WHAT IS GRAPHITE AND WHAT IS GRAPHITE MADE OF?
Graphite is one form (allotrope) of the element carbon. In graphite, carbon atoms are arranged in layers. This layering gives graphite many of its properties.
How is Graphite Made?
Graphite can be found naturally or may be created synthetically. Naturally occurring deposits of graphite (formed through a combination of igneous and metamorphic physical processes) are mined in a number of different countries, including China, Madagascar, Brazil and Canada. Synthetic graphite is made by heating a variety of carbon containing substances (including petrochemicals, pitch, coal or acetylene). When super-heated (to temperatures higher than 4000°C) the carbon atoms rearrange themselves into layers to form graphite. Synthetic graphite is recognized to have greater purity than naturally occurring graphite.
Where Can You Find Graphite?
Graphite occurs naturally in many different countries across the globe, usually as a result of metamorphic or igneous processes (the effects of extreme heating and/or pressure on the carbon – this may be the result of volcanic and/or tectonic activity). Countries where graphite deposits are found and mined include Brazil, China, Sri Lanka, Turkey, India, Canada, Madagascar and North Korea.
What Elements Make Up Graphite?
Graphite is made of pure carbon. Carbon atoms are capable of forming bonds which create a number of different structures. Diamond and graphite are two of the most well-known forms (allotropes) of carbon. Although each allotrope is made of carbon, the different arrangement of the carbon atoms results in very different physical properties (for example diamond is a very hard substance, whereas graphite is much more malleable.
Why Does Graphite Have a High Melting Point?
The carbon atoms in graphite molecules are held in place using covalent bonds. Covalent bonds involve the sharing of electrons between atoms and are very strong. Breaking the bonds (which is required in order for the graphite to change state from solid to liquid (to melt)) needs a relatively large amount of energy. This means a significant amount of heat energy is needed to melt graphite, hence its high melting point.