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What is Graphite?

11/8/2013 7:59:24 AM | by Anonymous


Graphite is an allotrope of the element carbon which means that one of the number different forms of pure element with a unique arrangement of its atoms as compared to other forms of carbon. The arrangement of the carbon atoms in graphite molecules gives this substance some unique properties and it can be used as a lubricant.


Graphite has characteristics that are normally only attributed to metals and is also similar to coal. This unusual combination of characteristics makes graphite more suitable for a number of different applications.


The name for this substance graphite was coined from a German geologist in the 18th century who adapted the Greek word “Grapho” which means to write or draw because of its use in pencils that is used commonly in today’s world. Using this application, graphite is often called as “lead” or “pencil lead” but this can be misleading as it is not lead at all. It is a naturally occurring mineral that is composed of pure elemental carbon.


The physical properties of graphite are very similar to coal and its molecules are arranged in hexagon shaped lattices that form sheet like arrangements. This molecular configuration can contribute to graphite’s excellent properties as a lubricant in both a dry form and in liquid form that is usually oil. It is one of the softest minerals and can easily scratch with a fingernail. It usually appears as a slivery and dark solid.


Graphite is like coal which is chemically identical. Sometimes graphite can be found in large veins within certain metamorphic rocks or in small scattered flakes within a variety of minerals. The properties of graphite can make it unsuitable for use as a fuel as it is very hard to burn likewise graphite is chemically inert and stable.


One of the most interesting properties of graphite is its conductivity. It can conduct electricity which is unusual for a substance that is not metal especially if one other elemental carbon allotrope is diamond and is not conductive at all but in fact it is a very good insulator. Though, it is not conductive as metal however it is sometimes classified as a semiconductor.


Another interesting property of graphite is that it has strong anisotropic properties of sound and heat conduction. This means that the graphite can conduct sound and heat in one direction very well while doing so poorly in other directions.


In the science industry, they have found many uses for graphite and there are many applications such as filler for pencils and a wide range of highly effective lubricants. The properties of the graphite has make it suitable for use in the manufacture of steel, high strength, light weight composite materials and component of composite brake pads among other numerous uses.


The softness of the graphite would seem to make a strange choice for high strength composites like those used in fishing and skis poles but the flat sheet formations of its molecules can make it soft. These sheets can be formed and rolled into fibers with enormous strength due to the powerful bonds between the individual atoms.

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