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Hydrogen (H)



According to the Royal Society of Chemistry, in the early 1500s the alchemist Paracelsus noted that the bubbles given off when iron filings were added to sulfuric acid were flammable. In 1671 Robert Boyle made the same observation. Neither followed up their discovery of hydrogen, and so Henry Cavendish gets the credit. In 1766 he collected the bubbles and showed that they were different from other gases. He later showed that when hydrogen burns it forms water, thereby ending the belief that water was an element. The gas was given its name hydro-gen, meaning water-former, by Antoine Lavoisier.

In 1931, Harold Urey and his colleagues at Columbia University in the US detected a second, rarer, form of hydrogen. This has twice the mass of normal hydrogen, and they named it deuterium.

The low density of hydrogen made it a natural choice for one of its first practical uses – filling balloons and airships. However, it reacts vigorously with oxygen (to form water) and its future in filling airships ended when the Hindenburg airship caught fire.

Did you know?

  1. The name is derived from the Greek 'hydro' and 'genes' meaning water forming. It is a colourless, odourless gas. It has the lowest density of all gases.
  2. Some see hydrogen gas as the clean fuel of the future – generated from water and returning to water when it is oxidised. Hydrogen-powered fuel cells are increasingly being seen as ‘pollution-free’ sources of energy and are now being used in some buses and cars.
  3. Hydrogen also has many other uses. In the chemical industry it is used to make ammonia for agricultural fertiliser (the Haber process) and cyclohexane and methanol, which are intermediates in the production of plastics and pharmaceuticals. It is also used to remove sulphur from fuels during the oil-refining process. Large quantities of hydrogen are used to hydrogenate oils to form fats, for example to make margarine.
  • Atomic Properties
    Atomic Number 1
    Atomic radius - Goldschmidt ( nm ) 0.046
    Atomic weight ( amu ) 1.008
    Electronic structure 1s1
    Ionisation potential No. eV
    1 13.598
    Natural isotope distribution Mass No. %
    1 99.985
    2 0.015
    Thermal neutron absorption cross-section ( Barns ) 0.007
    Valences shown 1
  • Physical Properties
    Boiling point ( C ) -252.87
    Density @27C ( g cm-3 ) 0.000899
    Melting point ( C ) -259.14
  • Thermal Properties
    Latent heat of evaporation ( J g-1 ) 460
    Latent heat of fusion ( J g-1 ) 58.5

Carbon (C)



Carbon has been known since prehistoric times.

Carbon occurs naturally in two allotropic forms, namely graphite and diamond; the discovery in 1985 of fullerenes has increased the number of allotropic forms of this element. Its abundance in the Earth's crust is 480 ppm. The study of carbon and its organic compounds is the basis of organic chemistry.

The applications for carbon are many and include its use as an alloying element with iron in the manufacture of steel, its use as brushes in electrical generators and motors, the use of colloidal graphite or carbon to coat surfaces (e.g. glass), in electrical assemblies to absorb microwaves and inhibit photoelectrons and secondary electrons, and the use of high purity carbon (graphite) in nuclear reactors to moderate neutrons.

Did you know?

  1. Diamond has unique properties, being one of the hardest materials known and with excellent corrosion resistance and thermal transfer. Industrial diamond is used in rock drilling equipment and abrasive materials. CVD diamond has been the subject of extensive research and development over the past several years and applications for this material are only just being realised.
  2. Carbon is a fundamental part of all life, it being a prime constituent of DNA. On average, the human body contains approximately 16kg of carbon in one form or another.
  3. Carbon is found in the sun and other stars, formed from the debris of a previous supernova. It is built up by nuclear fusion in bigger stars. It is present in the atmospheres of many planets, usually as carbon dioxide. On Earth, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is currently 390 ppm and rising.
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MIT Professor Predicts Earth's Next Mass Extinction To Begin By 2100

In a new study, Prof. Daniel Rothman has predicted that the oceans may hold enough carbon to trigger a sixth mass extinction by 2100, reports Trevor Nace for Forbes. Rothman’s analysis showed that, “given the current rate of carbon being emitted into the atmosphere, we will likely reach a mass extinction threshold by the year 2100.”

