Graphite

Graphite

Overview
The mineral
Mineral
A mineral is a naturally occurring solid chemical substance formed through biogeochemical processes, having characteristic chemical composition, highly ordered atomic structure, and specific physical properties. By comparison, a rock is an aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids and does not...

 graphite ˈɡræfaɪt is one of the allotropes of carbon
Allotropes of carbon
This is a list of the allotropes of carbon.-Diamond:Diamond is one of the most well known allotropes of carbon. The hardness and high dispersion of light of diamond make it useful for both industrial applications and jewellery. Diamond is the hardest known natural mineral. This makes it an...

. It was named by Abraham Gottlob Werner
Abraham Gottlob Werner
Abraham Gottlob Werner , was a German geologist who set out an early theory about the stratification of the Earth's crust and coined the word Neptunism...

 in 1789 from the Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 γράφω (graphō), "to draw/write", for its use in pencil
Pencil
A pencil is a writing implement or art medium usually constructed of a narrow, solid pigment core inside a protective casing. The case prevents the core from breaking, and also from marking the user’s hand during use....

s, where it is commonly called lead (not to be confused with the metallic element lead
Lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

). Unlike diamond
Diamond
In mineralogy, diamond is an allotrope of carbon, where the carbon atoms are arranged in a variation of the face-centered cubic crystal structure called a diamond lattice. Diamond is less stable than graphite, but the conversion rate from diamond to graphite is negligible at ambient conditions...

 (another carbon allotrope), graphite is an electrical conductor
Electrical conductor
In physics and electrical engineering, a conductor is a material which contains movable electric charges. In metallic conductors such as copper or aluminum, the movable charged particles are electrons...

, a semimetal. It is, consequently, useful in such applications as arc lamp
Arc lamp
"Arc lamp" or "arc light" is the general term for a class of lamps that produce light by an electric arc . The lamp consists of two electrodes, first made from carbon but typically made today of tungsten, which are separated by a gas...

 electrodes.
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Encyclopedia
The mineral
Mineral
A mineral is a naturally occurring solid chemical substance formed through biogeochemical processes, having characteristic chemical composition, highly ordered atomic structure, and specific physical properties. By comparison, a rock is an aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids and does not...

 graphite ˈɡræfaɪt is one of the allotropes of carbon
Allotropes of carbon
This is a list of the allotropes of carbon.-Diamond:Diamond is one of the most well known allotropes of carbon. The hardness and high dispersion of light of diamond make it useful for both industrial applications and jewellery. Diamond is the hardest known natural mineral. This makes it an...

. It was named by Abraham Gottlob Werner
Abraham Gottlob Werner
Abraham Gottlob Werner , was a German geologist who set out an early theory about the stratification of the Earth's crust and coined the word Neptunism...

 in 1789 from the Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 γράφω (graphō), "to draw/write", for its use in pencil
Pencil
A pencil is a writing implement or art medium usually constructed of a narrow, solid pigment core inside a protective casing. The case prevents the core from breaking, and also from marking the user’s hand during use....

s, where it is commonly called lead (not to be confused with the metallic element lead
Lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

). Unlike diamond
Diamond
In mineralogy, diamond is an allotrope of carbon, where the carbon atoms are arranged in a variation of the face-centered cubic crystal structure called a diamond lattice. Diamond is less stable than graphite, but the conversion rate from diamond to graphite is negligible at ambient conditions...

 (another carbon allotrope), graphite is an electrical conductor
Electrical conductor
In physics and electrical engineering, a conductor is a material which contains movable electric charges. In metallic conductors such as copper or aluminum, the movable charged particles are electrons...

, a semimetal. It is, consequently, useful in such applications as arc lamp
Arc lamp
"Arc lamp" or "arc light" is the general term for a class of lamps that produce light by an electric arc . The lamp consists of two electrodes, first made from carbon but typically made today of tungsten, which are separated by a gas...

 electrodes. Graphite is the most stable form of carbon under standard conditions. Therefore, it is used in thermochemistry as the standard state
Standard state
In chemistry, the standard state of a material is a reference point used to calculate its properties under different conditions. In principle, the choice of standard state is arbitrary, although the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry recommends a conventional set of standard states...

 for defining the heat of formation of carbon compounds. Graphite may be considered the highest grade of coal
Coal
Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later exposure to elevated temperature and pressure...

, just above anthracite and alternatively called meta-anthracite, although it is not normally used as fuel because it is difficult to ignite.

There are three principal types of natural graphite, each occurring in different types of ore
Ore
An ore is a type of rock that contains minerals with important elements including metals. The ores are extracted through mining; these are then refined to extract the valuable element....

 deposit:
  1. Crystalline flake graphite (or flake graphite for short) occurs as isolated, flat, plate-like particles with hexagonal edges if unbroken and when broken the edges can be irregular or angular;
  2. Amorphous graphite occurs as fine particles and is the result of thermal metamorphism of coal, the last stage of coalification, and is sometimes called meta-anthracite. Very fine flake graphite is sometimes called amorphous in the trade;
  3. Lump graphite (also called vein graphite) occurs in fissure veins
    Vein (geology)
    In geology, a vein is a distinct sheetlike body of crystallized minerals within a rock. Veins form when mineral constituents carried by an aqueous solution within the rock mass are deposited through precipitation...

     or fractures and appears as massive platy intergrowths of fibrous or acicular crystalline aggregates
    Aggregate (composite)
    Aggregate is the component of a composite material that resists compressive stress and provides bulk to the composite material. For efficient filling, aggregate should be much smaller than the finished item, but have a wide variety of sizes...

    , and is probably hydrothermal in origin.


