What are Diamonds Made Of?
An Introduction to Carbon and Carbon Compounds
The way diamonds form heavily influences the expense of purchasing one. Experts think that diamonds formed 100 feet or more below Earth surface roughly 2 to 3 billion years ago. Rocks that contained carbon ?the chemical element with atomic number 6 on the periodic table ?came under extreme pressure and reached a temperature of over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The pressure and heat caused carbon to bond and take on a completely new form: a diamond. Learning about carbon and carbon compounds provides the foundation required to understand the uilding blocks of life.?
Carbon is found in thousands of products and people, too. People use carbon alloys to build skyscrapers, cook breakfast and decorate their homes. Carbon also participates in Earth ircle of life?through a complex process known as the carbon cycle ?carbon atoms can move through multiple living organisms during the carbon cycle.
What Is Carbon?
Carbon is a chemical element that ranks fourth in abundance. Carbon appears abundantly in the Earth rocks and in comets, stars and many planets. Carbon exists on barren, temperate and oceanic planets. People first identified this important element in approximately 3750 BC in its many forms, including soot, coal and graphite. Antoine Lavoisier carried out experiments to identify carbon in 1772 using a diamond. Often referred to as the Building blocks of life,?carbon compounds create the foundation for many organic materials, including the human body.
Carbon exists in several allotropes or forms. The most common allotropes of carbon include graphite and diamond. The most interesting fact about carbon allotropes is their structure: diamonds are one of the hardest materials on Earth and graphite is very soft. Carbon contributes to life and supports Earth stability through the carbon cycle. The carbon cycle offers a view into the interconnectedness of living organisms and our planet. For example, carbon dioxide produced years ago could become part of a living plant. Someone, who in turn eats the living plan, ingests the same carbon. People also use carbon to create rubber and ink products and carbon compounds are present all around us.
What Are Carbon Compounds?
Compounds are pure materials, not mixtures, created from the atoms of at least two elements. The atoms combine in a fixed proportion to create a specific compound. For example, carbon dioxide will always contain two oxygen atoms for each carbon atom. Water will always contain two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom.
Organic and Inorganic Compounds
Carbon compounds come in two forms: organic and inorganic compounds. Organic compounds always contain carbon. Scientists believe that roughly 10 million organic compounds exist. Inorganic carbon compounds include carbon-oxygen, carbon-nitrogen and carbon-sulfur compounds, to name a few. Carbon-dioxide is a carbon-oxygen compound abundant in Earth atmosphere. People use carbonyl sulfide, a carbon-sulfur compound, as an herbicide to kill pests on crops. Hydrogen cyanide, and extremely poisonous substance, is a carbon-nitrogen compound.
The two most common carbon allotropes are graphite and diamond. Graphite is a mineral composed almost completely of carbon. This soft mineral is frequently found in marbles and other rocks and is often confused with magnetite and other silver-colored minerals. Diamond, the hardest material known to man, captures the attention of many and is a prized possession. The carbon structure of diamond is one carbon atom surrounded by four other carbon atoms.
Carbon and Alloys
Two or more elements can combine to create an alloy. Alloys are a solid metallic solution or mixture. Hundreds of carbon alloys exist and many are used in modern engineering. One of the most recognizable carbon alloys is steel. Wrought and cast iron contains carbon, too. People create cast iron cookware by heating an alloy until it becomes liquid. They then pour the liquid into a mold to create a range of products for consumers to use.
Carbon and carbon compounds not only influence how diamonds are made, they support and sustain life on Earth. Learning about carbon, its alloys and compounds provides the foundation required to understand how other elements interact.
- Diamond and Graphite - This page offers an interesting discussion on polymorphs ?minerals that share the same chemistry, but look structurally different.
- The Chemistry of Carbon - This page provides information about the elemental forms of carbon.
- Grading Diamonds ?This page introduces information about how the GIA grades diamonds.
- Organic Chemistry ?This detailed article provides a basic overview of organic chemistry.
- Naming Inorganic Compounds ?This page offers an overview of inorganic compounds and practice questions.
- Diamonds and Diamond Simulants ?This page provides a discussion on how diamonds are formed and under what conditions.
- The Causes of Color in Diamonds ?A discussion, with graphics, on how diamonds form their color and how color is linked to value.
- Earth Carbon Cycle ?An interesting overview of how the carbon cycle and global warming are related.
- What Is a Compound? ?This article offers a detailed overview of compounds, including the minimum criteria required for a compound to exist.
- Organic and Inorganic Compounds ?This page illustrates the difference between organic and inorganic compounds.
- Carbon-based Compounds ?This page offers an overview of carbon-based compounds.
- Amorphous Diamond Created ?This interesting article discusses how a Stanford-led team created an amorphous diamond and the benefits of diamonds that lack a crystalline structure.
- All About Diamond ?This article provides interesting facts about diamond, including the carbon structure of the material.
- Graphite ?This page offers basic information about graphite, including photographs.
- Diamond Facts ?This page offers a number of facts about diamonds.