Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
|Chemical formula||Carbon, C|
|Colour||Steel black, to grey.|
|Crystal habit||Tabular, six-sided foliated masses, granular to compacted masses.|
|Cleavage||Perfect in one direction.|
|Fracture||Flaky, otherwise rough when not on clevage|
|Mohs Scale hardness||1 - 2|
|Luster||Dull metallic, earthy|
|Diamond||Another allotrope of carbon|
Graphite (named by Abraham Gottlob Werner in 1789, from the Greek γραφειν: "to draw/write", for its use in pencils) is one of the allotropes of carbon. (See also allotropes of carbon.) Unlike diamond, graphite is a conductor, and can be used, for instance, as the material in the electrodes of an electrical arc lamp.
Each carbon atom possesses an sp2 orbital hybridisation. The pi orbital electrons delocalized across the hexagonal atomic sheets of carbon contribute the graphite's conductivity. In an oriented piece of graphite, conductivity parallel to these sheets is greater than that perpendicular to these sheets.
The loose coupling among the sheets in graphite contributes to another industrially important property -- graphite powder is used as a dry lubricant. Recent studies suggest that an effect called superlubricity can also account for this effect.
It is not often used in pure form as a structural material (with the exception of RCC) due to its brittleness, but the mechanical properties of carbon fiber composites and grey cast iron are strongly influenced by the role of graphite in these materials.
Other characteristics: thin flakes are flexible but inelastic, mineral can leave black marks on hands and paper, conducts electricity, and displays superlubricity.
Notable occurrences include New York and Texas, USA; Russia; Mexico; Greenland and India.
Best field indicators are softness, luster, density and streak.
See allotropes of carbon for a comparison with diamond.
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