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Carbon Compounds – Definition, Types & Examples

Jan 13, 2023

Carbon Compounds 

You may have noticed when you burn paper, crackers, plastics, or any other material, a huge mass of black smoke generates from them. Can you tell why they all generate this black smoke? This black smoke is due to the presence of carbon in these objects. Carbon has unique properties and forms some compounds. 

Now make a list of ten things you can think of that are not made up of metals, glass, or clay. Can you think of a common compound among all the ten things you mentioned? Clothes, food, books, medicines, and many things you listed are all based on this versatile element of carbon. 


Let’s swoop into this article to know more about carbon compounds. 

About Carbon 

The name ‘carbon’ emerged from the Latin word ‘carbo’, which means ‘charcoal.’ It may be surprising to know that carbon is the subsequent abundant element in human beings after oxygen. In addition to non-living things, all living structures are based on carbon. It is the reason organic chemistry is based on carbon. 


The carbon in the Earth’s crust and the atmosphere is quite inadequate. The Earth’s crust holds only 0.02% carbon in the shape of minerals like petroleum, coal, hydrogen carbonate, and carbonates. At the same time, the atmosphere has 0.03% CO₂. Although the carbon present in total is around 0.05% in nature, the importance it carries seems to be immense. 

What Are Carbon Compounds? 

Such compounds that accommodate carbon atoms during the formation of chemical bonds with other elements are known as carbon compounds. The element which forms most of the compounds with other elements in nature after hydrogen is carbon. 


Most of these compounds are organic carbon compounds, for instance, benzene, sucrose, etc. However, many inorganic carbon compounds exist, for example, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, etc. 

Organic Compounds Definition 

 Any carbon compound created only by a living thing was traditionally considered an organic chemical. The definition has been altered because many of these substances can now be produced in a lab or have been discovered to be separate from organisms (although not agreed upon).


A minimum of carbon must be present in an organic molecule. The majority of chemists concur that hydrogen must also exist. However, there are several compounds whose classification is in question. Carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids are only a few of the major categories of organic substances. Organic substances include things like benzene, toluene, sucrose, and heptane. 

Inorganic Compounds 

Minerals and other natural sources may contain inorganic compounds, or they may be created in a laboratory. Examples include carbonates (like CaCO3), oxalates (like BaC2O4), carbon sulfides (like carbon disulfide, CS2), carbon-nitrogen compounds (like hydrogen cyanide, HCN), carbon halides, and carboranes. Carbon oxides (CO and CO2) are another group. 


Types of Carbon Compounds 

Due to the salient properties carbon carries with itself, it forms numerous types of compounds. Types of carbon compounds are decided upon what has carbon in them. Some different types of carbon compounds are 

1. Based on Compound Carbon Form: 

  • Organic Compounds: 

These compounds are sometimes termed carbon compounds as they exist in living beings. They can be synthesized naturally as well as in the laboratory. Hence, it will be right to say that carbon is a compound that is vital or must be present in organic compounds. 


Major categories of organic compounds include lipids, carbohydrates, nucleic acids, and proteins.

Some examples of organic compounds are toluene, benzene, heptane, sucrose, etc. 

  • Inorganic Compounds: 

In some minerals and natural sources, you can easily discover inorganic compounds. At the same time, these compounds can also be prepared in the laboratory.

Some examples of these compounds are carbonates, oxalates, oxides of carbon, carbon-nitrogen compounds, sulfides of carbon, carboranes, halides of carbon, etc. 

  • Organometallic Compounds

Some compounds like ferrocene, tetraethyl lead, and Zeise’s salt. In such compounds, there must be a minimum of one carbon-metal bond. 

  • Carbon Alloy:

Many alloys, like cast iron, steel, etc., are smelted using coke (i.e., a form of carbon). In this way, these alloys also contain carbon.

Some examples of metals that show the properties of forming alloy and required carbon in their smelting process include chromium, aluminum, zinc, iron, etc. 

2. Based on the Composition: 

  • Carboranes: 

As the name suggests, carborane contains atoms of carbon and boron. They are clusters of molecules that bind with each other.

One of the common examples of carborane is H2C2B10H10. 

  • Carbon halides:

As per their name, they contain atoms of carbon and halide, i.e., halogens.

Some common examples of carbon halides are carbon tetraiodide (CI4), carbon tetrachloride (CCl4), etc. 

  • Carbides: 

They are formed when an atom with lower electronegativity than carbon is chemically bound.

Some common examples of carbides are CaC2, TiC, Al4C3, WC, SiC, etc. 

3. Based on the Type of Bond Form: 

  • Saturated: 

In this form, carbon atoms are linked with other atoms with the help of single bonds. They can form a straight chain, branched chain, or ring-like structure. The most general example of saturated carbon compounds is alkanes. Methane is the lowest member of the alkane family. 

  • Unsaturated: 

In this form, carbon atoms are bounded by a double or triple bond, either in ring-like structures or in the chain form. They are further divided into alkene (double bond) and alkynes (triple bond). Some unsaturated carbon compounds are ethene, propyne, butene, etc. 

