RICHARD MEGNA / FUNDAMENTAL / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY RICHARD MEGNA / FUNDAMENTAL / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Various examples of allotropes of carbon, showing graphite pencil leads & powders, with two cut diamonds. Allotropy describes how the same element may exist in quite different forms. Graphite and diamond provide an extreme comparison, with the former being soft & used as a lubricant whilst the latter is very hard & used in industrial drills and cutting tools. These physical properties are dictated by different structures. Carbon atoms in graphite are arranged in arrays of flat hexagons, forming plates that can easily slide over each other. In the crystal structure of diamond, carbon atoms are arranged in a rigid, cubic array.
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