|Color||Steel black, to gray|
|Crystal habit||Tabular, six-sided foliated masses, granular to compacted masses|
|Crystal system||Hexagonal (6/m 2/m 2/m)|
|Cleavage||Perfect in one direction|
|Fracture||Flaky, otherwise rough when not on cleavage|
|Mohs scale hardness||1–2|
The mineral graphite is one of the allotropes of carbon. It was named by Abraham Gottlob Werner in 1789 from the Greek γραφειν (graphein): "to draw/write", for its use in pencils, where it is commonly called lead, as distinguished from the actual metallic element lead. Unlike diamond (another carbon allotrope), graphite is an electrical conductor, a semimetal, and can be used, for instance, in the electrodes of an arc lamp. Graphite holds the distinction of being the most stable form of carbon under standard conditions. Therefore, it is used in thermochemistry as the standard state for defining the heat of formation of carbon compounds. Graphite may be considered the highest grade of coal, just above anthracite and alternatively called meta-anthracite, although it is not normally used as fuel because it is hard to ignite.
There are three principal types of natural graphite, each occurring in different types of ore deposit:
Highly Ordered Pyrolytic Graphite or Highly Oriented Pyrolytic Graphite (HOPG) refers to graphite with an angular spread of the 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.
Minerals associated with graphite include quartz, calcite, micas, iron meteorites, and tourmalines. Graphite has various other characteristics. Thin flakes are flexible but inelastic, the mineral can leave black marks on hands and paper, it conducts electricity, and displays superlubricity. Its best field indicators are softness, luster, density and streak.
According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), world production of natural graphite in 2008 was 1,110 thousand tonnes (kt), of which the following major exporters are: China (800 kt), India (130 kt), Brazil (76 kt), North Korea (30 kt) and Canada (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.
Graphite is a layered compound. In each layer, the carbon atoms are arranged in a hexagonal lattice 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 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.
Graphite can conduct electricity due to the vast electron delocalization within the carbon layers (a phenomenon called aromaticity). These valence electrons are free to move, so are able to conduct electricity. However, the electricity is only conducted within the plane of the layers.
Graphite and graphite powder are valued in industrial applications for its self-lubricating and dry lubricating properties. There is a common belief that graphite's lubricating properties are solely due to the loose interlamellar coupling between sheets in the structure. However, it has been shown that in a vacuum environment (such as in technologies for use in space), 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. Recent studies suggest that an effect called superlubricity can also account for graphite's lubricating properties. The use of graphite is limited by its tendency to facilitate pitting corrosion in some stainless steel, and to promote galvanic corrosion between dissimilar metals (due to its electrical conductivity). It is also corrosive to aluminium in 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 marks on aluminium parts may facilitate corrosion . Another high-temperature lubricant, hexagonal boron nitride, 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. This material is useful for blood-contacting implants such as artificial heart valves. 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.
Some time before 1565 (some sources say as early as 1500), an enormous deposit of graphite was discovered on the approach to Grey Knotts from the hamlet of Seathwaite in Borrowdale parish, Cumbria, England, which the locals found very useful for marking sheep. This particular deposit of graphite was extremely pure and soft, and could easily be broken into sticks. This remains the only deposit of graphite found in this packed form.
Natural graphite is mostly consumed for refractories, steelmaking, expanded graphite, brake linings, and foundry facings-lubricants. Graphene, 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.
This end-use begins before 1900 with the graphite crucible used to hold molten metal; this is now a minor part of refractories. In the mid 1980s, the carbon-magnesite 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 mould, 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 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 RHI acquisition of Harbison-Walker Refractories; 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.
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. A GAN consumption estimate based on USGS US graphite consumption statistics indicates that 10,500 tonnes were used in this fashion in 2005.
Expanded graphite is made by immersing natural flake graphite in a bath of chromic acid, then concentrated sulfuric acid, 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 firestops fitted around a fire door 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.
Graphite forms intercalation compounds 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).
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. 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.
A foundry facing or 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 a wire die extrusion 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.
These electrodes carry the electricity that heats electric arc furnaces, the vast majority steel furnaces. They are made from petroleum coke after it is mixed with petroleum pitch, extruded and shaped, then baked to sinter it, and then graphitized by heating it above the temperature (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.
The powder is made by heating powdered petroleum coke 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).
Special grades of synthetic graphite also find use as a matrix and neutron moderator within nuclear reactors. Its low neutron cross-section 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, widely used as the seed electrode in commercial graphite deposition systems—this caused the failure of the Germans' World War II graphite-based nuclear reactors. Since they could not isolate the difficulty they were forced to use far more expensive heavy water moderators. Graphite used for nuclear reactors is often referred to as nuclear graphite.
Graphite (carbon) fiber and carbon nanotubes are also used in carbon fiber reinforced plastics, and in heat-resistant composites such as reinforced carbon-carbon (RCC). Products made from carbon fiber graphite composites include fishing rods, golf clubs, bicycle frames, and pool sticks and have been successfully employed in reinforced concrete. The mechanical properties of carbon fiber graphite-reinforced plastic composites and grey cast iron 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, while the term "composite" is used for composite materials with additional ingredients.
Graphite has been used in at least three radar absorbent materials. It was mixed with rubber in Sumpf and Schornsteinfeger, which were used on U-boat snorkels to reduce their radar cross section. It was also used in tiles on early F-117 Nighthawks. Modern smokeless powder is coated in graphite to prevent the buildup of static charge.
