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Carbon Configurations

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    The Exploratorium

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Carbon Configurations

In this activity, learners use geometry to predict the shape of carbon. Learners twist and attach chenille stem pieces that represent bonds between different carbon atoms. Information about tetrahedral, trigonal planar, and diamond geometry types is included in this resource. This activity can also be used to introduce learners to allotropes (pure carbon forms) and fullerenes such as buckyballs and carbon nanotubes.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Model


Materials List (per group of students)

  • chenille stems or thin wire or plastic twist ties
  • scissors


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Nanotechnology
  • Mathematics
    • Geometry
      • Plane Geometry
      • Solid Geometry
    • Representation
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Chemical Bonding
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Atomic Structure
      • Elements and Periodic Table
      • Elementary Particles and Nuclear Physics
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Yu, Julie


  • All Rights Reserved, Exploratorium, ©2010

Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation, 0610238
  • National Science Foundation, 0925383


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