Read More Here >>
  • Atomic Properties
    Atomic number 6
    Atomic radius - Goldschmidt ( nm ) 0.077
    Atomic weight ( amu ) 12.011
    Crystal structure Hexagonal/Diamond
    Electronic structure He 2s2 2p2
    Ionisation potential No. eV
    1 11.26
    2 24.38
    3 47.9
    4 64.5
    5 392
    6 490
    Natural isotope distribution Mass No. %
    12 98.89
    13 1.11
    Photo-electric work function ( eV ) 4.8
    Thermal neutron absorption cross-section ( Barns ) 0.0034
    Valences shown 2, 3, 4
  • Electrical Properties
    Electrical resistivity @0C ( µOhmcm ) 1375
    Thermal emf against Pt (cold 0C - hot 100C) ( mV ) +0.70
  • Mechanical Properties
    Material condition Graphite Diamond
    Bulk modulus ( GPa ) 33 542
    Hardness - Mohs 0.5-1.0 10
    Tensile modulus ( GPa ) 4.8
  • Physical Properties
    Boiling point ( C ) 5000
    Density @20C ( g cm-3 ) 2.25
    Melting point ( C ) 3650
  • Thermal Properties
    Coefficient of thermal expansion @0-100C ( x10-6 K-1 ) 0.6-4.3
    Specific heat @25C ( J K-1 kg-1 ) 712
    Thermal conductivity @0-100C ( W m-1 K-1 ) 80-240
  • Properties for Carbon Fibre
    Property Value
    Material XAS,HTA,T300 34-700, T650/35 UMS2526 HM HS40 P25 P100 F180 F500
    Coefficient of thermal expansion - Longitudinal x10-6 K-1 -0.1to-0.5 -0.6 -0.7 -1.3 -0.5 - -1.5
    Coefficient of thermal expansion - Transverse x10-6 K-1 +26 - +37 +25
    Density g cm-3 1.76-1.8 1.77-1.8 1.78 1.86 1.85 1.87 2.15 - 2.1
    Extension to break % 1.5-1.7 1.7-1.9 1.2 0.8 0.9 1.0 0.3 - 2.1
    Filament diameter µm 7 7 4.8 8 5 11 10 - 9
    Precursor PAN PAN PAN PAN PAN Pitch Pitch Pitch Pitch
    Tensile modulus GPa 230-40 230-40 380 350-70 450 140-60 720 180 500
    Tensile strength GPa 3.6-4 4.5 4.9 2.5-2.7 4.4 1.4 2.2 2.0 3.0
    Thermal Conductivity W m-1 K-1 17-24 14 46 105 52 22 520
    Volume Resistivity µOhmcm 1400-1600 1500 1000 900 1000 1300 250 1100 400
  • Properties for Carbon Foil
    Property Value
    Material Pyrolytic Flexible Rigid Glassy
    Coefficient of thermal expansion x10-6 K-1 0.9-14 1-25 7 2.6
    Density g cm-3 2.2 0.9-1.3 1.8 1.4
    Flexural strength MPa 80 90 260
    Resistivity µOhmcm 0.5-250 1000-50000 1200 4000-5500
    Thermal Conductivity W m-1 K-1 1.7-300 4-160 150 6.3

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Nitrogen (N)



Nitrogen is a colourless, odourless gas. Nitrogen is important to the chemical industry. It is used to make fertilisers, nitric acid, nylon, dyes and explosives. To make these products, nitrogen must first be reacted with hydrogen to produce ammonia. This is done by the Haber process. 150 million tonnes of ammonia are produced in this way every year.

Did you know?

  1. Nitrogen gas is also used to provide an unreactive atmosphere. It is used in this way to preserve foods, and in the electronics industry during the production of transistors and diodes. Large quantities of nitrogen are used in annealing stainless steel and other steel mill products. Annealing is a heat treatment that makes steel easier to work.
  2. Liquid nitrogen is often used as a refrigerant. It is used for storing sperm, eggs and other cells for medical research and reproductive technology. It is also used to rapidly freeze foods, helping them to maintain moisture, colour, flavour and texture.
  3. Animals obtain their nitrogen by consuming other living things. They digest the proteins and DNA into their constituent bases and amino acids, reforming them for their own use.
  • Atomic Properties
    Atomic number 7
    Atomic radius - Goldschmidt ( nm ) 0.071
    Atomic weight ( amu ) 14.007
    Electronic structure He 2s2 p3
    Ionisation potential No. eV
    1 14.53
    2 29.60
    3 47.45
    4 77.47
    5 97.89
    6 552.06
    Natural isotope distribution Mass No. %
    14 99.634
    15 0.366
    Valences shown 2, ±3, 4, 5
  • Physical Properties
    Boiling point ( C ) -195.8
    Density @27C ( g cm-3 ) 0.00125
    Melting point ( C ) -209.86
  • Thermal Properties
    Latent heat of evaporation ( J g-1 ) 199.5
    Latent heat of fusion ( J g-1 ) 25.7

