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Carbon materials: Properties, Application, Development

Carbon material

The carbon materials are ancient and also a new type of material. As early as prehistory, human activities had a relationship with carbon substances. From early, rough carbon materials to modern, high-quality industrial carbon materials, it has a history of more than 100 years in the world.

The carbon material is a general term for carbon-based substances and solid materials. Thry are usually composed of graphite crystallites. However, there are considerable differences in the crystallites’ size and the crystallites’ three-dimensional arrangement crystallitescrystallites in various carbon materials crystallites.

Carbon Materials Category

Therefore, there are three types of carbon materials, carbonaceous, graphite, and semi-graphite.

According to the maturity of production technology and the extensiveness of application, carbon materials can be divided into commonly used and new carbon materials.



In 1896, Acheson of the United States invented artificial graphite electrodes. In 1899, the Acheson Graphite Company was established to produce artificial graphite electrodes. The emergence of artificial graphite has opened a new page for the development of the carbon industry.


In 1942, Formi, an Italian nuclear physicist studying in the United States, built the earliest atomic reactor. In this application, the neutron moderator material is high-purity and high-density graphite.

1940s and 1950s

In the 1940s and 1950s, an important achievement in the development of carbon materials. In addition to graphite for nuclear reactors, high-purity, and high-density graphite was used to heat elements, crucibles, boats, and dishes in refining semiconductor single-crystal furnaces.

1950s and 1960s

A significant achievement in the 1950s and 1960s, people successfully developed pyrolytic carbon and pyrolytic graphite. These products play a role in various fields, such as aerospace, medicine, and biology.

1960s and 1970s

The main achievement in the 1960s and 1970s was to make carbon fiber and its composite materials. At the same time, people have successfully developed glassy carbon and flexible graphite.


Since the late 1980s, research has been upsurging on new carbon materials such as diamond films, carbon nanotubes, graphene,  and carbon quantum dots.

Carbon material: Classification, Application, Development


Key properties of carbon materials:

High Thermal and Electrical Conductivity:

Carbon materials like graphite and carbon nanotubes exhibit excellent thermal and electrical conductivity. This property enables efficient heat transfer and electrical conduction, making them ideal for electronics, energy storage, and thermal management systems applications.

Mechanical Strength and Stability:

They are known for their exceptional mechanical strength and stability. For example, carbon fiber composites possess high tensile strength and stiffness, making them lightweight yet robust. This property is advantageous in the aerospace, automotive, and sporting equipment industries, where the strength-to-weight ratio is critical.

Chemical Inertness:

They are generally chemically inert and have low reactivity to most chemicals and environments. This property ensures their durability and resistance to corrosion, making them suitable for applications in harsh chemical environments and as protective coatings.

Lubricating Properties:

Graphite, a form of carbon, has excellent lubricating properties. Its layered structure allows easy sliding between the layers, reducing friction and wear. Graphite is commonly used as a lubricant in automotive engines, industrial machinery, and locks applications.

Optical Transparency:

Graphene, a single layer of graphite, exhibits exceptional optical properties. It is nearly transparent and absorbs high light, making it valuable for transparent conductive films, touchscreens, and photovoltaics applications.

Porosity and Adsorption Capability:

Some carbon materials, like activated carbon and carbon nanotubes, have a high surface area and porosity. This property allows them to adsorb and store gases, liquids, and contaminants. Activated carbon, for instance, is widely used for water purification and air filtration due to its excellent adsorption capabilities.


Carbon materials, particularly graphene and carbon nanotubes, have shown promise in biomedical applications. They exhibit biocompatibility, meaning they have low toxicity and are well-tolerated by living cells. This property opens up possibilities for drug delivery systems, tissue engineering, and biosensors.


  • Graphite: The Foundation of Carbon Material

Graphite, a form of carbon with a layered structure, is a fundamental building block for carbon materials. Its unique properties, including high electrical conductivity, thermal resistance, and lubricating behavior, make it invisible in applications such as electrodes, refractories, and lubricants. Graphite’s versatility has propelled it as a cornerstone material across industries, from steel production to energy storage systems.

  • Carbon Nanotubes: The Marvels of Nanoengineering

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) represent one of the most remarkable carbon materials in the nanoscale realm. With their exceptional strength, high electrical and thermal conductivity, and large aspect ratio, CNTs have found applications in various fields. They hold great promise in the electronics, aerospace, energy storage, and biomedicine industries. The potential uses of carbon nanotubes span from lightweight and robust materials to ultra-sensitive sensors and advanced drug delivery systems.

  • Graphene: A Revolutionary 2D Material

Graphene, a single layer of graphite, has garnered enormous attention for its extraordinary properties and endless possibilities. With exceptional electrical conductivity, mechanical strength, and thermal properties, graphene offers new avenues for innovation. Its potential applications range from flexible electronics, transparent conductive films, and high-performance composites to sensors, energy storage devices, and water filtration systems. Developing graphene-based materials drives significant electronics, energy, and environmental sustainability advancements.

  • Carbon Fiber: Lightweight Strength

Carbon fiber composites have emerged as a game-changer in industries where weight reduction and high strength are crucial. The exceptional strength-to-weight ratio of carbon fiber makes it a preferred choice in aerospace, automotive, sports equipment, and wind energy applications. The development of advanced manufacturing techniques has enabled the production of carbon fiber composites with enhanced performance and cost-effectiveness.

  • Carbon-Based Energy Storage: Powering the Future

Carbon materials are pivotal in energy storage systems such as lithium-ion batteries and supercapacitors. Graphite electrodes, carbon nanotube conductive additives, and graphene-based material enable the development of high-performance and efficient energy storage devices. These advancements are crucial for the transition to renewable energy sources and the electrification of transportation.


Carbon materials have revolutionized industries with their exceptional properties, versatility, and exciting developments. Furthermore, graphite, carbon nanotubes, graphene, carbon fiber, and carbon-based energy storage systems drive innovation in various fields. Notably, their remarkable properties and applications have opened new doors for lightweight and robust materials, advanced electronics, energy storage, and sustainable solutions. As research and development continue to push the boundaries, we can expect carbon materials to shape the future of technology and propel us toward a more sustainable and efficient world.