Difference Between Carbon and Graphite

Carbon vs Graphite

Carbon and graphite are both carbon where graphite is an  allotrope of carbon and the most stable form of carbon. Carbon is a non metal known to mankind since time immemorial. Human beings have been making use of different forms of carbon, also called its allotropes, such as charcoal, graphite soot and diamond. Earlier it was of course not known that all these substances were different forms of carbon only and it was later only when scientists found out about allotropes of carbon. The word carbon is derived from the Latin carbo which means charcoal. Carbon is a naturally occurring element and it is the fourth most abundant element in nature. It plays a crucial role in human as well as plant life through its carbon cycle..


The atomic number of carbon is 6 and it is represented by the letter C. carbon is blessed in the sense that its molecular structure allows it to combine with thousands of other substances making various compounds. It is the study of these compounds which is known as organic chemistry. The molecules of carbon do not combine with other substances only. Carbon atoms combine with each other also in different ways, allowing for the formation of carbon allotropes. One such allotrope of carbon is graphite which is a soft substance. On the other hand another form of carbon is diamond, which is the hardest substance found on our planet. The physical properties of different forms of carbon are totally different.

Carbon, when it is found in its pure form is relatively inactive and non toxic. All living beings contain carbon in the form of carbon dioxide and when they decay they are fossilized providing us with fuels in the form of coal and petroleum. Plants and animals are converted into fossilized fuels through pressure of rocks and passage of time. Some forms of carbon are harmful for human beings such as carbon monoxide.


An allotrope of carbon, it is a soft greasy substance that is used as lead pencils and lubricant. It is also used to make high temperature crucibles, dry cells and electrodes. It was discovered by Abraham Gottlob Werner in 1789 and named it so because of its ability to draw and write (Greek word Graphein). Unlike diamond, graphite is a conductor of electricity. This is why it finds use in electric arc electrodes. Graphite is also considered to be the most stable form of carbon.

It has been found that large number of crystallographic defects cause graphite to lose its lubricity. It then becomes another form of carbon known as pyrolytic carbon which is extremely useful in making prosthetic heart valves.

In its pure glassy form, graphite is very strong and heat resistant which is why it is used to make reentry shields of missiles, high temperature rocket engines, brake shoes and brushes of electric motor engines. Expandable graphite is used to make heat doors that absorb heat during a fire and prevents spread of fumes and flames. Graphite is a very stable form of carbon but at very high temperature, it can be converted into diamond. It burns at 700 degree Celsius forming carbon dioxide.