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. 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, 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. 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 silicate, sodium silicate and isopropyl alcohol coatings for foundry molds; and a carbon raiser in the steel industry ( Synthetic graphite powder and powdered petroleum coke can also be used as carbon raiser)(Earth Metrics, 1989). 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 from powder spillages leading to heavy metals 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 silicate.
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 this concentrate with hydrochloric acid gives a 95% graphite product with a flake size ranging from 10 mesh down.
Image:graphite stereo animation.gif - Rotating graphite stereogram
GRAPHITE, a mineral species consisting of the element carbon crystallized in the rhombohedral system. Chemically, it is thus indentical with the cubic mineral diamond, but between the two there are very wide differences in physical characters. Graphite is black and opaque, whilst diamond is colourless and transparent; it is one of the softest (H= I) of minerals, and diamond the hardest of all; it is a good conductor of electricity, whilst diamond is a bad conductor. The specific gravity is 2.2, that of diamond is 3.5. Further, unlike diamond, it never occurs as distinctly developed crystals, but only as imperfect six-sided plates and scales. There is a perfect cleavage parallel to the surface of the scales, and the cleavage flakes are flexible but not elastic. The material is greasy to the touch, and soils everything with which it comes into contact. The lustre is bright and metallic. In its external characters graphite is thus strikingly similar to molybdenite.
The name graphite, given by A. G. Werner in 1789, is from the Greek 'ypa4ew, " to write," because the mineral is used for making pencils. Earlier names, still in common use, are plumbago and black-lead, but since the mineral contains no lead these names are singularly inappropriate. Plumbago (Lat. plumbum, lead) was originally used for an artificial product obtained from lead ore, and afterwards for the ore (galena) itself; it was confused both with graphite and with molybdenite. The true chemical nature of graphite was determined by K. W. Scheele in 1779.
Graphite occurs mainly in the older crystalline rocks - gneiss, granulite, schist and crystalline limestone - and also sometimes in granite: it is found as isolated scales embedded in these rocks, or as large irregular masses or filling veins. It has also been observed as a product of contact-metamorphism in carbonaceous clay-slates near their contact with granite, and where igneous rocks have been intruded into beds of coal; in these cases the mineral has clearly been derived from organic matter. The graphite found in granite and in veins in gneiss, as well as that contained in meteoric irons, cannot have had such an origin. As an artificial product, graphite is well known as dark lustrous scales in grey pig-iron, and in the "kish" of iron furnaces: it is also produced artificially on a large scale, together with .carborundum, in the electric furnace (see below). The graphite veins in the older crystalline rocks are probably akin to metalliferous veins and the material derived from deep-seated sources; the decomposition of metallic carbides by water and the reduction of hydrocarbon vapours have been suggested as possible modes of origin. Such veins often attain a thickness of several feet, and sometimes possess a columnar structure perpendicular to the enclosing walls; they are met with in the crystalline limestones and other Laurentian rocks of New York and Canada, in the gneisses of the Austrian Alps and the granulites of Ceylon. Other localities which have yielded the mineral in large amount are the Alibert mine in Irkutsk, Siberia and the Borrowdale mine in Cumberland. The Santa Maria mines of Sonora, Mexico, probably the richest deposits in the world, supply the American lead pencil manufacturers. The graphite of New York, Pennsylvania and Alabama is "flake" and unsuitable for this purpose.
Graphite is used for the manufacture of pencils, dry lubricants, grate polish, paints, crucibles and for foundry facings. The material as mined usually does not contain more than 20 to 50% of graphite: the ore has therefore to be crushed and the graphite floated off in water from the heavier impurities. Even the purest forms contain a small percentage of volatile matter and ash. The Cumberland graphite, which is especially suitable for pencils, contains about 12% of impurities. (L. J. S.) Artificial Manufacture. - The alteration of carbon at high temperatures into a material resembling graphite has long been known. In 1893 Girard and Street patented a furnace and a process by which this transformation could be effected. Carbon powder compressed into a rod was slowly passed through a tube in which it was subjected to the action of one or more electric arcs. E. G. Acheson, in 1896, patented an application of his, carborundum process to graphite manufacture, and in 1899 the International Acheson Graphite Co. was formed, employing electric current from the Niagara Falls. Two procedures are adopted: (1) graphitization of moulded carbons; (2) graphitization of anthracite en masse. The former includes electrodes, lamp carbons, &c. Coke, or some other form of amorphous carbon, is mixed with a little tar, and the required article moulded in a press or by a die. The articles are slacked transversely in a furnace, each being packed in granular coke and covered with carborundum. At first the current is 3000 amperes at 220 volts, increasing to 9000 amperes at 20 volts after 20 hours. In graphitizing en masse large lumps of anthracite are treated in the electric furnace. A soft, unctuous form results on treating carbon with ash or silica in special furnaces, and this gives the so-called "deflocculated" variety when treated with gallotannic acid. These two modifications are valuable lubricants. The massive graphite is very easily machined and is widely used for electrodes, dynamo brushes, lead pencils and the like.
See "Graphite and its Uses," Bull. Imperial Institute, (1906) p. 353, (1907) p. 70; F. Cirkel, Graphite (Ottawa, 1907). (W. G. M.)
[[File:|thumb|Graphite]] Graphite, like diamond, is an allotrope of carbon. They are very similar to each other but the structure of the atom affects the chemical and physical properties. Graphite is made of layers of carbon atoms. These layers can slide over each other very easily. This means that it is very soft. It is a dull gray in appearance. Due to the delocalized electrons between the layers, it can conduct electricity very well.
Graphite can be formed from coal put under high heat and pressure. Also, graphite can be turned into diamond with enough heat and pressure. This is how synthetic (man-made) diamonds are made.