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The Wonder Element

The Wonder Element

“No element is more essential to life than carbon,” says the book Nature’s Building Blocks. The unique characteristics of carbon enable it to bond with itself and many other chemical elements, thus forming millions of compounds, more of which are constantly being discovered or synthesized.

As the examples here show, carbon atoms can also combine to form various shapes, including chains, pyramids, rings, sheets, and tubes. Carbon truly is a wonder element!


Carbon atoms form pyramids, called tetrahedrons, making the structure extremely rigid and making diamond the hardest naturally occurring substance known. A perfect diamond is essentially a single molecule of carbon atoms.


Tightly bonded carbon atoms are set out in loosely bonded layers that can slide away from one another like sheets of paper on a stack. Because of these characteristics, graphite is both a fine lubricant and a key compound in lead pencils. *


This refers to a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal mesh, or lattice. Graphene has a tensile strength many times that of steel. A pencil trace may have small amounts of graphene in single or multiple layers.


These hollow molecules of carbon come in shapes that include microscopic balls and tubes called nanotubes. They are measured in nanometers, or billionths of a meter.


The many cells that make up plants, animals, and humans are built on a framework of carbon​—an element found in carbohydrates, fats, and amino acids.

“[God’s] invisible qualities . . . are perceived by the things made.”​—Romans 1:20.

^ par. 7 See the article “Does Anyone Have a Pencil?” in the July 2007 issue of Awake!