One of the fundamental elements of life is the carbon without which there could have been no life. Almost every biological residue contains carbon, ei..
One of the fundamental elements of life is the carbon without which there could have been no life. Almost every biological residue contains carbon, either in abundance or in traces. But it is a different story when it comes to the carbon gases. Both carbondioxide and the lethal carbon monoxide are formed by the combination of carbon and oxygen, but differ widely in their properties.
Carbondioxide does not have any color or odor and can be produced as the end product of combustion or oxidation and even by fermentation of various sugars. Decomposition of almost all forms of carbonates emit the gas when it reacts with heat or acids. Commercial production of this particular carbon gas is widely in use as the unique property of neither burning nor supporting combustion is put to use while extinguishing fires. Manufacture of sodium bicarbonate or baking soda and washing soda, which is actually sodium carbonate along with white lead, are all produced by making use the commonest of all carbon gases. Solid ice or the gas in solidified form is used in refrigeration as well. Although commonly believed to be expelled out of our body during the process of breathing, this gas of carbon is frequently used for aiding in artificial respiration techniques where it is mixed with oxygen. It is also one of the constituents used for anesthetizing the patients during surgery.
A more simpler combination of one molecule of Carbon and one of oxygen results in the production of the extremely toxic carbon monoxide characterized by the chemical formula of CO. Burning of carbon in insufficient air results in this lethal byproduct which when inhaled can prove to be fatal for any warm blooded animal. Automobile exhausts emit poisonous fumes of carbon monoxide which contribute significantly to the air pollution as well. However, this apparently dangerous carbon gas has its uses too. It is used extensively for industry purposes particularly in the blast furnaces and in the smelting of iron ores. It is also used for refinement of metals, particularly nickel.
The accumulation of carbon gases, particularly carbondioxide and methane, in the atmosphere has become a cause for worry. The greenhouse gas effect has been pinpointed as one of the main causes of global warming and every effort is being made by the international agencies in trying to combat the problem which we hope will go a long way in cleaning up the ‘carbon-footprints’ from our environment.