Carbon is, without question, the king of the elements. Not because it is the most abundant (it’s the 15th most abundant in the Earth’s crust, 4th in the Universe, and 2nd in the human body), but because it is capable of forming the largest number of compounds (more than 10 million are known, though this number increases by half a million each year).
This is due to its extraordinary capacity to form polymers, unrivalled by any other element in nature, making it the basis for all known life on Earth. In fact, organic chemistry is basically the chemistry of carbon, which is the chemistry of life.
From a technical point of view, the IUPAC adopted the isotope carbon-12 as the basis for determining the atomic mass of any element: by definition, the mass of a carbon-12 atom is 12 uma. If we start talking about isotopes, we must remember that carbon-14 is used for radiocarbon dating fossils and all kinds of organic materials.
So without carbon, life wouldn’t exist, at least not as we know it. Nor would we be able to find out about our ancient history as we wouldn’t be able to establish an even approximate timeline based archaeological findings of past civilizations.
What’s more, carbon is completely necessary to any type of combustion, in which the element combines with oxygen, thus generating CO2, and is the principal element in steel alloys. We could go on indefinitely describing examples to reach the conclusion that it is an indispensable element that is present in everything we know and do.In nature, it’s present in the form of calcium carbonate, diamonds, graphite, or coal, though its main source is oil and natural gas in the form of hydrocarbons, from which most basic chemical compounds used in industry are obtained (glycols, xylene, etc.).
The list of carbon derivatives, both organic and inorganic, is impressive, and they are used and applied in practically every single sector. For example, at Grupo Barcelonesa, we sell, among others, polyurethanes, organic acids such as citric or acetic acid, and a long etc., to a wide range of sectors including those for preservatives, solvents, cosmetics, detergents… Think of almost any product, and you’re just about sure to find carbon in it.