Basic information

Basic information on carbon

Carbon atom C is an essential building block of life; it is the most important building material for life forms. Without carbon there would be no life.

Carbon is also the building material for the standard of living. Coal is an essential source of electricity and heat, as well as an important raw material for the steel industry. Without coal there would be no well-being.


6 CO2 + 6 H2O + radiation energy from the sun => C6H12O6 + 6 O2

Oxygen O
Carbon C
Hydrogen H
Carbon dioxide CO2
Glucose C6H12O6
Water H2O

Green plants create sugar through photosynthesis. A plant releases the energy bound in the sugar by respiration.

Photosynthesis is part of the global carbon circulation where carbon circulates through water, land and the atmosphere mainly in the form of carbon dioxide. Photosynthesis is a process where carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and replaced with oxygen. It takes place in green plants, algae and some bacteria.

In photosynthesis, carbon dioxide and water form glucose – i.e. grape sugar – and oxygen with the help of radiation energy from the sun. These carbon storages, plants, have created the currently used coal over long periods of time.

In hard pressure and oxygen-free conditions the plant material forms into peat over thousands and millions of years; this then turns into lignite, later into coal and finally into anthracite. The coal currently being used was mainly formed about 300 million years ago, when large forests were buried under layers of soil.

According to its use, coal is divided into metallurgic coal, e.g. for manufacturing steel, and steam coal, which is used in power plant cauldrons.

Coal quarried from geological strata also contains organic compounds, which may be up to 20 per cent of the content. Coal is a compound formed mainly of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, sulphur and nitrogen.

Coal is inexpensive, and safe and environmentally friendly technologies already exist for its use. The combustion of coal produces carbon dioxide, which warms up the climate when released into the atmosphere.

The best way of preventing the environmental effects of coal use is to save energy, but as the global standard of living is improving and the population is increasing, the energy consumption is also increasing.