Oxygen (O)



Oxygen first appeared in the Earth’s atmosphere around 2 billion years ago, accumulating from the photosynthesis of blue-green algae. Photosynthesis uses energy from the sun to split water into oxygen and hydrogen. The oxygen passes into the atmosphere and the hydrogen joins with carbon dioxide to produce biomass.

When living things need energy they take in oxygen for respiration. The oxygen returns to the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide.

Oxygen gas is fairly soluble in water, which makes aerobic life in rivers, lakes and oceans possible.

Did you know?

  1. Oxygen makes up 21% of the atmosphere by volume. This is halfway between 17% (below which breathing for unacclimatised people becomes difficult) and 25% (above which many organic compounds are highly flammable). The element and its compounds make up 49.2% by mass of the Earth’s crust, and about two-thirds of the human body.
  2. The greatest commercial use of oxygen gas is in the steel industry. Large quantities are also used in the manufacture of a wide range of chemicals including nitric acid and hydrogen peroxide. It is also used to make epoxyethane (ethylene oxide), used as antifreeze and to make polyester, and chloroethene, the precursor to PVC.
  3. Oxygen gas is used for oxy-acetylene welding and cutting of metals. A growing use is in the treatment of sewage and of effluent from industry.
  • Atomic Properties
    Atomic number 8
    Atomic radius - Goldschmidt ( nm ) 0.060
    Atomic weight ( amu ) 15.999
    Electronic structure He 2s2 p4
    Ionisation potential No. eV
    1 13.62
    2 35.12
    Natural isotope distribution Mass No. %
    Valences shown -2
  • Physical Properties
    Boiling point ( C ) -182.96
    Density @27C ( g cm-3 ) 0.00143
    Melting point ( C ) -218.4
  • Thermal Properties
    Latent heat of evaporation ( J g-1 ) 213
    Latent heat of fusion ( J g-1 ) 13.75

Phosphorus (P)



The two main forms of phosphorus are white phosphorus and red phosphorus. White phosphorus is a poisonous waxy solid and contact with skin can cause severe burns. It glows in the dark and is spontaneously flammable when exposed to air. Red phosphorus is an amorphous non-toxic solid. It has a tetrahedral shape and has the formula P4.

Did you know?

  1. White phosphorus is used in flares and incendiary devices. Red phosphorus is in the material stuck on the side of matchboxes, used to strike safety matches against to light them.
  2. By far the largest use of phosphorus compounds is for fertilisers. Ammonium phosphate is made from phosphate ores. The ores are first converted into phosphoric acids before being made into ammonium phosphate.
  3. Phosphorus is also important in the production of steel. Phosphates are ingredients in some detergents, but are beginning to be phased out in some countries. This is because they can lead to high phosphate levels in natural water supplies causing unwanted algae to grow. Phosphates are also used in the production of special glasses and fine chinaware.
  • Atomic Properties
    Atomic number 15
    Atomic radius - Goldschmidt ( nm ) 0.109
    Atomic weight ( amu ) 30.97
    Electronic structure Ne 3s2 p3
    Ionisation potential No. eV
    1 10.49
    2 19.72
    3 30.18
    4 51.37
    5 65.02
    6 220.43
    Natural isotope distribution Mass No. %
    31 100
    Thermal neutron absorption cross-section ( Barns ) 0.19
    Valences shown ±3, 4, 5
  • Physical Properties
    Boiling point ( C ) 280 (White allotrope)
    Density @20C ( g cm-3 ) 1.82
    Melting point ( C ) 44.1 (White allotrope)

Sulfur (S)



There are several allotropes of sulfur. The most common appears as yellow crystals or powder.

