Graphite is a naturally occurring carbon that is soft and greasy. It can be black or gray in color and leaves a black mark when touched by hand.
Graphite is a unique element because it has the properties of metal and non-metal materials. Despite being soft, it is an excellent conductor of heat and can withstand extremely high temperatures. These properties make it ideal to use in electrodes and crucibles.
However, those are not the only uses of graphite. Its varied properties give graphite the ability to be used for many different purposes. Here are four other uses of graphite that emphasize its importance in our lives.
What we refer to as “lead” in pencils is actually graphite. The connection comes from a long time ago when people used lead to write on papyrus. They started to use graphite to write much later – after a pure graphite deposit was discovered in England. At that time, it was thought to be a type of lead due to its similarities with the material.
Lithium-ion batteries use 10 to 30 times more graphite than lithium. The demand for graphite is exploding to support the production of lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles, laptops, smartphone and other handheld electronic devices. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said it best: “Our cells should be called Nickel-Graphite, because primarily the cathode is nickel and the anode side is graphite with silicon oxide… [there’s] a little bit of lithium in there, but it’s like the salt on the salad.”
Graphene is a super-thin layer of graphite. Some call it a “wonder material” because of its varied properties. It’s the strongest measured material on earth, yet flexible and highly conductive. It’s currently used in sports equipment, medical devices, and solar panels. But it also has immense potential to become an inseparable part of industries such as health, construction, electronics, and energy.
Graphite contains layers of loosely bonded carbon atoms that slide over each other. This gives it a slippery texture and exceptional lubricating properties. Graphite lubricants are used where friction is required without using oil or grease. They are impermeable to water, oil, and alkalis and can be used at high temperatures. Uses include car engines, locks, pumps, and electrical equipment.