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Allotropes are materials made from the same element, but their atoms fit together differently.

Each allotrope of carbon has different physical properties.

Rachel Wood does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Australian National University provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.

One of the key characteristics of carbon is its ability to make long chains of molecules through linking up with other carbon atoms. It is a major element in many rock formations such as limestone and marble.

View the full list Radiocarbon dating has transformed our understanding of the past 50,000 years.Carbon is also found in many compounds including carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere and dissolved in the oceans and other major bodies of water. It is used for fuel in the form of coal, methane gas, and crude oil (which is used to make gasoline).Hydrocarbons that form many fuels such as coal, natural gas, and petroleum also contain carbon. It is used to make all sorts of materials including plastics and alloys such as steel (a combination of carbon and iron).Radioactive decay can be used as a “clock” because it is unaffected by physical (e.g. For instance, the amount varies according to how many cosmic rays reach Earth.This is affected by solar activity and the earth’s magnetic field.

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