When you hear the word graphite, pencils inevitably come to mind. The pencil is of course the most common and well-known use for graphite, but there are some unique properties of graphite that make it useful for a number of different applications.
It’s a lubricant
If you’ve ever had a pencil tip break and roll away, and if you’ve ever tried to pick it up, you have an idea of how slippery graphite is. This makes it a perfect dry lubricant for machine parts and metal locks.
It’s (really) tough to melt
If you’re a scientifically-minded person, the properties of graphite will be of interest. Graphite has no melting point at atmospheric pressure, is a good conductor of heat, and is resistant to many chemicals, which makes it an ideal material for crucibles. Crucibles are containers used in the production of metal, glass, and pigment and must be able to withstand extremely high temperatures.
It’s a conductor
Graphite is also an excellent conductor of electricity. It is therefore often used in batteries and to make electrodes. Jerry Alonzy, the Natural Handyman, also points out that a pencil can be used to complete an electrical circuit in a pinch.
It absorbs fast-moving neutrons
In my personal opinion, one of the most impressive uses for graphite is in nuclear reactors. Graphite possesses the unique ability to absorb fast-moving neutrons. Because of this, graphite can be used to control the speed of the nuclear fission reaction that takes place in nuclear reactors.
On its own, graphite is an all-star, but it also makes a handy supporting player. Graphite is used in carbon-reinforced plastics, out of which many common products are made. Fishing rods, golf clubs, bicycle frames, sports car body panels, pool cues, and even the fuselage of the Boeing 787 air crafts are just a few places where you can find graphite at work.
Graphite’s sister, the diamond, may be more sparkly and expensive, but graphite is still an extremely versatile and valuable material. From golf clubs to nuclear reactors to taking notes in space, graphite is hard at work in the world. I don’t know about you, but the next time I use a pencil, I’m going to be just a little more impressed with its shiny graphite tip.