Is Graphite a Non Metal?

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Graphite is a form of carbon that occurs naturally in metamorphic rocks such as marble, schist and gneiss. It is used as a refractory in foundries and also has many uses in the industrial sector.

Firstly, it is a non metal as it is not dull, shiny, malleable or ductile and does not show any chemical properties like conductivity, reaction with acids or salts etc. But it is a good conductor of electricity as it has delocalised electrons, so that it can easily carry an electric current.

It is a crystalline form of carbon with atoms arranged in a hexagonal structure where each carbon atom is attached to three other carbon atoms covalently. This makes the graphite a crystalline material with 3 valence electrons available to form covalent bonds leaving one free delocalised electron at the end of each hexagonal layer. This extra delocalised electron is very mobile and helps in the conductivity of the graphite.

The other two valence electrons in the graphite are not very mobile and can not carry any electrical charges. This is why graphite is a good conductor of electricity and diamond is a non-conductor of electricity.

Graphite is an important natural resource and has become a strategic mineral because of the growing demand from clean technology applications and the risk that China will run out of its primary source of production. It has a number of major end uses in the metals industry including as a component in bricks which line blast furnaces (“refractories”), as a liner for ladles and crucibles and as an agent to increase the carbon content of steel. It is also a key component in fuel cells, flow batteries and consumer electronics.