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Organic chemistry is the study of carbon and how these bonds function to create organic and biological materials. What property of carbon most contributes to its ability to form such a diverse range of molecules? When carbon bonds to four separate substituents, it forms a tetrahedral structure. Because of its ability to hybridize orbitals, carbon can also bond to three substituents by forming a double bond, or to two substituents via two double bonds or the combination of a single bond and a triple bond.


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This variability in molecular bonding and shape allows carbon to exist in numerous compounds, exhibiting a number of different properties and functions. Carbon is incapable of forming a quadruple bond, and it is not magnetic. Though carbon has a relatively low atomic mass, one would expect hydrogen to be the most relevant element if low mass was the most pertinent property of carbon. Carbon can form ionic bonds generally with metals , but is most commonly found in organic molecules where it forms covalent bonds. An element cannot be broken down into other substances.

Compounds consist of two or more elements and thus can be broken down. Matter is simply anything that takes up space and has mass; both elements and compounds are matter. Subatomic particles are the building blocks of atoms. Though atoms are the units that make up elements and are the smallest units to have the properties of an element, subatomic particles themselves do not display characteristic of an element. Life is "carbon-based" or predominantly carbon because it can form stable bonds with itself, but also with a variety of other types of elements. While carbon is relatively high and right on the periodic chart, there are still elements like oxygen or fluorine the most electronegative that have a great pull for electrons.

While carbon makes up a lot of the universe, it pales in comparison to hydrogen which is the most common element three fourths of the mass of our universe. Therefore ratios do not matter. Thus, its bonding versatility is the main reason for life being carbon based. The chemical properties of an element are, in a large part, determined by the number of bonds that element can form with other elements.

Silicon, like carbon, can form four bonds with other elements, and thus is the most similar.

Big Idea 2: Free Energy

This can easily be seen on a periodic table as elements with similar properties are grouped together in the same column. Note that these similarities arise from having the same number of valence electrons. Isotopes are the same element that have the same number of protons and electrons. The difference is in their atomic weight because they have different numbers of neutrons. Carbohydrates include the monosaccharide glucose and polysaccharides starch and glycogen. Amino acids contain nitrogen and are the building blocks of polypeptides.

While some carbon dioxide is bound to hemoglobin, the majority of it is carried in the blood as the bicarbonate ion, which is the blood's main buffer. Note the following chemical equilibria:. If you've found an issue with this question, please let us know. With the help of the community we can continue to improve our educational resources.

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