What are the main uses for graphite?

21st October 2021


Graphite is one of the three allotropic forms in which carbon is found naturally, diamond and coal being the other two. In the modern world graphite main uses are numerous from being an important component in lithium ion batteries, nuclear reactors, playing an integral role in the electoral industry and being the ‘lead’ in pencils.

As a material it is quite greasy and soft and has a black to grey colour which leaves a dark residue on the hand when touched. Natural graphite can be found in three forms, as flake graphite in vein deposits in metamorphic rocks, as amorphous graphite in metamorphosed beds of coal and as crystalline flake in veins filled fissures.

It has the advantage of being able to withstand an extremely high temperature and is not affected by a majority of acids and reagents and is also an excellent conductor of heat and electricity. Dry lubricating and brake linings are just some of the areas, graphite is essential for.  


Today’s pencil lead is actually the safer graphite which is the common use most people are aware of. While being resistant to moisture, ultraviolet, most chemicals and natural ageing, the mark graphite leaves on paper can be erased with rubber. The world graphite is derived from Greek which basically means ‘to write’.


The modern world thrives on the portable source of energy batteries provide. Graphite has played a key role in the modern battery, as it serves as a lithium ion host for the negative electrodes. It is the graphite that limits or protects the batteries even when overheated, thereby preventing dangerous accidents. Thanks to its amazing conductivity owing to the presence of free electrons graphite is the most preferable and cost effective material for anodes for ion batteries. This is why it is used in fast charging batteries, such as those used for smart phones.

The two dimensional honeycomb lattice single layer graphite, known as graphene sheets, is electrically conductive and lightweight while having the capacity for large storage with shorter loading times. Lithium ion batteries are commonly used in electric cares, in emergency power backups or UPS and solar power storage, among others.

Nuclear Reactors

Graphite has been and still is an important material for the use in both historical and modern nuclear reactors thanks to its ability to withstand high temperature and pressure and due to its extreme purity. In brick form it acts as a moderator reducing the speed of the neutrons and allowing nuclear reaction to be sustained. Again, it plays a key role in providing safety as it provides structure for the CO2 gas to flow and removes heat from the nuclear fuel.

Electrical Industry

The crystalline form of graphite is one of the most commonly used in the electrical industry, owing to its ability to conduct electricity while dissipating or transferring heat away from critical components. Graphite proves invaluable when it comes to nano technology as devices and electronics are becoming smaller and smaller and carbon nanotubes are becoming the norm. In its graphene form, which is a manmade single layer of carbon atoms, it can be rolled up and used in nano tubes.


Due to its high thermal resistance properties and mechanical stability to such high temperatures, graphite is used in refractories as a counter-electrode in arc furnaces.

Steel Industry

Graphite electrodes and connecting pins are used in electric arc furnace steel production. This is the steel making technology used by all ‘mini-mills’. It is used as a protective agent for steel ingots and for the lining of the metallurgical furnace and powdered graphite is used as a carbon raiser giving steel is strengthening characteristic.

Graphene Technology

As said before, graphene is sourced from graphite, and is extremely thin, strong and electrically conducive. In other words, an almost super material that is used in a massive number of industries including the bio-medical industry – bio-sensing and membrane technology – besides the ones mentioned. It plays a vital role in the production of sports equipment as it works with other layers of material to add super strength, responsiveness, durability and agility.

Graphene technology is constantly developing with new and advanced potential applications emerging regularly.


Currently synthetic graphite costs double that of natural graphite which is why graphite in its natural form is in such demand. Providing such immeasurable service to so many modern industries it is no wonder more and more people are investing in graphite mines.