Carbon dating steel

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In fact, the same element that our prehistoric ancestors burned as charcoal may be the key to next-generation tech materials.

In 1985, Rick Smalley and Robert Curl of Rice University in Texas and their colleagues discovered a new form of carbon.

In older stars that have burned most of their hydrogen, leftover helium accumulates.

Each helium nucleus has two protons and two neutrons.

Since then, other new, pure carbon molecules — called fullerenes — have been discovered, including elliptical-shaped "buckyeggs" and carbon nanotubes with amazing conductive properties.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.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.Carbon's incredible ability to bond with many other elements is a major reason that it is crucial to almost all life. The element was known to prehistoric humans in the form of charcoal.

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