Highly ordered pyrolytic graphite or highly oriented pyrolytic graphite (HOPG) refers to graphite with an angular spread between the graphite sheets of less than 1°. This highest-quality synthetic form is used in scientific research. The name "graphite fiber" is also sometimes used to refer to carbon fiber or carbon fiber-reinforced polymer
Carbon fiber-reinforced polymer
Carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer or carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic , is a very strong and light fiber-reinforced polymer which contains carbon fibers. The polymer is most often epoxy, but other polymers, such as polyester, vinyl ester or nylon, are sometimes used...

.

Occurrence



Graphite occurs in metamorphic rock
Metamorphic rock
Metamorphic rock is the transformation of an existing rock type, the protolith, in a process called metamorphism, which means "change in form". The protolith is subjected to heat and pressure causing profound physical and/or chemical change...

s as a result of the reduction
Redox
Redox reactions describe all chemical reactions in which atoms have their oxidation state changed....

 of sedimentary
Sedimentary rock
Sedimentary rock are types of rock that are formed by the deposition of material at the Earth's surface and within bodies of water. Sedimentation is the collective name for processes that cause mineral and/or organic particles to settle and accumulate or minerals to precipitate from a solution....

 carbon compounds during metamorphism
Metamorphism
Metamorphism is the solid-state recrystallization of pre-existing rocks due to changes in physical and chemical conditions, primarily heat, pressure, and the introduction of chemically active fluids. Mineralogical, chemical and crystallographic changes can occur during this process...

. It also occurs in igneous rock
Igneous rock
Igneous rock is one of the three main rock types, the others being sedimentary and metamorphic rock. Igneous rock is formed through the cooling and solidification of magma or lava...

s and in meteorite
Meteorite
A meteorite is a natural object originating in outer space that survives impact with the Earth's surface. Meteorites can be big or small. Most meteorites derive from small astronomical objects called meteoroids, but they are also sometimes produced by impacts of asteroids...

s. Minerals associated with graphite include quartz
Quartz
Quartz is the second-most-abundant mineral in the Earth's continental crust, after feldspar. It is made up of a continuous framework of SiO4 silicon–oxygen tetrahedra, with each oxygen being shared between two tetrahedra, giving an overall formula SiO2. There are many different varieties of quartz,...

, calcite
Calcite
Calcite is a carbonate mineral and the most stable polymorph of calcium carbonate . The other polymorphs are the minerals aragonite and vaterite. Aragonite will change to calcite at 380-470°C, and vaterite is even less stable.-Properties:...

, mica
Mica
The mica group of sheet silicate minerals includes several closely related materials having highly perfect basal cleavage. All are monoclinic, with a tendency towards pseudohexagonal crystals, and are similar in chemical composition...

s and tourmaline
Tourmaline
Tourmaline is a crystal boron silicate mineral compounded with elements such as aluminium, iron, magnesium, sodium, lithium, or potassium. Tourmaline is classified as a semi-precious stone and the gem comes in a wide variety of colors...

. In meteorites it occurs with troilite
Troilite
Troilite is a rare iron sulfide mineral with the simple formula of FeS. It is the iron rich endmember of the pyrrhotite group. Pyrrhotite has the formula FeS which is iron deficient...

 and silicate minerals.

According to the United States Geological Survey
United States Geological Survey
The United States Geological Survey is a scientific agency of the United States government. The scientists of the USGS study the landscape of the United States, its natural resources, and the natural hazards that threaten it. The organization has four major science disciplines, concerning biology,...

 (USGS), world production of natural graphite in 2008 was 1,110 thousand tonnes (kt), of which the following major exporters are: China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 (800 kt), India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 (130 kt), Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

 (76 kt), North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

 (30 kt) and Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 (28 kt). Graphite is not mined in US, but US production of synthetic graphite in 2007 was 198 kt valued at $1.18 billion. US graphite consumption was 42 kt and 200 kt for natural and synthetic graphite, respectively.

Structure


Graphite has a layered, planar structure. In each layer, the carbon atoms are arranged in a hexagonal lattice
Hexagonal lattice
The hexagonal lattice or equilateral triangular lattice is one of the five 2D lattice types.Three nearby points form an equilateral triangle. In images four orientations of such a triangle are by far the most common...

 with separation of 0.142 nm, and the distance between planes is 0.335 nm. The two known forms of graphite, alpha (hexagonal) and beta (rhombohedral), have very similar physical properties (except that the graphene
Graphene
Graphene is an allotrope of carbon, whose structure is one-atom-thick planar sheets of sp2-bonded carbon atoms that are densely packed in a honeycomb crystal lattice. The term graphene was coined as a combination of graphite and the suffix -ene by Hanns-Peter Boehm, who described single-layer...

 layers stack slightly differently). The hexagonal graphite may be either flat or buckled. The alpha form can be converted to the beta form through mechanical treatment and the beta form reverts to the alpha form when it is heated above 1300 °C. The layering contributes to its lower density.

Rotating graphite stereogram

Other properties


The acoustic
Acoustics
Acoustics is the interdisciplinary science that deals with the study of all mechanical waves in gases, liquids, and solids including vibration, sound, ultrasound and infrasound. A scientist who works in the field of acoustics is an acoustician while someone working in the field of acoustics...

 and thermal
Thermal
A thermal column is a column of rising air in the lower altitudes of the Earth's atmosphere. Thermals are created by the uneven heating of the Earth's surface from solar radiation, and are an example of convection. The sun warms the ground, which in turn warms the air directly above it...

 properties of graphite are highly anisotropic, since phonons propagate very quickly along the tightly-bound planes, but are slower to travel from one plane to another.

