Carbon is one of the most crucial elements of human existence. Without carbon, life on Earth would not be possible as it makes up most of the organic matter around us. Carbon is a versatile element forming compounds as brittle as graphite and hard as diamonds. One of the primary reasons that carbon can form bonds with other atoms is its tetravalent nature. In this article, we will attempt to answer the question: how many electrons can a carbon atom share? In doing so, you will also explore the number of valence electrons in carbon to understand the tetravalency of carbon and gauge its importance.
1. How many Electrons are in a Carbon Atom?
Carbon is the sixth element in the periodic table found in group 14 of period 2. In line with most atoms, the electrons present in a carbon atom are distributed across various concentric shells around the nucleus. Carbon, as such, has 6 electrons in total. It has two electrons in the S shell (the innermost orbit, right outside the nucleus) and has 4 electrons in the P shell (right after the S shell). (See Why Do Atoms Form Chemical Bonds?)
2. What is the Number of Valence Electrons in Carbon?
The valence electrons of an atom are the number of unbounded or free electrons capable of forming bonds with other elements. Carbon is a tetravalent atom. Therefore, the number of valence electrons in carbon is 4. These four valence electrons are responsible for all the chemical bonds involving carbon and lead us to an answer for how many electrons can a Carbon atom share. (See How many valence electrons does oxygen have?)
3. How many Electrons can a Carbon Atom share?
The number of electrons atoms have in their outermost shell is equal to their valence electrons. The valence electrons in carbon are the electrons it can share with other atoms. So, how many electrons can a carbon atom share? The tetravalency of carbon allows it to share exactly four electrons. (See How does Calcium Chloride react with Chlorine?)
4. Describe Electron Configuration for Carbon
The electronic configuration of an atom refers to the distribution of electrons in the shells surrounding it. The nucleus consists of the nucleons: neutrons and protons. The light-weighted electrons revolve around the nucleus due to gravitational attraction. All this data suggests that carbon has 6 electrons. It implies that 6 electrons are distributed across the shells. The electronic configuration of carbon is [He]2s22p2. It has two electrons in its S shell and four in its P shell. It can house 4 additional electrons in the P shell. (See What are the Components of Water?)
5. How many Electrons can Oxygen share?
Oxygen is the eight-element of the periodic table. It is located in group 16 of the second period and has 6 valence electrons in its outermost shell or the P shell. Two of the six electrons are capable of forming bonds with other atoms. Only two electrons can form bonds with other atoms despite the 6 valence electrons, as there are only two unpaired electrons.
The outermost shell of oxygen consists of two pairs of paired electrons and two unpaired electrons. This allows oxygen to form single or double bonds based on the compound. It is also how the gas O2 or oxygen is formed. (See How many Oxygen Atoms are in SiO2? )
6. How many Electrons can Hydrogen share?
Hydrogen is the first element of the periodic table, situated in the first group of the first period, the top left corner of the periodic table. It has one valence electron implying that it only has one electron that can form bonds. Hydrogen only forms single bonds with other atoms. Carbon-hydrogen bonds or hydrocarbons are the most frequent carbon-based compounds you come across, from alcohol to methane. (See What are the Characteristics of an Element?)
7. Explain the Tetravalency of Carbon Atoms
The tetravalency of carbon refers to the four valence electrons in carbon, present in its outermost shell, the P shell in this case. It is similar to silicon’s structure, which is also a tetravalent element. Carbon’s tetravalency allows it to form versatile bonds. Can you believe that both graphite and diamonds are made out of carbon? Carbon may form single, double, or triple bonds depending on the nature of the compound. Carbon is neither alkaline nor acidic due to its tetravalency. Also, check out What is the NH4 Lewis Structure?
8. How many Bonds can a Carbon Atom form?
As you already know the answer to: how many electrons can a carbon atom share, let us look at how many bonds a carbon atom can form. However, before that, let’s look at why atoms form bonds, to begin with. Atoms strive to attain the same electronic configuration as noble gases.
Noble gases are stable elements as opposed to the reactive nature of the remaining elements. This is why you have hydrogen sharing one atom to attain helium’s electronic configuration, like with Oxygen and Carbon. Carbon strives to achieve the electronic configuration of neon, its closest noble gas. Carbon can form anywhere between two to four chemical bonds. These bones may be single, double, or triple based on the compound. Examples of such compounds include methane, ethene, ethyne, all hydrocarbons, etc. (Also read What is the Number in Periodic Table of Elements H2O?)