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ChemWiki: The Dynamic Chemistry E-textbook > Inorganic Chemistry > Descriptive Chemistry > p-Block Elements > Group 14: The Carbon Family > Chemistry of Carbon

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Chemistry of Carbon

Organic chemistry involves structures and reactions of mainly carbon and hydrogen. Inorganic chemistry deal with interactions of all other pure elements besides carbon, amongst geo/biochemistry.  So where does inorganic chemistry of carbon fit in?  The inorganic chemistry of carbon also known as inorganic carbon chemistry, is the chemistry of carbon that does not fall within the organic chemistry zone.

Inorganic Chemistry of Carbon

Inorganic carbon is carbon extracted from ores and minerals, as opposed to organic carbon found in nature through plants and living things. Some examples of inorganic carbon are carbon oxides such as carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide; polyatomic ions, cyanide, cyanate, thiocyanate, carbonate and carbide in carbon. Carbon is an element that is unique to itself. Carbon forms strong single, double and triple bonds, therefore it would take more energy to break these bonds than if carbon were to bond to another element.

For carbon monoxide the reaction is as follows:

2C(s) + O2 → 2CO(g)     Enthalpy of -110.52 kJ/mol CO
  C(s) + O2 → CO2(g)     Enthalpy of -393.51 kJ/mol CO2

CO and CO2 are both gases. CO has no odor or taste and can be fatal to living organisms if exposed at even very small amounts (about a thousandth of a gram). This is because CO will bind to the hemoglobin that carries oxygen in the blood. CO2 will not become fatal unless living organisms are exposed to larger amounts of it, about 15%. CO2 influences the atmosphere and effects the temperature through the greenhouse gas effect. As heat is trapped in the atmosphere by CO2 gases, the Earth's temperature increases. The main source for CO2 in our atmosphere, amongst many is volcanoes. 


The inorganic chemistry of carbon allotropes include diamond, graphite and fullerenes. 

  • Inorganic carbon may come in the form of diamond. Diamond is transparent, isotropic crystal. It is the hardest natural occurring material on this earth. Diamond has four valence electrons, and when each electron bonds with another carbon it creates a sp3-hybridized atom. The boiling point of diamond is 4827°C. 
  • Unlike diamond, graphite is opaque, soft, dull and hexagonal. Graphite can be used as a conductor (electrodes) or even as pencils.  Graphite consists of planes of sp2 hybridized carbon atoms in which each carbon is attached to three other carbons. 
  • Fullerenes are carbon cages with the formula \(C_{2}n\)​ where \(n > 13\). The most abundant fullerene is the spherical C60. Fullerene may contain atoms or molecules inside the cage (endohedral fullerenes) or covalently attached outside (exhedral or adduct fullerenes). The discovery of fullerenes is accredited to Richard Smalley and his team in 1985 at Rice University by photoablating the surface of graphite with a laser. 


  1. General Chemistry Principles & Modern Applications Ninth Edition by Petrucci pg. 84-90
  2. Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 2002 CD-ROM
  3. Inorganic Chemistry Third Edition by Housecroft, Catherine


Why are some carbon compounds classified as inorganic?

(See text above)  Those carbon compounds that are not found naturally. 

How can COgas be detected?

Bubble gas with a solution of calcium hydroxide, if carbon dioxide is present, solution will become milk.  Can you predict the reaction for this?
Ca(OH)2(aq) + CO2(g) → ?

Answer: CaCO3(s) + H2O(l)

What is the compound for carbonate, and why is it considered an inorganic compound?

A carbonate compound contains the CO32- ion.  These are inorganic compounds because it combines with metal cations, creating ionic compounds.

Last modified
23:51, 22 May 2014



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