Graphite can conduct electricity due to the vast electron
Electron
The electron is a subatomic particle with a negative elementary electric charge. It has no known components or substructure; in other words, it is generally thought to be an elementary particle. An electron has a mass that is approximately 1/1836 that of the proton...

 delocalization within the carbon layers (a phenomenon called aromaticity
Aromaticity
In organic chemistry, Aromaticity is a chemical property in which a conjugated ring of unsaturated bonds, lone pairs, or empty orbitals exhibit a stabilization stronger than would be expected by the stabilization of conjugation alone. The earliest use of the term was in an article by August...

). These valence electrons are free to move, so are able to conduct electricity. However, the electricity is primarily conducted within the plane of the layers. The conductive properties of powdered graphite allowed its use as a semiconductor substitute in early Carbon microphones
Carbon microphone
The carbon microphone, also known as a carbon button microphone or a carbon transmitter, is a sound-to-electrical signal transducer consisting of two metal plates separated by granules of carbon. One plate faces outward and acts as a diaphragm...

.

Graphite and graphite powder are valued in industrial applications for its self-lubricating and dry lubricating
Lubricant
A lubricant is a substance introduced to reduce friction between moving surfaces. It may also have the function of transporting foreign particles and of distributing heat...

 properties. There is a common belief that graphite's lubricating properties are solely due to the loose interlamellar coupling
Cleavage (crystal)
Cleavage, in mineralogy, is the tendency of crystalline materials to split along definite crystallographic structural planes. These planes of relative weakness are a result of the regular locations of atoms and ions in the crystal, which create smooth repeating surfaces that are visible both in the...

 between sheets in the structure. However, it has been shown that in a vacuum
Vacuum
In everyday usage, vacuum is a volume of space that is essentially empty of matter, such that its gaseous pressure is much less than atmospheric pressure. The word comes from the Latin term for "empty". A perfect vacuum would be one with no particles in it at all, which is impossible to achieve in...

 environment (such as in technologies for use in space
Outer space
Outer space is the void that exists between celestial bodies, including the Earth. It is not completely empty, but consists of a hard vacuum containing a low density of particles: predominantly a plasma of hydrogen and helium, as well as electromagnetic radiation, magnetic fields, and neutrinos....

), graphite is a very poor lubricant. This observation led to the discovery that the lubrication is due to the presence of fluids between the layers, such as air and water, which are naturally adsorbed from the environment. This molecular property is unlike other layered, dry lubricants such as molybdenum disulfide
Molybdenum disulfide
Molybdenum disulfide is the inorganic compound with the formula MoS2. This black crystalline sulfide of molybdenum occurs as the mineral molybdenite. It is the principal ore from which molybdenum metal is extracted. The natural amorphous form is known as the rarer mineral jordisite. MoS2 is less...

. Recent studies suggest that an effect called superlubricity
Superlubricity
Superlubricity is a regime of motion in which friction vanishes or very nearly vanishes.Superlubricity may occur when two crystalline surfaces slide over each other in dry incommensurate contact...

 can also account for graphite's lubricating properties. The use of graphite is limited by its tendency to facilitate pitting corrosion
Pitting corrosion
Pitting corrosion, or pitting, is a form of extremely localized corrosion that leads to the creation of small holes in the metal. The driving power for pitting corrosion is the depassivation of a small area, which becomes anodic while an unknown but potentially vast area becomes cathodic, leading...

 in some stainless steel
Stainless steel
In metallurgy, stainless steel, also known as inox steel or inox from French "inoxydable", is defined as a steel alloy with a minimum of 10.5 or 11% chromium content by mass....

, and to promote galvanic corrosion
Corrosion
Corrosion is the disintegration of an engineered material into its constituent atoms due to chemical reactions with its surroundings. In the most common use of the word, this means electrochemical oxidation of metals in reaction with an oxidant such as oxygen...

 between dissimilar metals (due to its electrical conductivity). It is also corrosive to aluminium in the presence of moisture. For this reason, the US Air Force banned its use as a lubricant in aluminium aircraft, and discouraged its use in aluminium-containing automatic weapons. Even graphite pencil
Pencil
A pencil is a writing implement or art medium usually constructed of a narrow, solid pigment core inside a protective casing. The case prevents the core from breaking, and also from marking the user’s hand during use....

 marks on aluminium parts may facilitate corrosion. Another high-temperature lubricant, hexagonal boron nitride
Boron nitride
Boron nitride is a chemical compound with chemical formula BN, consisting of equal numbers of boron and nitrogen atoms. BN is isoelectronic to a similarly structured carbon lattice and thus exists in various crystalline forms...

, has the same molecular structure as graphite. It is sometimes called white graphite, due to its similar properties.

When a large number of crystallographic defects bind these planes together, graphite loses its lubrication properties and becomes what is known as pyrolytic carbon
Pyrolytic carbon
Pyrolytic carbon is a material similar to graphite, but with some covalent bonding between its graphene sheets as a result of imperfections in its production....

. This material is useful for blood-contacting implants such as artificial heart valve
Artificial heart valve
An artificial heart valve is a device implanted in the heart of a patient with heart valvular disease. When one of the four heart valves malfunctions, the medical choice may be to replace the natural valve with an artificial valve. This requires open-heart surgery.Valves are integral to the normal...

s. It is also highly diamagnetic, thus it will float in mid-air above a strong magnet.

Natural and crystalline graphites are not often used in pure form as structural materials, due to their shear-planes, brittleness and inconsistent mechanical properties.

History of natural graphite use


Graphite was used by the 4th millennium B.C. Marica culture to create a ceramic paint to decorate pottery
Pottery
Pottery is the material from which the potteryware is made, of which major types include earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. The place where such wares are made is also called a pottery . Pottery also refers to the art or craft of the potter or the manufacture of pottery...

 during the Neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 Age in southeastern Europe.

