Different Forms of Carbon

There are several different allotropes or forms of carbon. Each form has a different molecular structure. The forms include amorphous, graphite, diamond, and fullerene.

The term amorphous means lacking a definite form or having no specific shape. In chemistry, the term amorphous means that the substance is lacking a crystalline form. For example, soot is an amorphous carbon that is a dark powdery deposit of unburned fuel residues. Glass, amber, wax, rubber, and plastics are other examples of amorphous substances. Amorphous carbon has been found in comets.

However, the other forms of carbon—diamonds, graphites, and fullerenes—have definite crystalline forms. Graphite is a very soft mineral consisting of loosely bond atoms arranged in a two-dimensional crystalline form that looks like a thin flat plane. This property makes graphite a good natural lubricant because it's flat, planar structure allows the nanoscale sheets of graphite to slide past one another easily. Although the mineral is soft, graphite's strength and its ability to conduct electricity makes the mineral especially useful in nano-technology.

There are two main classifications of graphite, natural and synthetic. Graphite minerals can be found naturally in the Earth's crust. Synthetic graphite is made from petroleum coke.

Besides pencil production, graphite is also used to manufacture crucibles, ladles, and moulds for containing molten metals. Graphite is mainly used as electrical material in the manufacturing of carbon brushes in electric motors. Highly pure graphite is used in large amounts for the production of moderator rods and other components in nuclear reactors. The moderator in the nuclear reactor is used to slow down the neutrons so that the right speed is maintained for a steady fission rate.

Some other uses of graphite include:

• Aerospace applications

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