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 Table of Contents
  Introductory Comments
  What is Molecular Modeling?
  Why is Molecular Modeling Important?
  What do some common molecules look like?
  Where's the Math?
  Carbon 3 Ways
  Carbon Compounds
  Water and Ice
  Water and Ice pt.II
  How to view structures in class or at home
  MathMol Library of Structures.
  Tutorial 1: 1-Dimension, 2-Dimensions, 3-Dimensions...
  Tutorial2: The Geometry of 2 Dimensions..
  Tutorial3: The Geometry of 3- Dimensions
  Tutorial4: The Geometry of Molecules.
  Appendix1: Scientific Notation
  Appendix 2: Mass
  Appendix3: Volume
  Appendix4: Density
 
  Carbon is found in many different compounds. It is in the food you eat, the clothes you wear, the cosmetics you use and the gasoline that fuels your car. In addition, carbon is a very special element because it plays a dominant role in the chemistry of life.

The element carbon

Carbon has four electrons in its valence shell (outershell). Since this energy shell can hold eight electrons, each carbon atom can share electrons with up to four different atoms. Carbon can combine with other elements as well as with itself. This allows carbon to form many different compounds of varying size and shape.

Carbon alone forms the familiar substances graphite and diamond. Both are made only of carbon atoms. Graphite is very soft and slippery. Diamond is the hardest substance known to man. If both are made only of carbon what gives them different properties? The answer lies in the way the carbon atoms form bonds with each other.

Notice that graphite is layered.
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There are strong covalent bonds between carbon atoms in each layer. But, only weak forces exist between layers. This allows layers of carbon to slide overeach other in graphite.

On the other hand, in diamond each carbon atom is the same distance to each of its neighboring carbon atoms. In this rigid network atoms cannot move. This explains why diamonds are so hard and have such a high melting point.

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The 3-D coordinates for graphite and diamond are available in the MathMol Structural Database. We urge you to download these structures to your home computer and use one of the suggested 3-D viewers.

The Molecule of the Month Page has recently included information on diamond located here


A third class of carbon compounds has recently been discovered. They are called fullerenes. The figure shown on the left is one form composed of 60 carbons. Notice the geometric patterns of pentagons and hexagons that form the familiar icosohedron.

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Go to Carbon Compounds


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