Some time before 1565 (some sources say as early as 1500), an enormous deposit of graphite was discovered on the approach to Grey Knotts
Grey Knotts
Grey Knotts is a fell in the English Lake District, it is situated one kilometre south of the B5289 road as it crosses the Honister Pass, it is well seen from mid Borrowdale as it rises above Seatoller...

 from the hamlet of Seathwaite in Borrowdale parish
Borrowdale
Borrowdale is a valley and civil parish in the English Lake District in the Borough of Allerdale in Cumbria, England.Borrowdale lies within the historic county boundaries of Cumberland, and is sometimes referred to as Cumberland Borrowdale in order to distinguish it from another Borrowdale in the...

, Cumbria, England, which the locals found very useful for marking sheep. During the reign of Elizabeth 1 (1533-1603), Borrowdale graphite was used as a refractory material to line molds for cannon balls, resulting in rounder, smoother balls that could be fired further, contributing to the growing superiority of the English navy. This particular deposit of graphite was extremely pure and soft, and could easily be broken into sticks. Because of its military importance, this unique mine and its production were strictly controlled by the Crown.

Other names


Historically, graphite was called blacklead and plumbago.

Plumbago was commonly used for its massive mineral form. Both of these names arise from confusion with the similar-appearing lead
Lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

 ores, particularly galena
Galena
Galena is the natural mineral form of lead sulfide. It is the most important lead ore mineral.Galena is one of the most abundant and widely distributed sulfide minerals. It crystallizes in the cubic crystal system often showing octahedral forms...

. The Latin word for lead is plumbum, which gave its name to both the English term for this grey metallic-sheened mineral and even the leadworts or plumbago
Plumbago
Plumbago is a genus of 10-20 species of flowering plants in the family Plumbaginaceae, native to warm temperate to tropical regions of the world. Common names include plumbago and leadwort...

s, plants with flowers that resemble this colour.

The term blacklead has usually been applied to a powdered or processed form, where this fine powder then appears as a matte non-metallic black.

Uses of natural graphite


Natural graphite is mostly consumed for refractories, steelmaking, expanded graphite, brake linings, foundry facings and lubricants. Graphene
Graphene
Graphene is an allotrope of carbon, whose structure is one-atom-thick planar sheets of sp2-bonded carbon atoms that are densely packed in a honeycomb crystal lattice. The term graphene was coined as a combination of graphite and the suffix -ene by Hanns-Peter Boehm, who described single-layer...

, which occurs naturally in graphite, has unique physical properties and might be one of the strongest substances known; however, the process of separating it from graphite will require some technological development before it is economically feasible to use it in industrial processes.

Refractories


This end-use begins before 1900 with the graphite crucible
Crucible
A crucible is a container used for metal, glass, and pigment production as well as a number of modern laboratory processes, which can withstand temperatures high enough to melt or otherwise alter its contents...

 used to hold molten metal; this is now a minor part of refractories. In the mid 1980s, the carbon-magnesite
Magnesite
Magnesite is magnesium carbonate, MgCO3. Iron substitutes for magnesium with a complete solution series with siderite, FeCO3. Calcium, manganese, cobalt, and nickel may also occur in small amounts...

 brick became important, and a bit later the alumina-graphite shape. Currently the order of importance is alumina-graphite shapes, carbon-magnesite brick, monolithics (gunning and ramming mixes), and then crucibles.

Crucibles began using very large flake graphite, and carbon-magnesite brick requiring not quite so large flake graphite; for these and others there is now much more flexibility in size of flake required, and amorphous graphite is no longer restricted to low-end refractories. Alumina-graphite shapes are used as continuous casting ware, such as nozzles and troughs, to convey the molten steel from ladle to mold, and carbon magnesite bricks line steel converters and electric arc furnaces to withstand extreme temperatures. Graphite Blocks are also used in parts of blast furnace
Blast furnace
A blast furnace is a type of metallurgical furnace used for smelting to produce industrial metals, generally iron.In a blast furnace, fuel and ore and flux are continuously supplied through the top of the furnace, while air is blown into the bottom of the chamber, so that the chemical reactions...

 linings where the high thermal conductivity of the graphite is critical. High-purity monolithics are often used as a continuous furnace lining instead of the carbon-magnesite bricks.

The US and European refractories industry had a crisis in 2000–2003, with an indifferent market for steel and a declining refractory consumption per tonne of steel underlying firm buyouts and many plant closings. Many of the plant closings resulted from the acquisition of Harbison-Walker Refractories by RHI AG
RHI AG
RHI AG Vienna-based Austrian company specialising in producing heat-resistant refractory products for the steel, cement, glass, lime and non-ferrous metals industries. The company has an annual producing capacity of 2 million tonnes of refractory products, making it the largest company in the...

 some plants had their equipment auctioned off. Since much of the lost capacity was for carbon-magnesite brick, graphite consumption within refractories area moved towards alumina-graphite shapes and monolithics, and away from the brick.The major source of carbon-magnesite brick is now imports from China. Almost all of the above refractories are used to make steel and account for 75% of refractory consumption; the rest is used by a variety of industries, such as cement.

According to the USGS, US natural graphite consumption in refractories was 11,000 tonnes in 2006.

Steelmaking


Natural graphite in this end use mostly goes into carbon raising in molten steel, although it can be used to lubricate the dies used to extrude hot steel. Supplying carbon raisers is very competitive, therefore subject to cut-throat pricing from alternatives such as synthetic graphite powder, petroleum coke, and other forms of carbon. A carbon raiser is added to increase the carbon content of the steel to the specified level. An estimate based on USGS US graphite consumption statistics indicates that 10,500 tonnes were used in this fashion in 2005.

