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Buckyballs have been found to inhibit the spread of HIV, according to a study published in 2009 in the Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling; medical researchers are working to attach drugs, molecule-by-molecule, to buckyballs in order to deliver medicine directly to sites of infection or tumors in the body; this includes research by Columbia University, Rice University and others.
Since then, other new, pure carbon molecules — called fullerenes — have been discovered, including elliptical-shaped "buckyeggs" and carbon nanotubes with amazing conductive properties.
A 2010 paper in the journal Nano Letters reports the invention of flexible, conductive textiles dipped in a carbon nanotube "ink" that could be used to store energy, perhaps paving the way for wearable batteries, solar cells and other electronics.
Perhaps one of the hottest areas in carbon research today, however, involves the "miracle material" graphene. It's the strongest material known while still being ultralight and flexible. Mass-producing graphene is a challenge, though researchers in April 2014 reported that they could make large amounts using nothing but a kitchen blender.
Carbon-14 is a radioactive isotope of carbon used by archaeologists to date objects and remains.
Carbon-14 is naturally occurring in the atmosphere.
[See Periodic Table of the Elements] Carbon occurs naturally as carbon-12, which makes up almost 99 percent of the carbon in the universe; carbon-13, which makes up about 1 percent; and carbon-14, which makes up a minuscule amount of overall carbon but is very important in dating organic objects.
As the sixth-most abundant element in the universe, carbon forms in the belly of stars in a reaction called the triple-alpha process, according to the Swinburne Center for Astrophysics and Supercomputing.
The end result: Atoms with six protons and six neutrons — carbon.
Plants take it up in respiration, in which they convert sugars made during photosynthesis back into energy that they use to grow and maintain other processes, according to Colorado State University.
Animals incorporate carbon-14 into their bodies by eating plants or other plant-eating animals.
Arrange carbon atoms in one way, and they become soft, pliable graphite. — the atoms form diamond, one of the hardest materials in the world.
Carbon is also the key ingredient for most life on Earth; the pigment that made the first tattoos; and the basis for technological marvels such as graphene, which is a material stronger than steel and more flexible than rubber.
And it uses them: Nearly 10 million carbon compounds have been discovered, and scientists estimate that carbon is the keystone for 95 percent of known compounds, according to the website Chemistry Explained.