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Graphite vs. Carbon: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on January 12, 2024
Graphite is a form of carbon, a naturally occurring element, distinguished by its crystalline structure and conductivity.

Key Differences

Graphite, a naturally occurring form of carbon, is known for its black, opaque appearance and greasy texture. Unlike carbon, which is a fundamental chemical element found in various forms, graphite is specific in its hexagonal crystalline structure.
Carbon, an element in the periodic table, is essential for life and found in various forms, while graphite is one of its allotropes, showcasing a layer-like structure. This unique arrangement in graphite gives it different properties compared to other forms of carbon.
In graphite, carbon atoms are arranged in sheets that slide over each other, making it a good lubricant. Carbon, in its broader sense, can form various compounds and structures, ranging from diamonds to gases like carbon dioxide.
Graphite's electrical conductivity is a result of its free electrons within its layers, a property not shared by all forms of carbon. Carbon, in other forms like diamond, is an electrical insulator, highlighting the diversity within the element's forms.
In terms of industrial use, graphite is utilized in pencils and as a lubricant, capitalizing on its soft, layered structure. Carbon, in its broader applications, is fundamental in fuels, plastics, and biological processes, showcasing its versatility.

Comparison Chart


Hexagonal crystalline structure
Exists in various forms (allotropic)

Electrical Conductivity

Conductive due to free electrons
Varies; non-conductive in forms like diamond

Physical Appearance

Black, opaque, greasy texture
Varies; can be transparent (diamond) or gaseous (CO2)

Industrial Use

Used in pencils, lubricants
Used in fuels, plastics, life processes

Natural Occurrence

One of the most stable forms of carbon
Element found in all living organisms

Graphite and Carbon Definitions


Graphite conducts electricity.
Graphite rods are used in electrochemical applications due to their conductivity.


Carbon forms the basis of all known life.
The human body is made up of about 18% carbon.


Graphite is known for its lubricating properties.
Graphite is often used as a lubricant in machinery.


Carbon is a chemical element with symbol C.
Carbon is essential for organic chemistry.


Graphite is a soft, black, crystalline form of carbon.
The core of your pencil is made of graphite.


Carbon is found in fossil fuels like coal and oil.
Burning carbon-based fuels releases energy and CO2.


Graphite is a common allotrope of carbon.
Graphite and diamond are different allotropes of carbon.


Carbon is used in carbon dating techniques.
Scientists use carbon dating to determine the age of ancient artifacts.


A soft crystalline allotrope of carbon, composed of graphene layers, having a steel-gray to black metallic luster and a greasy feel, used in lead pencils, lubricants, paints and coatings, and fabricated into a variety of forms such as molds, bricks, electrodes, crucibles, and rocket nozzles. Also called black lead, plumbago.


Carbon exists in various allotropes, including diamond and graphite.
Diamond, a form of carbon, is one of the hardest natural substances.


An allotrope of carbon, consisting of planes of carbon atoms arranged in hexagonal arrays with the planes stacked loosely, that is used as a dry lubricant, in "lead" pencils, and as a moderator in some nuclear reactors.


Symbol C An abundant nonmetallic element that occurs in many inorganic and in all organic compounds, exists freely in amorphous, graphite, and diamond forms and as a constituent of coal, limestone, and petroleum, and is capable of chemical self-bonding to form an enormous number of chemically, biologically, and commercially important molecules. Other significant allotropes include fullerenes and nanotubes. Atomic number 6; atomic weight 12.011; sublimation point 3,825°C; triple point 4,489°C; specific gravity of amorphous carbon 1.8 to 2.1, of diamond 3.15 to 3.53, of graphite 1.9 to 2.3; valence 2, 3, 4. See Periodic Table.


Short for graphite-reinforced plastic, a composite plastic made with graphite fibers noted for light weight strength and stiffness.
Modern tennis racquets are made of graphite, fibreglass and other man-made materials.


A carbon-containing gas, notably carbon dioxide, or a collection of such gases, especially when considered as a contributor to the greenhouse effect
Plans for capturing and sequestering carbon produced by power plants.


A grey colour, resembling graphite or the marks made with a graphite pencil.


A sheet of carbon paper.


(transitive) To apply graphite to.


Native carbon in hexagonal crystals, also foliated or granular massive, of black color and metallic luster, and so soft as to leave a trace on paper. It is used for pencils (improperly called lead pencils), for crucibles, and as a lubricator, etc. Often called plumbago or black lead.


Used as a lubricant and as a moderator in nuclear reactors


Graphite is used in making refractory materials.
Graphite is a key component in heat-resistant bricks for furnaces.


Is graphite soft or hard?

Graphite is soft and slippery.

Can graphite conduct electricity?

Yes, graphite conducts electricity due to its free electrons.

What is graphite?

Graphite is a crystalline form of carbon with a layered structure.

How is graphite used industrially?

Graphite is used in pencils, as a lubricant, and in refractory materials.

Are diamonds made of graphite?

No, diamonds are another form of carbon, not made from graphite.

Is carbon a metal?

No, carbon is a nonmetal.

Is carbon found in the air?

Yes, carbon is found in the air mainly as carbon dioxide.

What are carbon's physical states?

Carbon can be solid (diamond, graphite), gaseous (CO2), and in other forms.

What is carbon's role in the environment?

Carbon is a key component in the carbon cycle, essential for life.

What is the significance of carbon in biology?

Carbon is essential for forming organic compounds and life.

How is graphite formed naturally?

Graphite forms under high pressure and temperature in the earth.

Where is carbon found?

Carbon is found in all living organisms and in various inorganic forms.

Is carbon renewable?

While carbon itself is not renewable, its compounds like CO2 are cycled in nature.

What is the difference between graphite and charcoal?

Graphite is a pure form of carbon, while charcoal is a mixture of carbon and other substances.

Can graphite be used in batteries?

Yes, graphite is used as an electrode material in lithium-ion batteries.

Can graphite form diamonds?

Under high pressure and temperature, graphite can transform into diamond.

Is carbon dioxide harmful?

In high concentrations, CO2 can be harmful and contribute to global warming.

How is graphite different from graphene?

Graphene is a single layer of carbon atoms, while graphite consists of multiple graphene layers.

What is the significance of carbon in the climate?

Carbon emissions from fossil fuels significantly impact climate change.

What are carbon nanotubes?

Carbon nanotubes are cylindrical nanostructures made of carbon atoms.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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