Expanded graphite


Expanded graphite is made by immersing natural flake graphite in a bath of chromic acid
Chromic acid
The term chromic acid is usually used for a mixture made by adding concentrated sulfuric acid to a dichromate, which may contain a variety of compounds, including solid chromium trioxide. This kind of chromic acid may be used as a cleaning mixture for glass. Chromic acid may also refer to the...

, then concentrated sulfuric acid
Sulfuric acid
Sulfuric acid is a strong mineral acid with the molecular formula . Its historical name is oil of vitriol. Pure sulfuric acid is a highly corrosive, colorless, viscous liquid. The salts of sulfuric acid are called sulfates...

, which forces the crystal lattice planes apart, thus expanding the graphite. The expanded graphite can be used to make graphite foil or used directly as "hot top" compound to insulate molten metal in a ladle or red-hot steel ingots and decrease heat loss, or as firestop
Firestop
A firestop is a passive fire protection system of various components used to seal openings and joints in fire-resistance rated wall and/or floor assemblies, based on fire testing and certification listings....

s fitted around a fire door
Fire door
A fire door is a door with a fire-resistance rating used as part of a passive fire protection system to reduce the spread of fire or smoke between compartments and to enable safe egress from a building or structure or ship...

 or in sheet metal collars surrounding plastic pipe (during a fire, the graphite expands and chars to resist fire penetration and spread), or to make high-performance gasket material for high-temperature use. After being made into graphite foil, the foil is machined and assembled into the bipolar plates in fuel cells.
The foil is made into heat sinks for laptop computers which keeps them cool while saving weight, and is made into a foil laminate that can be used in valve packings or made into gaskets. Old-style packings are now a minor member of this grouping: fine flake graphite in oils or greases for uses requiring heat resistance. A GAN estimate of current US natural graphite consumption in this end use is 7,500 tonnes.

Intercalated graphite




Graphite forms intercalation compounds
Graphite intercalation compound
Graphite intercalation compounds are complex materials having formula XCy where element or molecule X is inserted between the graphite layers. In this type of compound, the graphite layers remain largely intact and the guest molecules or atoms are located in between...

 with some metals and small molecules. In these compounds, the host molecule or atom gets "sandwiched" between the graphite layers, resulting in compounds with variable stoichiometry. A prominent example of an intercalation compound is potassium graphite, denoted by the formula KC8. Graphite intercalation compounds are superconductors. The highest transition temperature (by June 2009) Tc = 11.5 K is achieved in CaC6 and it further increases under applied pressure (15.1 K at 8 GPa).

Brake linings


Natural amorphous and fine flake graphite are used in brake linings or brake shoes for heavier (nonautomotive) vehicles, and became important with the need to substitute for asbestos
Asbestos
Asbestos is a set of six naturally occurring silicate minerals used commercially for their desirable physical properties. They all have in common their eponymous, asbestiform habit: long, thin fibrous crystals...

. This use has been important for quite some time, but nonasbestos organic (NAO) compositions are beginning to cost graphite market share. A brake-lining industry shake-out with some plant closings has not helped either, nor has an indifferent automotive market. According to the USGS, US natural graphite consumption in brake linings was 6,510 tonnes in 2005.

Foundry facings and lubricants


A foundry facing mold wash is a water-based paint of amorphous or fine flake graphite. Painting the inside of a mold with it and letting it dry leaves a fine graphite coat that will ease separation of the object cast after the hot metal has cooled. Graphite lubricants are specialty items for use at very high or very low temperatures, as forging die lubricant, an antiseize agent, a gear lubricant for mining machinery, and to lubricate locks. Having low-grit graphite, or even better no-grit graphite (ultra high purity), is highly desirable. It can be used as a dry powder, in water or oil, or as colloidal graphite (a permanent suspension in a liquid). An estimate based on USGS graphite consumption statistics indicates that 2,200 tonnes was used in this fashion in 2005.

Other uses


Natural graphite has found uses as the marking material ("lead") in common pencil
Pencil
A pencil is a writing implement or art medium usually constructed of a narrow, solid pigment core inside a protective casing. The case prevents the core from breaking, and also from marking the user’s hand during use....

s, in zinc-carbon batteries
Zinc-carbon battery
A zinc–carbon dry cell or battery is packaged in a zinc can that serves as both a container and negative terminal. It was developed from the wet Leclanché cell . The positive terminal is a carbon rod surrounded by a mixture of manganese dioxide and carbon powder. The electrolyte used is a paste of...

, in electric motor
Electric motor
An electric motor converts electrical energy into mechanical energy.Most electric motors operate through the interaction of magnetic fields and current-carrying conductors to generate force...

 brushes, and various specialized applications.

Invention of synthetic graphite


Synthetic graphite was invented/discovered by Edward Goodrich Acheson (1856 - 1931). In the mid 1890s, Acheson discovered that overheating carborundum (also called silicon carbide or SiC, which he also invented/discovered) produced almost pure graphite. While studying the effects of high temperature on carborundum, he had found that silicon vaporizes at about 4,150° C (7,500° F), leaving behind graphitic carbon. This graphite was another major discovery for him, and it became extremely valuable and helpful as a lubricant. The Acheson Graphite Co. was formed in 1899. In 1928 this company was merged with National Carbon Co (now Union Carbide). Acheson also developed a variety of colloidal graphite products including Oildag and Aquadag. These were later manufactured by the Acheson Colloids Co. (now Acheson Industries).

