Under very hot temperatures — greater than 100,000,000 Kelvin (179,999,540.6 F) — the helium nuclei begin to fuse, first as pairs into unstable 4-proton beryllium nuclei, and eventually, as enough beryllium nuclei blink into existence, into a beryllium plus a helium.
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.
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Carbon is also a part of the ocean, air, and even rocks.
Because the Earth is a dynamic place, carbon does not stay still. In the atmosphere, carbon is attached to some oxygen in a gas called carbon dioxide.
Plants use carbon dioxide and sunlight to make their own food and grow. Plants that die and are buried may turn into fossil fuels made of carbon like coal and oil over millions of years.
In older stars that have burned most of their hydrogen, leftover helium accumulates.
Each helium nucleus has two protons and two neutrons.
Atoms are arranged as a nucleus surrounded by an electron cloud, with electrons zinging around at different distances from the nucleus.