Abbildung Kohlenstoff Chemisches Element im PeriodensystemAbbildung Seit der Steinzeit zum Feuer  machen genutztAbbildung 1775 von Lavoisier als chemisches Element erkanntAbbildung 11. häufigstes Element  der Erdkruste (0,02 Ma.-%)Abbildung Element mit größter Vielfalt an chemischen VerbindungenAbbildung Als CO₂ in der Atmosphäre  (0,041 Vol.-%)
Chemical element in the 4th main
group of the periodic table
Used since the Stone Age for
making fire
Discovered by Lavoisier as chemical
element in 17751
11th most common element
in the earth‘s crust (0.02 wt%)2,3
Element with the largest variety of
chemical compounds
As CO₂ in the atmosphere
(0.041 vol%)4

Carbon Resources


Abbildung Primärrohstoffe = fossile und nachwachsende Rohstoffe  Abbildung Sekundarrohstoffe = Reststoffe


Common Features of Carbon Resources:

  • Main elements carbon (C), hydrogen (H) and oxygen (O)
  • Carriers of chemically-bounded energy

Abbildung Beispiele einer Molekülstruktur für Kohlenstoff in gasförmig flüssig und fest

What contains carbon?

Abbildung Wo kommt Kohlenstoff vor?

Icon Glühbirne Wusstest du, dass …

Did you know that …

... carbon and its compounds are the basis of life on Earth? All living beings are made of organic carbon compounds. Together with hydrogen and oxygen, carbon can form complex molecules.

Abbildung Keine KunststoffeAbbildung Keine FlüssigkraftstoffeAbbildung StromausfälleAbbildung Kalte HäuserAbbildung Kein ZementAbbildung Kein Stahl
No plastics

No liquid transportation fuels

Power outagesUnheated housesNo cementNo steel

What would life be like without carbon?

Without Plastics

…nothing will work. Our life is unimaginable without daily articles, interior decorations, electrical appliances, clothing, toys and vehicles made from plastics. We can reduce, but we can never do without.

Grafik Wofür brauchen wir Plastik?

Abbildung Haus - mit und ohne Kunststoffe

Without Liquid Transportation Fuels

Icon Kein Flugbetrieb

Icon Keine Schifffahrt

…flying and shipping would be impossible.6,7 Similarly for trucks and cars, liquid transportation fuels will
continue to play a big role in the future. Currently, electric and fuel cell vehicles account for less than 1 % of the passenger car fleet.8

Without Energy from Fossil Fuels

… we would have power outages and cold houses.

If we want to continue increasing the share of renewable energies in electricity generation, we must solve the following questions:9

  • How can we store fluctuating renewable electricity?
  • How can we achieve an energy transition for the sectors of heat supply, transport and industry?
  • How can we achieve acceptance for the further expansion of renewable energies?

Primary energy consumption according to energy source, Germany, 201810

Diagramm Primärenergieverbrauch nach Energieträgern, Deutschland, 2018

Carbon is present in every aspect of our lives and the economy.

Link weiterführende Informationen zu unserem Institut

Here you can get further information about What is Carbon?

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  1. WISSEN-digital Home Page: Kohlenstoff (accessed February 20, 2020); iportale GmbH
  2. Allègre, C.; Manhès, G.; Lewin, É.: Chemical composition of the Earth and the volatility control on planetary genetics. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 2001, 185, pp. 49–69
  3. Geophysics, Astronomy, and Acoustics (Section 14). In: CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics; Haynes, W. M., Ed.; 97th edition; CRC Press LLC (Taylor & Francis Group): Boca Raton, 2017; p. 14–17
  4. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Home Page, Earth System Research Laboratory, Global Monitoring Division: Trends in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide (accessed February 20, 2020)
  5. Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (BUND): PLASTIKATLAS 2019; 2nd edition; Möller Druck und Verlag GmbH: Ahrensfelde, 2019; p. 15
  6. Traa, Y.; Behrendt, F.; Rieck, J.; Krzack, S.; Hannes, J.: Faktensammlung Kohlenstoff Teil 5/8 –Substitutionsmöglichkeiten fossiler kohlenstoffhaltiger Energieträger durch Erneuerbare Energien. In: ERDÖL ERDGAS KOHLE 2019, Heft 3, pp. 110–113
  7. Concawe (Environmental Science for the European Refinery Industry): Marine Fuel Facts; Brussels, published September 19, 2016 (accessed February 20, 2020)
  8. Kraftfahrtbundesamt Home Page: Bestand an Pkw am 1. Januar 2019 nach ausgewählten Kraftstoffarten (accessed February 20, 2020)
  9. Henning, H.-M.; Palzer, A.: 100 % Erneuerbare Energien für Strom und Wärme in Deutschland, Studie Fraunhofer-Institut für Solare Energiesysteme ISE; Freiburg, 2012
  10. Umweltbundesamt Home Page: Primärenergieverbrauch (accessed February 20, 2020)