Electrodes


These electrodes carry the electricity that melts scrap iron and steel (and sometimes direct-reduced iron: DRI) in electric arc furnaces, the vast majority of steel furnaces. They are made from petroleum coke
Petroleum coke
Petroleum coke is a carbonaceous solid derived from oil refinery coker units or other cracking processes. Other coke has traditionally been derived from coal....

 after it is mixed with coal tar pitch, extruded and shaped, then baked to carbonize the binder (pitch), and then graphitized by heating it to temperatures approaching 3000°C, that converts carbon to graphite. They can vary in size up to 11 ft. long and 30 in. in diameter. An increasing proportion of global steel is made using electric arc furnaces, and the electric arc furnace itself is getting more efficient and making more steel per tonne of electrode. An estimate based on USGS data indicates that graphite electrode consumption was 197,000 tonnes in 2005.

Powder and scrap


The powder is made by heating powdered petroleum coke
Petroleum coke
Petroleum coke is a carbonaceous solid derived from oil refinery coker units or other cracking processes. Other coke has traditionally been derived from coal....

 above the temperature of graphitization, sometimes with minor modifications. The graphite scrap comes from pieces of unusable electrode material (in the manufacturing stage or after use) and lathe turnings, usually after crushing and sizing. Most synthetic graphite powder goes to carbon raising in steel (competing with natural graphite), with some used in batteries and brake linings. According to the USGS, US synthetic graphite powder and scrap production was 95,000 tonnes in 2001 (latest data).

Neutron moderator



Special grades of synthetic graphite also find use as a matrix and neutron moderator
Neutron moderator
In nuclear engineering, a neutron moderator is a medium that reduces the speed of fast neutrons, thereby turning them into thermal neutrons capable of sustaining a nuclear chain reaction involving uranium-235....

 within nuclear reactor
Nuclear reactor
A nuclear reactor is a device to initiate and control a sustained nuclear chain reaction. Most commonly they are used for generating electricity and for the propulsion of ships. Usually heat from nuclear fission is passed to a working fluid , which runs through turbines that power either ship's...

s. Its low neutron cross-section
Neutron cross-section
In nuclear and particle physics, the concept of a neutron cross section is used to express the likelihood of interaction between an incident neutron and a target nucleus. In conjunction with the neutron flux, it enables the calculation of the reaction rate, for example to derive the thermal power...

 also recommends it for use in proposed fusion reactors. Care must be taken that reactor-grade graphite is free of neutron absorbing materials such as boron
Boron
Boron is the chemical element with atomic number 5 and the chemical symbol B. Boron is a metalloid. Because boron is not produced by stellar nucleosynthesis, it is a low-abundance element in both the solar system and the Earth's crust. However, boron is concentrated on Earth by the...

, widely used as the seed electrode in commercial graphite deposition systems—this caused the failure of the Germans' World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 graphite-based nuclear reactors. Since they could not isolate the difficulty they were forced to use far more expensive heavy water
Heavy water
Heavy water is water highly enriched in the hydrogen isotope deuterium; e.g., heavy water used in CANDU reactors is 99.75% enriched by hydrogen atom-fraction...

 moderators. Graphite used for nuclear reactors is often referred to as nuclear graphite
Nuclear Graphite
Nuclear graphite is any grade of graphite, usually electro-graphite, specifically manufactured for use as a moderator or reflector within nuclear reactors...

.

Other uses


Graphite (carbon) fiber and carbon nanotube
Carbon nanotube
Carbon nanotubes are allotropes of carbon with a cylindrical nanostructure. Nanotubes have been constructed with length-to-diameter ratio of up to 132,000,000:1, significantly larger than for any other material...

s are also used in carbon fiber reinforced plastics, and in heat-resistant composites such as reinforced carbon-carbon
Reinforced carbon-carbon
Carbon fibre-reinforced carbon is a composite material consisting of carbon fibre reinforcement in a matrix of graphite. It was developed for the nose cones of intercontinental ballistic missiles, and is most widely known as the material for the nose cone and wing leading edges of the Space Shuttle...

 (RCC). Commercial structures made from carbon fiber graphite composites include fishing rod
Fishing rod
A fishing rod or a fishing pole is a tool used to catch fish, usually in conjunction with the pastime of angling, and can also be used in competition casting. . A length of fishing line is attached to a long, flexible rod or pole: one end terminates in a hook for catching the fish...

s, golf club shafts, bicycle frames, sports car body panels, the fuselage of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and pool cue sticks and have been successfully employed in reinforced concrete
Reinforced concrete
Reinforced concrete is concrete in which reinforcement bars , reinforcement grids, plates or fibers have been incorporated to strengthen the concrete in tension. It was invented by French gardener Joseph Monier in 1849 and patented in 1867. The term Ferro Concrete refers only to concrete that is...

, The mechanical properties of carbon fiber graphite-reinforced plastic composites and grey cast iron
Cast iron
Cast iron is derived from pig iron, and while it usually refers to gray iron, it also identifies a large group of ferrous alloys which solidify with a eutectic. The color of a fractured surface can be used to identify an alloy. White cast iron is named after its white surface when fractured, due...

 are strongly influenced by the role of graphite in these materials. In this context, the term "(100%) graphite" is often loosely used to refer to a pure mixture of carbon reinforcement and resin
Resin
Resin in the most specific use of the term is a hydrocarbon secretion of many plants, particularly coniferous trees. Resins are valued for their chemical properties and associated uses, such as the production of varnishes, adhesives, and food glazing agents; as an important source of raw materials...

, while the term "composite" is used for composite materials with additional ingredients.