Properties of Carbon Compounds 

Depending upon its nature, carbon shows a wide range of properties that are divided into two classes: 

1. Physical Properties of Carbon Compounds: 

  • At ordinary temperatures, most carbon compounds show low reactivity. But when heat is solicited to them, they react vigorously. For instance, cellulose remains stable in wood at room temperature, but once it burns, it becomes violent. 
  • Organic carbon compounds are usually highly combustible and burn easily. Hence, they are used as fuels. For instance, natural gas, coal, petroleum, etc. 
  • They are non-polar and have low solubility toward the water. Therefore, it becomes hard to remove grease or oil stains only using water. 
  • Carbon and nitrogen compounds are generally used to make explosives as a huge amount of energy is released to break their bonds. 
  • In liquid form, they have a typical distinct and unpleasant odor. While in solid form, carbon compounds are odorless. 

2. Chemical Properties of Carbon Compounds: 

Chemical properties inform what has carbon in it. Some major properties of carbon compounds are 

  • Combustion: 

On combustion, carbon compounds convert into CO2 and H2O and evolve a massive amount of light and heat. 

CH4 +O2 → CO2 + 2O + light and heat 

  • Oxidation: 

In the presence of an oxidizing agent, they get oxidized and form the respective product. 


Generally, acidified K2Cr2O7 or alkaline KMnO4 are used as oxidizing agents. 

  • Addition Reaction: 

In the presence of catalysts, unsaturated carbon compounds get converted into saturated compounds. 

H2C=CH2 + 2Br2 → Br2H2C-CH2Br2 

The catalyst used in this case is Pt/Pd. 

  • Substitution Reaction: 

Carbon compounds, especially saturated hydrocarbons, can undergo substitution reactions. 

CH4 + Cl2 → CH3Cl + HCl (in the presence of sunlight) 

Uses of Carbon Compounds 

Carbon is highly used in daily life. Some important uses are 

  • 18% of the human body consists of carbon. Carbohydrates, sugar, glucose, proteins, etc., all contain carbon. 
  • Products such as oil, natural gas, petroleum, coal, fossil fuels, etc., are different forms of carbon.
  • Hydrocarbons produce paints, polymers, solvents, fibers, plastics, etc.
  • Impure carbon in coke and charcoal is used in metal smelting in the iron and steel industries. 
  • Activated charcoal is utilized for the filtration and purification of water and can be found in respirators. 
  • In pencils, furnace linings, brushes in electric motors, steel production, etc., carbon is used in the form of graphite. 
  • Diamond is used in jewelry. 
  • They are used in nanotechnology and the electronics industry as fullerenes, carbon nanotubes, and atom-thin graphene sheets. 
  • A process called carbon dating is used that utilizes carbon to measure the age of things. 


The Earth is based on the chemistry of carbon. Many reactions occur in living and non-living things and the compounds they are made up of are based on carbon only. Everything that surrounds you is probably made up of carbon. Depending on their properties and nature, organic compounds are mostly carbon-containing. From the food you eat to medicines you take, fuels, textiles, clothes, and all other daily necessities you use contain carbon with them. Now you can guess if carbon is a compound or not! 

 1. Questions 

Why is sp2 hybridization required to explain bonding in C2H4? 


In the compound C2H4, sp2 hybridization occurs because of a carbon-carbon double bond in which a carbon atom is only connected to three other atoms. Download BYJU’S – The Learning App to discover more about the different types of carbon compounds and their characteristics. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are allotropes and allotropic forms of carbon?

If an element can exist in two or more different physical forms, it is called the allotropic nature of that element. In its allotropic form, carbon exists as graphite, diamond, fullerenes, and graphene physical structures. While in its amorphous form, it exists as coal, charcoal, coke, lamp black, etc., structures. 

The most critical thing to note is although they all are different forms of carbon, they have extremely different properties from each other.

2. What type of bonds does carbon form?

The types of bonds carbon forms are 

  • It mainly forms covalent bonds with other atoms. 
  • It forms non-polar covalent bonds with other carbon atoms. 
  • It forms polar covalent bonds with nonmetals and metalloids. 
  • With some atoms, it can form ionic bonds. For instance, when bonded with calcium, it forms CaC2 as an ionic compound. 
  • Although carbon is tetravalent and generally forms four bonds, it can form six bonds in some compounds. For instance, hexamethylbenzene. 
  • Carbon can form organic, inorganic, and organometallic compounds depending upon their bonding.

3. What are the characteristics of allotropic forms of carbon?

The properties of diamond and graphite are given below: 

  1. Diamond:
  • It is the hardest substance with transparent color. 
  • It is a bad conductor of electricity. 
  • It is non-gaseous and solid in form. 
  • It is insoluble in water. 
  • It does not melt when subjected to high temperatures. 
  1. Graphite:
  • It has a soft and spongy texture with black color. 
  • It is an opaque substance. 
  • It is a good conductor of electricity. 
  • It is a solid and non-gaseous compound. 
  • It is insoluble in water but gets sublimes when it turns into a gaseous form. 
Carbon Compounds


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