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Carbon, possessing four electrons in its outer shell, is in group(IVA) of the periodic table.

Its electronic configuration is 1s22s22p2. The four electrons are used in covalency with themselves and with atoms of other elements, such as hydrogen, oxygen, chlorine, nitrogen and sulphur.

Therefore, carbon is tetravalent.


Molecular structure of carbon showing the

phenomenon catenation.


All compounds of carbon, with the exception of the simpler compounds such as carbon(IV) oxide and sodium trioxocarbonate (IV) are regarded as organic compounds.

Compounds of Carbon

Carbon forms many compounds (many of them are complex), because:

  • Carbon atoms can combine with one another to form long continuous chains or ring compounds containing many carbon atoms, hence it is possible to find organic compounds of very high relative molecular masses (up to 50,000) - this phenomenon is known as catenation. Besides carbon, sulpur and silicon can also catenate.
  • Carbon combines with hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and the halogens with almost equal ease, forming wide range of compounds.
  • Carbon can combine with the same elements, but in different arrangement of their atoms within a molecule. I.e., compounds of different structural forms are formed.
  • Two adjacent carbon atoms can be linked by a single, double or triple bonds, resulting in the formation of different compounds.

Hybridization of Carbon

Hybridization is the phenomenon whereby different atomic orbitals (of different energies) of the same shell mix up to form orbitals of equal energies.

These orbitals (i.e. the hybridized orbitals) take part alike in chemical bonding with orbitals of other atoms. In carbon, the s and p orbitals of the second shell (i.e. 2s and 2p) can mix up to different degrees, forming different types of hybridization.

Therefore, carbon can form different compounds using different hybridization.





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