Graphite has been used in at least three radar absorbent material
Radar absorbent material
Radar-absorbent material, or RAM, is a class of materials used in stealth technology to disguise a vehicle or structure from radar detection. A material's absorbency at a given frequency of radar wave depends upon its composition...

s. It was mixed with rubber in Sumpf and Schornsteinfeger, which were used on U-boat
U-boat
U-boat is the anglicized version of the German word U-Boot , itself an abbreviation of Unterseeboot , and refers to military submarines operated by Germany, particularly in World War I and World War II...

 snorkels
Submarine snorkel
A submarine snorkel is a device which allows a submarine to operate submerged while still taking in air from above the surface. Navy personnel often refer to it as the snort.-History:...

 to reduce their radar cross section
Radar cross section
Radar cross section is a measure of how detectable an object is with a radar. A larger RCS indicates that an object is more easily detected.An object reflects a limited amount of radar energy...

. It was also used in tiles on early F-117 Nighthawk
F-117 Nighthawk
The Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk was a single-seat, twin-engine stealth ground-attack aircraft formerly operated by the United States Air Force . The F-117A's first flight was in 1981, and it achieved initial operating capability status in October 1983...

s. Modern smokeless powder
Smokeless powder
Smokeless powder is the name given to a number of propellants used in firearms and artillery which produce negligible smoke when fired, unlike the older gunpowder which they replaced...

 is coated in graphite to prevent the buildup of static charge.

Graphite mining, beneficiation, and milling


Graphite is mined around the world by both open pit and underground methods. While flake graphite and amorphous graphite are both mined open pit and underground, lump (vein) graphite is only mined underground in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

. The open pit mines usually employ equipment (i.e. bulldozers) to scoop up the ore, which is usually put in trucks and moved to the plant. Since the original rock is usually lateritized or weathered, this amounts to moving dirt with flecks or pieces of graphite in it from the pit (blasting is seldom required). The underground graphite mines employ drilling and blasting to break up the hard rock (ore), which is then moved by mine cars pulled by a locomotive, or moved by automotive vehicles, to the surface and then to the plant. In less-developed areas of the world, the ore can be mined by pick and shovel and transported by mine cars pushed by a laborer or by women carrying baskets of ore on their heads.

Graphite usually needs beneficiation
Beneficiation
In mining, beneficiation is a variety of processes whereby extracted ore from mining is separated into mineral and gangue, the former suitable for further processing or direct use....

, although thick-bedded amorphous graphite and vein graphite is almost always beneficiated, if beneficiated at all, by laborers hand-picking out the pieces of gangue (rock) and hand-screening the product. The great majority of world flake graphite production is crushed and ground if necessary and beneficiated by flotation. Treating graphite by flotation encounters one big difficulty: graphite is very soft and "marks" (coats) the particles of gangue
Gangue
In mining, gangue is the commercially worthless material that surrounds, or is closely mixed with, a wanted mineral in an ore deposit. The separation of mineral from gangue is known as mineral processing, mineral dressing or ore dressing and it is a necessary and often significant aspect of mining...

. This makes the "marked" gangue particles float off with the graphite to yield a very impure concentrate. There are two ways of obtaining a saleable concentrate or product: regrinding and floating it again and again (up to seven times) to obtain a purer and purer concentrate, or by leaching (dissolving) the gangue with hydrofluoric acid (for a silicate gangue) or hydrochloric acid (for a carbonate gangue).

In the milling process, the incoming graphite products and concentrates can be ground before being classified (sized or screened), with the coarser flake size fractions (below 8 mesh, 8–20 mesh, 20–50 mesh) carefully preserved, and then the carbon contents are determined. Then some standard blends can be prepared from the different fractions, each with a certain flake size distribution and carbon content. Custom blends can also be made for individual customers who want a certain flake size distribution and carbon content. If flake size is unimportant, the concentrate can be ground more freely. Typical final products include a fine powder for use as a slurry in oil drilling; in zirconium
Zirconium
Zirconium is a chemical element with the symbol Zr and atomic number 40. The name of zirconium is taken from the mineral zircon. Its atomic mass is 91.224. It is a lustrous, grey-white, strong transition metal that resembles titanium...

 silicate
Silicate
A silicate is a compound containing a silicon bearing anion. The great majority of silicates are oxides, but hexafluorosilicate and other anions are also included. This article focuses mainly on the Si-O anions. Silicates comprise the majority of the earth's crust, as well as the other...

, sodium silicate
Sodium silicate
Sodium silicate is the common name for a compound sodium metasilicate, Na2SiO3, also known as water glass or liquid glass. It is available in aqueous solution and in solid form and is used in cements, passive fire protection, refractories, textile and lumber processing, and automobiles...

 and isopropyl alcohol
Isopropyl alcohol
Isopropyl alcohol is a common name for a chemical compound with the molecular formula C3H8O. It is a colorless, flammable chemical compound with a strong odor...

 coatings for foundry
Foundry
A foundry is a factory that produces metal castings. Metals are cast into shapes by melting them into a liquid, pouring the metal in a mold, and removing the mold material or casting after the metal has solidified as it cools. The most common metals processed are aluminum and cast iron...

 molds; and a carbon raiser in the steel
Steel
Steel is an alloy that consists mostly of iron and has a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1% by weight, depending on the grade. Carbon is the most common alloying material for iron, but various other alloying elements are used, such as manganese, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten...

 industry (Synthetic graphite powder and powdered petroleum coke can also be used as carbon raiser). Rough graphite is typically classified, ground, and packaged at a graphite mill; often the more complex formulations are also mixed and packaged at the mill facility. Environmental impacts from graphite mills consist of air pollution including fine particulate exposure of workers and also soil contamination
Soil contamination
Soil contamination or soil pollution is caused by the presence of xenobiotic chemicals or other alteration in the natural soil environment....

 from powder spillages leading to heavy metals
Heavy metals
A heavy metal is a member of a loosely-defined subset of elements that exhibit metallic properties. It mainly includes the transition metals, some metalloids, lanthanides, and actinides. Many different definitions have been proposed—some based on density, some on atomic number or atomic weight,...

 contaminations of soil. Dust masks are normally worn by workers during the production process to avoid worker exposure to the fine airborne graphite and zircon
Zircon
Zircon is a mineral belonging to the group of nesosilicates. Its chemical name is zirconium silicate and its corresponding chemical formula is ZrSiO4. A common empirical formula showing some of the range of substitution in zircon is 1–x4x–y...

 silicate.

