General considerations and terminology of graphite

The origin of the word “graphite” is the Greek word “graphein” which means “to write”. Indeed, graphite has been used to write and draw since the dawn of history and the first pencils were manufactured in England in the 15th century. In the 18th century, it was demonstrated that graphite actually is an allotrope of carbon.

Graphite is remarkable for the large variety of materials that can be produced from its basic form such as extremely strong fibers, easily sheared lubricants, gas-tight barriers, and gas absorbers. All these diverse materials have one characteristic in common: they are all built upon the trigonal sp2 bonding of carbon atoms.

Strictly speaking, the term “graphite” by itself describes an ideal material with a perfect graphite structure and no defects whatsoever. However, it is also used commonly, albeit incorrectly, to describe graphitic materials. These materials are either “graphitic carbons”, that is, materials consisting of carbon with the graphite structure, but with a number of structural defects, or “non-graphitic carbons”, that is, materials consisting of carbon atoms with the planar hexagonal networks of the graphite structure, but lacking the crystallographic order in the c direction. This is a fundamental difference and these two groups of materials are distinct in many respects, with distinct properties and different applications.

As a reminder and as mentioned in Ch.1, the term “carbon” by itself should describe the element and nothing else. To describe a materials, it is coupled with a qualifier, such as “carbon black”, “activated carbon, ” “vitreous carbon, ” “amorphous carbon, ” and others.

 

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