Sulfur is essential to all living things. It is taken up as sulphate from the soil (or seawater) by plants and algae. It is used to make two of the essential amino acids needed to make proteins. It is also needed in some co-enzymes. The average human contains 140 grams and takes in about 1 gram a day, mainly in proteins.

Did you know?

  1. Sulfur is used in the vulcanisation of black rubber, as a fungicide and in black gunpowder. Most sulphur is, however, used in the production of sulfuric acid, which is perhaps the most important chemical manufactured by western civilisations. The most important of sulfuric acid’s many uses is in the manufacture of phosphoric acid, to make phosphates for fertilisers.
  2. Mercaptans are a family of organosulfur compounds. Some are added to natural gas supplies because of their distinctive smell, so that gas leaks can be detected easily. Others are used in silver polish, and in the production of pesticides and herbicides.
  3. Sulphites are used to bleach paper and as preservatives for many foodstuffs. Many surfactants and detergents are sulphate derivatives. Calcium sulphate (gypsum) is mined on the scale of 100 million tonnes each year for use in cement and plaster.
  • Atomic Properties
    Atomic number 16
    Atomic radius - Goldschmidt ( nm ) 0.104
    Atomic weight ( amu ) 32.07
    Electronic structure Ne 3s2 p4
    Ionisation potential No. eV
    1 10.36
    2 23.33
    3 34.83
    4 47.30
    5 72.68
    6 88.05
    Natural isotope distribution Mass No. %
    32 95.02
    33 0.75
    34 4.21
    36 0.02
    Valences shown ±2, 4, 6
  • Physical Properties
    Boiling point ( C ) 444.7
    Density @20C ( g cm-3 ) 2.07
    Melting point ( C ) 119 (Monoclinic)

Selenium (Se)



Selenium exists in several allotropic forms; red selenium is monoclinic and contains Se8 rings. It has a melting point of 180C and a relative density of 4.45. The grey (metallic) form of selenium is formed when other varieties are heated to 200C; this has a melting point of 220C and a relative density of 4.80. Selenium is widely distributed, mainly as the selenides of heavy metals, but only has an abundance of 0.05 ppm in the earth's crust. The metal burns in air and is unaffected by water. It is soluble in alkalis and concentrated nitric acid.

Did you know?

  1. Selenium was discovered in 1817 by J.J. Berzelius in Stockholm, Sweden.
  2. The electrical properties of selenium are of particular interest as it is both photovoltaic (i.e. it becomes an electrical conductor when exposed to light or ultra violet radiation) and photoconductive (i.e. the electrical conductivity increases with increasing illumination). These properties mean that selenium has applications in the electronics industry (e.g. in the manufacture of photoelectric cells and solar cells).
  3. Selenium is used in the ceramics and glass industries (in the latter the element being used as a decolouriser and also in the manufacture of red glasses and enamels).
  • Atomic Properties
    Atomic number 34
    Atomic radius - Goldschmidt ( nm ) 0.116
    Atomic weight ( amu ) 78.96
    Crystal structure Hexagonal
    Electronic structure Ar 3d1O 4s2 4p4
    Ionisation potential No. eV
    1 9.75
    2 21.2
    3 30.8
    4 42.9
    5 68.3
    6 81.7
    Natural isotope distribution Mass No. %
    74 0.9
    76 9.0
    77 7.6
    78 23.5
    80 49.8
    82 9.2
    Photo-electric work function ( eV ) 5.9
    Thermal neutron absorption cross-section ( Barns ) 12.2
    Valences shown -2, 4, 6
  • Electrical Properties
    Electrical resistivity @20C ( µOhmcm ) 12
  • Mechanical Properties
    Material condition Polycrystalline
    Bulk modulus ( GPa ) 8.3
    Hardness - Mohs 2.0
    Poisson's ratio 0.447
    Tensile modulus ( GPa ) 58
  • Physical Properties
    Boiling point ( C ) 685
    Density @20C ( g cm-3 ) 4.79
    Melting point ( C ) 217
  • Thermal Properties
    Coefficient of thermal expansion @0-100C ( x10-6 K-1 ) 37
    Latent heat of evaporation ( J g-1 ) 333
    Latent heat of fusion ( J g-1 ) 69
    Specific heat @25C ( J K-1 kg-1 ) 321
    Thermal conductivity @0-100C ( W m-1 K-1 ) 0.5