Q:

What is powdered graphite?

A:

Quick Answer

Powdered graphite is a soft, flaky, black mineral form of the element carbon that has been broken up into tiny particles, creating a powder. Powdered graphite is used as a solid lubricant and as an artist's pigment.

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Full Answer

The use of graphite as a lubricant is due to its crystal structure. Graphite is composed of flat, hexagonal plates of carbon that form very thin planes or flakes. The bonds between planes are weak, so it is easy for flakes to slip over one another. Water vapor is necessary for using graphite as a lubricant because the water weakens the bonds even further. When the powder is applied as a lubricant, the flakes arrange themselves parallel to the surface according to the direction of motion. Powdered graphite as an art material has similar properties to pencil lead; however, because the graphite is crushed into fine particles, it can be applied with a brush like ink or paint.

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