environment?

The most vital gases for living beings are carbon dioxide (CO2) and oxygen (O2). CO2 is essential for plants to survive and is utilized in photosynthesis, during which plants use CO2 and water to convert the sun’s energy into food energy.

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  1. Carbon. https://www.biologyonline.com/dictionary/carbon. Accessed November 25, 2021.
  2. Significance of Carbon. https://flexbooks.ck12.org/cbook/ck-12-biology-flexbook-2.0/section/1.9/primary/lesson/significance-of-carbon-bio/. Accessed November 25, 2021.