Graphite recycling


The most common way graphite is recycled occurs when synthetic graphite electrodes are either manufactured and pieces are cut off or lathe turnings are discarded, or the electrode (or other) are used all the way down to the electrode holder. A new electrode replaces the old one, but a sizeable piece of the old electrode remains. This is crushed and sized, and the resulting graphite powder is mostly used to raise the carbon content of molten steel. Graphite-containing refractories are sometimes also recycled, but often not because of their graphite: the largest-volume items, such as carbon-magnesite bricks that contain only 15–25% graphite, usually contain too little graphite. However, some recycled carbon-magnesite brick is used as the basis for furnace repair materials, and also crushed carbon-magnesite brick is used in slag conditioners. While crucibles have a high graphite content, the volume of crucibles used and then recycled is very small.

A high-quality flake graphite product that closely resembles natural flake graphite can be made from steelmaking kish. Kish is a large-volume near-molten waste skimmed from the molten iron feed to a basic oxygen furnace, and is a mix of graphite (precipitated out of the supersaturated iron), lime-rich slag, and some iron. The iron is recycled on site, so what is left is a mixture of graphite and slag. The best recovery process uses hydraulic classification (Which utilizes a flow of water to separate minerals by specific gravity: graphite is light and settles nearly last.) to get a 70% graphite rough concentrate. Leaching
Leaching (chemical science)
Leaching is the process of extracting minerals from a solid by dissolving them in a liquid, either in nature or through an industrial process. In the chemical processing industry, leaching has a variety of commercial applications, including separation of metal from ore using acid, and sugar from...

 this concentrate with hydrochloric acid
Hydrochloric acid
Hydrochloric acid is a solution of hydrogen chloride in water, that is a highly corrosive, strong mineral acid with many industrial uses. It is found naturally in gastric acid....

 gives a 95% graphite product with a flake size ranging from 10 mesh down.

See also


  • Carbon fiber
  • Carbon nanotube
    Carbon nanotube
    Carbon nanotubes are allotropes of carbon with a cylindrical nanostructure. Nanotubes have been constructed with length-to-diameter ratio of up to 132,000,000:1, significantly larger than for any other material...

  • Diamond
    Diamond
    In mineralogy, diamond is an allotrope of carbon, where the carbon atoms are arranged in a variation of the face-centered cubic crystal structure called a diamond lattice. Diamond is less stable than graphite, but the conversion rate from diamond to graphite is negligible at ambient conditions...

  • Exfoliated graphite nano-platelets
    Exfoliated Graphite Nano-Platelets
    Exfoliated graphite nano-platelets are new types of nanoparticles made from graphite. These nanoparticles consist of small stacks of graphene that are 1 to 15 nanometers thick, with diameters ranging from sub-micrometre to 100 micrometres...

  • Fullerene
    Fullerene
    A fullerene is any molecule composed entirely of carbon, in the form of a hollow sphere, ellipsoid, or tube. Spherical fullerenes are also called buckyballs, and they resemble the balls used in association football. Cylindrical ones are called carbon nanotubes or buckytubes...

  • Graphene
    Graphene
    Graphene is an allotrope of carbon, whose structure is one-atom-thick planar sheets of sp2-bonded carbon atoms that are densely packed in a honeycomb crystal lattice. The term graphene was coined as a combination of graphite and the suffix -ene by Hanns-Peter Boehm, who described single-layer...

  • Graphite intercalation compound
    Graphite intercalation compound
    Graphite intercalation compounds are complex materials having formula XCy where element or molecule X is inserted between the graphite layers. In this type of compound, the graphite layers remain largely intact and the guest molecules or atoms are located in between...

  • Intumescent
    Intumescent
    An intumescent is a substance which swells as a result of heat exposure, thus increasing in volume, and decreasing in density. Intumescents are typically used in passive fire protection and, in America, require listing and approval use and compliance in their installed configurations in order to...

  • Lonsdaleite
    Lonsdaleite
    Lonsdaleite , also called hexagonal diamond in reference to the crystal structure, is an allotrope of carbon with a hexagonal lattice. In nature, it forms when meteorites containing graphite strike the Earth. The great heat and stress of the impact transforms the graphite into diamond, but retains...

  • Passive fire protection
    Passive fire protection
    Passive fire protection is an integral component of the three components of structural fire protection and fire safety in a building. PFP attempts to contain fires or slow the spread, through use of fire-resistant walls, floors, and doors...

  • Plumbago drawing
    Plumbago drawing
    Plumbago drawings are graphite drawings from the 17th and 18th centuries. There was a group of artists whose work in plumbago is remarkable for their portraits drawn with finely pointed pieces of graphite and on vellum. Initially these works were often prepared as the basis of an engraving...

  • Pyrolytic carbon
    Pyrolytic carbon
    Pyrolytic carbon is a material similar to graphite, but with some covalent bonding between its graphene sheets as a result of imperfections in its production....



External links