The 14th International Conference on

Miniaturized Systems for Chemistry and Life Sciences

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Carbon group


Carbon group

The carbon group is a periodic table group consisting of carbon (C), silicon (Si), germanium (Ge), tin (Sn), lead (Pb), and flerovium (Fl). It lies within the p-block.

In modern IUPAC notation, it is called Group 14. In the field of semiconductor physics, it is still universally called Group IV. The group was once also known as the tetrels (from the Greek word tetra, which means four), stemming from the Roman numeral IV in the group names, or (not coincidentally) from the fact that these elements have four valence electrons (see below).

The densities of the carbon group elements tend to increase with increasing atomic number. Carbon has a density of 2.26 grams per cubic centimeter, silicon has a density of 2.33 grams per cubic centimeter, germanium has a density of 5.32 grams per cubic centimeter. Tin has a density of 7.26 grams per cubic centimeter, and lead has a density of 11.3 grams per cubic centimeter.

The atomic radii of the carbon group elements tend to increase with increasing atomic number. Carbon's atomic radius is 77 picometers, silicon's is 118 picometers, germanium's is 123 picometers, tin's is 141 picometers, and lead's is 175 picometers.

Carbon has multiple allotropes. The most common is graphite, which is carbon in the form of stacked sheets. Another form of carbon is diamond, but this is relatively rare. Amorphous carbon is a third allotrope of carbon; it is a component of soot. Another allotrope of carbon is a fullerene, which has the form of sheets of carbon atoms folded into a sphere. A fifth allotrope of carbon, discovered in 2003, is called graphene, and is in the form of a layer of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb-shaped formation.

Silicon has two known allotropes that exist at room temperature. These allotropes are known as the amorphous and the crystalline allotropes. The amorphous allotrope is a brown powder. The crystalline allotrope is gray and has a metallic luster.

23 isotopes of silicon have been discovered. Five of these are naturally occurring. The most common is stable silicon-28, followed by stable silicon-29 and stable silicon-30. Silicon-32 is a radioactive isotope that occurs naturally as a result of radioactive decay of actinides, and via spallation in the upper atmosphere. Silicon-34 also occurs naturally as the result of radioactive decay of actinides.

32 isotopes of germanium have been discovered. Five of these are naturally occurring. The most common is the stable isotope germanium-74, followed by the stable isotope germanium-72, the stable isotope germanium-70, and the stable isotope germanium-73. The isotope germanium-76 is a primordial radioisotope.

40 isotopes of tin have been discovered. 14 of these occur in nature. The most common is tin-120, followed by tin-118, tin-116, tin-119, tin-117, tin-124, tin-122, tin-112, and tin-114: all of these are stable. Tin also has four radioisotopes that occur as the result of the radioactive decay of uranium. These isotopes are tin-121, tin-123, tin-125, and tin-126.

Carbon accumulates as the result of stellar fusion in most stars, even small ones. Carbon is present in the earth's crust in concentrations of 480 parts per million, and is present in seawater at concentrations of 28 parts per million. Carbon is present in the atmosphere in the form of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and methane. Carbon is a key constituent of carbonate minerals, and is in hydrogen carbonate, which is common in seawater. Carbon forms 22.8% of a typical human.

Germanium makes up 2 parts per million of the earth's crust, making it the 52nd most abundant element there. On average, germanium makes up 1 part per million of soil. Germanium makes up 0.5 parts per trillion of seawater. Organogermanium compounds are also found in seawater. Germanium occurs in the human body at concentrations of 71.4 parts per billion. Germanium has been found to exist in some very faraway stars.

The origins of tin seem to be lost in history. It appears that bronzes, which are alloys of copper and tin, were used by prehistoric man some time before the pure metal was isolated. Bronzes were common in early Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, Egypt, Crete, Israel, and Peru. Much of the tin used by the early Mediterranean peoples apparently came from the Scilly Isles and Cornwall in the British Isles, where mining of the metal dates from about 300–200 BCE. Tin mines were operating in both the Inca and Aztec areas of South and Central America before the Spanish conquest.

Germanium is one of three elements the existence of which was predicted in 1869 by the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev when he first devised his periodic table. However, the element was not actually discovered for some time. In September 1885, a miner discovered a mineral sample in a silver mine and gave it to the mine manager, who determined that it was a new mineral and sent the mineral to Clemens A. Winkler. Winkler realized that the sample was 75% silver, 18% sulfur, and 7% of an undiscovered element. After several months, Winkler isolated the element and determined that it was element 32.


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