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Thread: Is carbon in fat an atom or element? page

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    Gadsie's Avatar
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    Is carbon in fat an atom or element?

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    That's what I want to know
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    sbhikes's Avatar
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    The periodic table of elements lists all the known atoms.
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    Loneketo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gadsie View Post
    That's what I want to know
    An atom is the smallest particle. An element is a certain type of atom. Element defines what kind of atom. I don't know how to explain better. Someone correT me
    If I'm wrong.

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    lorichka6's Avatar
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    It is both. Carbon is an element. One of the 118 or so currently known to man. When it is in fat and thus part of a molecule of fat (as in chemically bonded to other atoms - mostly hydrogen and oxygen) there are many carbon atoms in that fat molecule. "Atom" is a physical piece of matter. "Element" is a term used to describe matter that cannot be broken down into a simpler substance. So, dihydrogen monoxide (water) is not an element - since it can be broken down into atoms of hydrogen and oxygen - which are both elements.

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    Gadsie's Avatar
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    Ok thanks. I know the difference between elements and atoms but I couldn't really figure out how a fat molecule is exactly constructed. I'm writing an essay for school. Is this sentence correct? Saturated fat is saturated because between every carbon atom is a bond which is saturated with a hydrogen atom
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    Silky's Avatar
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    Fats are made up of fatty acid chains attached to a molecule of glycerol. The fatty acid chains are made up of hydrogen and carbon. Think of a carbon atom as having four arms. And a hydrogen atom as having only one. In fat the carbon forms a chain of carbons holding onto each other. In saturated fat, two of those arms will be holding onto the carbon atoms either side of it and the other two arms are holding onto a hydrogen atom each. The carbon cannot hold onto any more hydrogen. All the arms are being used.

    In unsaturated fat, some of the carbon uses two hands to hold onto one of the other carbons next to it, and one hand for the other carbon. It has one hand remaining for a hydrogen atom. Therefore the carbon it is not saturated with hydrogen as it could hold more hydrogen if it wasn't using two hands for one of the bonds.

    There's a good image of these bonds on this page here:

    The Fat Primer

    Hope this helps.

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    Tribal Rob's Avatar
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    What Silky said

    Unsaturated has double bonds somewhere in the hydrocarbon chain ie

    H-C=C=C-H
    | |
    H H

    Saturated hasn't so it's like this



    H H H
    | | |
    H - C - C - C -H
    | | |
    H H H

    (hoping the formating works - edit it bloody dosn't)
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    joshugrady's Avatar
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    The fatty acid chains are made up of hydrogen and carbon

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    magicmerl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gadsie View Post
    Is this sentence correct? Saturated fat is saturated because between every carbon atom is a bond which is saturated with a hydrogen atom
    No, it's not correct. Saturated Fat is saturated because the carbon chain contains no double bonds (i.e. each carbon atom links to a neighbouring carbon only once). Mono-unsaturated fats have a single double bond (i.e. one of the carbon atoms is linked to the same neighbour twice). Poly-unsaturated fats have multiple double-bonds.
    Last edited by magicmerl; 10-28-2012 at 08:11 PM.
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    I think the OP was asking if the use of the term "atom" in his/her sentence was correct, which it is. As to the chemistry... I have no clue.
    An atom is the smallest unit of matter, and since matter is made up of the different elements that exist, the term "atom" essentially refers to a single unit of a given element (what element it is specifically depends on the number of protons). Defining elements based on the number of protons is how we distinguish between the different ones (i.e. hydrogen has one proton, helium has two, etc...). Make sense?
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