The key difference between carbon and graphite is that the carbon is a chemical element whereas the graphite is an allotrope of carbon.
Carbon and graphite are both carbon forms where graphite is an allotrope of carbon and the most stable form of carbon. Carbon is a nonmetal that people knew since ancient times. Human beings used different forms of carbon, that we name as carbon allotropes, such as charcoal, graphite soot and diamond. Earlier, people did not realize that these compounds are different forms of carbon only and it was later only when scientists found out about allotropes of carbon. The word carbon derives from the Latin word 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.
What is Carbon?
Carbon is a chemical element having the atomic number 6 and chemical symbol C. We can categorize it as a nonmetal and also it is a p block element in the periodic table of elements. This element is tetravalent, meaning it has four valence electrons and thus, it can form four covalent chemical bonds. There are three major isotopes of this element that naturally occur; C-12 and C-13 are stable while C-14 is radioactive.
Some chemical facts about carbon are as follows:
- Atomic number is 6.
- Standard atomic weight is 12.
- Electron configuration is [He] 2s2 2p2
- State at standard temperature and pressure is solid state.
- Undergo sublimation at 3642 °C
- Most stable allotropes are graphite and diamond.
- Oxidation states – most stable oxidation state is +4, and +2 also exists.
Moreover, this substance can undergo sublimation at very high temperatures (higher than the highest melting point metals such as tungsten). Above all, this substance is resistant to oxidation than that of iron and copper. Carbon is the major chemical element that makes up the structure of organic compounds, and it also occurs in inorganic compounds.
What is Graphite?
Graphite is a stable allotrope of carbon. An allotrope is a substance that each of two or more different physical forms in which an element can exist. This allotrope naturally occurs, and it is a crystalline form. We can find this compound as a constituent in metamorphic and igneous rocks. This is a mineral that has some extreme characteristic which is useful in industrial needs. For example, it is extremely soft, and thus, it can cleave with a slight pressure applied on it. Moreover, it has a very low specific gravity. In contrast, this substance is extremely resistant to heat. It is nearly inert towards the contact with any other material.
When considering the structure of graphite, there are layers of carbon atoms in which one layer has a network of carbon atoms. There, one carbon atom attaches with three other carbon atoms via covalent bonds. Hence, the carbon layer is planar. The remaining electron of each carbon atom tends to form an electron cloud together. This electron cloud is important in electrical conductivity.
What is the Difference Between Carbon and Graphite?
Carbon is a chemical element having the atomic number 6 and chemical symbol C whereas graphite is a stable allotrope of carbon. This is the key difference between carbon and graphite. Moreover, carbon is a nonmetal which can occur in different structures that we name as allotropes such as graphite, diamond, charcoal, etc. Accordingly, the chemical structure of graphite is unique from other allotropes which have a network of carbon atoms in which each carbon atom has three covalent bonds around them (with other carbon atoms) and an electron cloud that can conduct electricity. Other allotropes of carbon cannot conduct electricity. Hence, this is a major difference between carbon and graphite.
The below infographic provides more details on the difference between carbon and graphite.
Summary – Carbon vs Graphite
Carbon is the major chemical element that builds up the living things. Graphite is a naturally occurring mineral form of carbon. However, the key difference between carbon and graphite is that the carbon is a chemical element whereas the graphite is an allotrope of carbon.