Properties & Uses of Compounds of Group 4 Elements

Instructor: Allyn Torres

Allyn has taught high school chemistry, and has a master's degree in curriculum and instruction.

In this lesson, you will learn about the preparation, properties, and uses for compounds made using group 4 elements on the periodic table. Carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, silicon dioxide, silicon carbide, and silicones will be explored.

Group 4 Elements

Summertime - a fan favorite. The days are long, and the nights are short. School is out, and bathing suits are in. Many people take vacations in the summer where they can relax on the beach. One of the key components of beach fun is made of a compound that contains a group 4 element. That's right, your summer getaway would not be possible without silicon dioxide, or as most people call it - sand. Keep reading to learn about other compounds made from group 4 elements.

Carbon Monoxide

One of the most recognizable compounds in this lesson is carbon monoxide. It is typically a gas and is responsible for about 400 deaths each year in the United States.


Carbon monoxide is produced any time fuel (for cars, trucks, or even grills) is burned. Carbon monoxide can also be intentionally manufactured in a laboratory. One of the ways this can be done is by dehydrating formic acid or oxalic acid. There are several other reactions and processes that can be performed to prepare carbon monoxide.


Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas that is colorless, tasteless, and odorless. It is toxic to humans in high concentrations. The fact that none of our senses can detect it is what makes it so dangerous. Carbon monoxide is highly flammable. It has a melting point of -199 °C and a boiling point of -192 °C.


Carbon monoxide is often used as fuel in industrial processes. It is also used as a reducing agent. A reducing agent oxidizes metal by losing its own electrons. Carbon monoxide is also used to make hydrocarbons (compounds made of carbon and hydrogen).

Carbon Dioxide

Another compound that many people are familiar with is carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere through various different methods (we exhale it, it is produced by combustion). Carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere by plants.


Any time an acid reacts with a carbonate (a compound made of carbon and oxygen), carbon dioxide is produced. Many laboratories use hydrochloric acid and calcium carbonate because they are inexpensive chemicals.


Carbon dioxide is a colorless, odorless substance that is typically a gas. It is nontoxic and not flammable. It has a melting point of about -78 °C.


Solid (frozen) carbon dioxide is used to keep food cold when companies ship it to customers and restaurants. It also has several other uses. These include being used as a propellant, in non-pesticide agricultural chemicals, as an additive in fuels, and in fire extinguishers.

Silicon Dioxide

Silicon dioxide is what we commonly call sand. This compound is also found in crystals such as amethyst and quartz.


Silicon dioxide can be manufactured through a chemical reaction. This reaction involves an acid (usually sulfuric acid) reacting with an aqueous alkali metal silicate solution. An aqueous alkali metal silicate solution is a compound made of a metal from group 2 on the periodic table bonded with an ion (charged atom or molecule) containing silicon and oxygen and dissolved in water. The reaction results in silicon dioxide crystals.


Silicon dioxide has a grayish-clear crystal structure that is odorless and irritating to the eyes and skin. It is not toxic to humans. If you've ever eaten sand at the beach and lived to tell about it, you can attest to this fact! It has a boiling point of 2230 °C and a melting point of 1716 °C to 1736 °C.


Silicon dioxide is commonly used in sealant and adhesive chemicals and can be used as an abrasive in industrial settings. It can also be used to adjust the viscosity (thickness) of a substance.

Silicon Carbide

Silicon carbide is composed of one silicon atom and one carbon atom. It is found in nature as the extremely rare mineral moissanite.


Silicon carbide is synthetically made through a mixture of pure silicon dioxide and finely ground carbon powder. An electric current is passed through the mixture. This triggers a chemical reaction that produces silicon carbide and carbon monoxide gas.

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