Versatile Nature of Carbon Atoms


Carbon is a well-known element for its structural complexity and the compactly designed nature of its molecules. Nevertheless, carbon is chemically a versatile compound when compared to many other elements. Versatility refers to its flexibility to form bonds and various structures by exchanging the electrons between the atoms. Because of this feature, there are a wide variety of carbon variants. Carbon is found in many varieties of chemical forms in the domestic and industrial setup. It can form single, double, and triple bonds, straight and branched chains, and rings while 2 or more carbon atoms are combined.


Reasons for versatility

1. Catenation

The linking between atoms of the same elements to form a longer chain is called the catenation. Carbon is gifted with such a unique property that can easily form bonds with other atoms of carbon consequently, a long chain can be formed. Carbon chains can be straight, branched and cyclic rings.

2. Tetra valency of Carbon

Tetra valency means, carbon has 4 free electrons in its outermost orbit, because of the four valencies, carbon can form bonds with 4 other carbon atoms or the atoms of other monovalent elements. The 4 valency help the carbon atom to form bonding with atoms of chlorine, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, sulphur and a few other elements.

3. Smaller atomic size

Another reason for its versatility is the size of carbon atoms is smaller enabling the nucleus to hold the shared pair of electrons firmly. As a result, they form a very stable structure.


Characteristics of covalent compounds

  1. Covalent compounds have low melting and boiling points hence the molecules with covalent bonds can be separated with less amount of energy.

  2. In a covalent compound, enthalpy of fusion and latent heat of vaporization is comparatively lower than the ionic compounds.

  3. Covalent compounds feel soft and relatively flexible as the melting and boiling points are low.

  4.  Covalent compounds are highly fire-friendly (flammable) than ionic compounds because they often contain carbon and Hydrogen.

  5.  Any covalent compound dissolved in water does not conduct electricity because ions are needed to conduct electricity in an aqueous solution.

  6. Many covalent compounds don’t dissolve completely in water


Related reading 


Carbon and carbon compounds


Important trends and anomalous properties of carbon


Carbon and its reactions


 Nomenclature of carbon compounds




  1. What is versatility of carbon?  Explain the reasons behind this?

  2. Explain the characteristics of covalent compounds.

  3. What is tetra valency of carbon?

  4. Carbon has a variety of variants,  explain.





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