Graphite and graphite powder are a naturally occurring form of carbon that is good at conducting electricity and serves as an industrial lubricant.
Graphite is soft and flexible, but not elastic. It cannot be stretched. It is a black, naturally occurring form of carbon, just like diamonds, which are much harder and transparent. Graphite tends to stain surfaces that it comes into contact with. Although it is a nonmetal with a very high melting temperature, it does have some characteristics of metal. It can conduct electricity just like many metals.
Graphite tends to form in flat layers, where the atoms link together into lattices and stack on top of each other. These layers tend to trap air and water between them, which gives graphite a lubricating effect. Although graphite powder is dry (with air and water trapped inside of it), it is very effective in lubricating joints and machine parts without the need of liquids like grease and oil. Because it holds up in very high temperatures, it is good for lubricating environments that get very hot.
Graphite powder tends to stain the objects that it lubricates, so it isn't ideal for household use where it can make a mess of a home. Graphite powder also tends to cause corrosion in some metals, such as steel and aluminum, when that metal is submerged in water with the graphite. Therefore, using graphite powder to lubricate steel and aluminum machines is not a good idea. For this reason, the U.S. Air Force banned the use of graphite powder for lubricating aluminum aircraft.
Graphite powder's lubricity makes it a popular additive to paint, epoxy and other coatings. It can help protect surfaces from scratches and other damage. It also makes a surface less prone to friction, which makes it a popular coating for the bottoms of boats built for speed.
The gray-black material in the core of a pencil that is sharpened to a point for writing is known as lead. But that material isn't lead at all. Instead, it is graphite powder blended with clay.