Carbon is a long-studied element, but that doesn't mean there isn't more to discover.
In fact, the same element that our prehistoric ancestors burned as charcoal may be the key to next-generation tech materials.
As the sixth-most abundant element in the universe, carbon forms in the belly of stars in a reaction called the triple-alpha process, according to the Swinburne Center for Astrophysics and Supercomputing.
In older stars that have burned most of their hydrogen, leftover helium accumulates.
Coal is also a key component in steel production, while graphite, another form of carbon, is a common industrial lubricant.
Carbon-14 is a radioactive isotope of carbon used by archaeologists to date objects and remains.
Each helium nucleus has two protons and two neutrons.
In today’s culture we have all been taught that things like carbon dating are “facts,” but they are merely interpretations of facts.Because organisms stop taking in carbon-14 after death, scientists can use carbon-14's half-life as a sort of clock to measure how long it has been since the organism died.This method works on once-living organisms, including objects made of wood or other plant material.In 1985, Rick Smalley and Robert Curl of Rice University in Texas and their colleagues discovered a new form of carbon.By vaporizing graphite with lasers, the scientists created a mysterious new molecule made of pure carbon, according to the American Chemical Society.Carbon's incredible ability to bond with many other elements is a major reason that it is crucial to almost all life. The element was known to prehistoric humans in the form of charcoal.