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18 Page - Reactions and Chemical Properties of the Carbon Family
Added by Mary Blackwell, last edited by Christopher Page on Nov 02, 2007

What is the Carbon Family?

    The Carbon Family is the 14th group or 4A group in the periodic table, depending on the convention being used. This is the vertical colum and starts with carbon. The 14th group consists of the following elements; Carbon (C), Silicon (Si), Germanium (Ge), Tin (Sn) and Lead (Pb).


Figure from http://www.chemtopics.com/elements/c-si/c-si.htm
Here the five elements that are in the carbon family are listed. They are shown in the periodic table set, which at face value demonstrates many of the physical properties, atomic wieght and atomic number. When the periodic table is picked apart it can provide much more information about the chemical properties. The most important thing that can be derived from the periodic table is the electron configuration. The electron configuration in turns tells us how many valence electrons each element has, and that explains how it reacts with other elements.

Why are these five elements in the same Group?

    These five elements combine to make  the 4A group because they all have the same valence electron configuration. Which is 2 electrons in thier outer most shell and 2 electrons in thier second to last shell. This fact is always true even though the core electrons may change. This means that all five elements have 4 valence electrons and will react in the same manner. If these five elements will react in the same manner then they should be in the same group. Now by looking at carbon it has an electron configuration of [He] 2s2 2p2 and Silicon has a configuration of [Ne] 3s2 3p2 and so on. The only part of the electron configuration that changes is the noble gas core and the level of the s and p shells.
Figure 1 Is rendered from http://www.chemistryland.com/ElementarySchool/BuildingBlocks/BuildingElements.htmland shwos teh different ways of representing the electron configuration of  carbon. The holes in the outer shell of the the carbon are places that other elements can bind to carbon.

How do these elements react?

These elements are very reactive and make stable elements. Now that they all have the same valence electrons and the sae configurations in the valence shell it is given that they will react in very much the same way. Now the most important element to look at in this group is carbon. It is important to look at carbon because carbon is the most abundant and important element in this group. Because it is given that these elements will react in the same manner carbon can be looked at specifically and the reactions can be extrapolated into guide lines for the other four elements. Carbon often forms very hard lattice structures. Maybe the most famous carbon structure is the diamond. This is because carbon can bond to itself so readily and when it bonds to itself it forms a squar planar shape. Much the same as when it bonds with flourine as seen below.
 Figure 2 is provided by http://www.chemistryland.com/ElementarySchool/BuildingBlocks/BuildingElements.html
Here fluorine is only bonded to carbon becasue it is a halogen and has 7 valence electrons and does not need more bonds. If carbon was bonded it would continue bonding to carbon and form a very strong lattice structure shown below.  
Figure 4 provided by http://www.uwgb.edu/DutchS/PETROLGY/Diamond%20Structure.HTM
Here you can see the four bonds of carbon that bond with other carbons and form almost a cube shape that is interlocking making it very strong. Carbon and the rest of these elements are not volatile and do not react explosively or produce alot of heat. Silicon and Germanium are both transition metals while Tin and Lead are metals. These will cause the reactions and physical properties of the last four elements to vary slightly with the non-metal carbon. Because these four elements have metal-like properties they will be plyable and not as rigid as carbon. Carbon is the most important because it is used in everyday life. Carbon is very frequently used in organic chemistry. This will be described in detail in a organic chemistry page.
Carbon as an Organic Compound
     Carbon is an outlier in this group and deserves speical attention because it is also an organic compound. This means that carbon is an element that is used in living creatures. Carbon is necessary to the exsistance of human beings and all life. Some breif things that the reactions of carbon do that gives us life is to bond with oxygen. Carbon forms hydrocarbons which is the basis of fossil fuels, it also forms sugars such as glucose and sucrose, ligands, lipids, amino acids and many other things.
Other interesting facts about carbon

Carbon sometimes bonds to itself to form a large spheres, which are sometimes called buckyballs. These buckyballs are solely carbon bonded spheres that are hollow. It isn't quite know what they function of buckyballs are as they were only discovered in 1985 and is in a field called nanotechnology. The research of these buckyballs and nanotubules, which are tubes of carbon that is formed in the same way as buckyballs but resembles a straw, is for thier extreme strength-to-weight ratio. Which means they are extremely strong for how light they are. They are looking at being used in armor, and in detection of cancerous cells such as melanoma. The field of nanotechnology is a very young one and has no ceiling on where it can take us.

Figure 5: This is a buckyball it is made up of 60 carbon atoms bonded in hexagons and pentagons.

Figure 6 This is a nanotube and is formed by many bonded carbon atoms in hexagons and pentagon shapes.
Both figure 5 and 6 where provided by http://www.chemistryland.com/ElementarySchool/BuildingBlocks/BuildingElements.html
http://www.chemistryland.com/ElementarySchool/BuildingBlocks/BuildingElements.html Date Accessed Nov 2
www.wikipedia.com Date Accessed Nov 2
    Wikipedia provided information on carbon, tin, nanotubes, buckyballs and electron configurations 

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