Why does graphite conduct electricity
For any substance to be able to conduct electricity, first it must contain freely moving charged particles. These particles can either be electrons or ions, and they’re responsible for carrying the electric charge through any substance. With graphite and metal, electrical conduction is made possible by electrons which have been delocalized, which means they’re not firmly bound to any specific atom. Since these electrons are not bound, they’re free to roam, which is how the electrical current gets carried through most materials.
The structure of graphite is very unlike any other substances. It is composed of sheets of carbon atoms, and each of these is bonded to only three other atoms. This leaves the fourth valence electron of the carbon atom delocalized, which means it is free to move between the different sheets, therefore carrying the electrical charge through the network of carbon atoms which makes up the structure of graphite.
This differs completely from how metals conduct electricity, as metals tend to prefer to completely lose their extra electron to another non-metal substance when possible. If this is not possible and there are no non-metal atoms in range, the metal will settle for delocalizing the electron, similar to the process which occurs in graphite. This process results in a positively charged metal ion, and a negatively charged electron. Because these two charges are attracted to each other, they’ll stay close together, even though both are free to move through the substance. When many metal atoms do this, it ends up being a piece of metal which consists of many metal icons surrounded by a ton of free electrons. These electrons are what enables electricity to flow through the metal.
Because the structure of the metal and its free valence electrons has a lot to do with how well it conducts electricity, some metals are better than it than others. While nearly all metals and graphite can conduct electricity, some have a better atomical structure for doing so. Gold or silver, for example, is structured in a way so that many of its free electrons can roam quickly, making it a very good conductor of electricity. Since gold is so expensive, it is not often that it is used in this manner. Thus, copper and graphite take its place as a conductor. Graphite is not as good a conductor as copper, but it is relatively cheap and thus, more and more products are being used which utilize the unique conduction properties of graphite.
With more consumer products utilizing graphite, more expensive metals like copper and gold can be phased out, which means the end consumer saves money, since graphite conducts electricity just as well as copper or gold. With graphite being used in wiring and building houses, it’s little wonder why the cost of construction has been steadily falling, and with good cause. So many contractors are taking into account the fact that graphite is cheaper to obtain and just as easy to use, which makes it prime for use as a conductor.