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Graphene vs Graphite

Graphene is a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal pattern, like a sheet of paper. Graphite, on the other hand, is made up of many layers of graphene stacked on top of each other, like a stack of paper. The graphene layers in graphite are held together by weak forces, allowing them to slide over each other easily.

Graphene vs Graphite
Graphene vs Graphite

Graphene has generated a lot of interest recently. This surge in interest particularly increased in 2010 when Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics "for ground-breaking experiments regarding the two-dimensional material graphene". Graphene has some exceptional properties which distinguishes it from its bulk form, graphite. Having said this, graphite is useful in different ways due to the ability of it's layers to slight over each other.

 Properties Graphene Graphite
Dimensionality 2D 3D

~ 1 nm

One atom thick

Not visible by eye

> 5 nm

Many atoms thick

Can be visible by eye

Surface Area

Extremely high specific surface area

~2600 m2/g

Low surface area compared to graphene

1 m2/g

Appearance Transparent and colorless Opaque and black/gray

Strongest material known to exist

Tensile strength = 130 GPa

Elastic Modulus = 1.1 TPa


Tensile strength = 4.8 GPa

Each carbon participates in three σ bonds (C-C) and a π bond (hybridized sp2 bonding)

Bond lengths = 0.142 nm

Each carbon participates in three σ bonds (C-C) and a π bond (hybridized sp2 bonding)

Bond lengths = 0.142 nm

Interlayer van der Waals interactions.

Interlayer spacing = 0.335 nm

Exceptionally electrically and thermally conductive

Thermal = 5 x 103 W/mK

Electron Conductivity = 106 S/m

Resistance = 31 Ω/sq

Charge mobility = (2 x 105 cm2/V.s)

Relatively good conductivity but not as good as graphene

Thermal = 24 W/mK

Resistivity = 0.006 Ω/cm

Conductivity = 3.3x102 – 3x105 S/m


Chemically reactive edges and surface

The surface can be functionalised with other elements

Relatively resistant to chemical reactions
Lubricating Coefficient of Friction = 0.1
Applications Electronics, energy storage, sensors Pencils, lubricants, batteries

Graphene vs Graphite Structure

Graphene and graphite are both composed entirely of carbon atoms. Each carbon atom is bonded to three other carbon atoms, forming a hexagonal lattice. These carbon-carbon bonds are σ bonds. Carbon atoms have four valence electrons available for bonding. Since only three electrons are used to form σ bonds with other carbon atoms, one electron remains unbonded. Each carbon atom in this structure is described as being sp2 hybridized. The remaining electron resides in a p orbital and can participate in forming a π bond. This network of π bonds is responsible for graphene's remarkable conductivity and other unique properties.

Graphene Bonds
Graphene Bonds

In 2D graphene, the spare electron in the p orbital is free to move throughout the π bonded network. This delocalized electron movement contributes to graphene's exceptional electrical conductivity and other distinctive properties.

In 3D graphite, the movement these spare electrons causes areas of difference in charge across the graphene layers. The slight positive and slight negative areas means van der Waals interactions hold the layers of graphene together.

Graphene vs Graphite Properties


Graphene stands out as having exceptional properties such has ultrahigh surface area and excellent thermal and electrical conductivity. These properties arise from it's 2D nature and π bonding network.

Graphene's ultrahigh surface area (~2600 m2/g ) means it would take only 2.7 g to cover a football field. It is therefore useful in surface active applications, including energy storage, sensors and water purification.

Graphene's electrical conductivity as a result of the delocalised π electrons is many orders of magnitude larger than silicon (1.56×102 S/m) which is commonly used in electronic devices. It's thermal conductivity is also outstanding making it suitable for applications in thermal management, such as heat sinks and electronic cooling systems.

Graphite vs Graphene
Graphite vs Graphene


Graphite is most commonly used in pencils but it can be used for much more. Due to the weak van der Waals interactions between the layers within graphite, it has excellent lubricating properties. It has been used as a dry lubricant and in lubricating greases.

Graphite maintains a significant amount of the thermal and electronic conductive properties that graphene has. It is far more accessible than 2D graphene which requires more intensive processing to access. It's layered honeycomb structure allows for efficient intercalation and deintercalation of lithium ions, contributing to high energy density and long lithium-ion battery life. Graphite is also good in heat management applications. Graphite's inert nature means it is corrosion resistant which is highly desired in electronic applications to maintain performance.

Graphene Materials


Learn More

What is Graphene Oxide? What is Graphene Oxide?

Graphene oxide (GO) is a two-dimensional material with oxygen-functionalized surfaces, derived from graphite.

What is Graphene Oxide? What is Graphene?

Graphene is a hexagonal lattice of carbon atoms that connect to form a single sheet in 2 dimensions.

graphene structure Safely Reducing Graphene Oxide

The conversion of graphene oxide back to graphene is therefore of huge interest to both the scientific and industrial community.

Introduction to 2D Materials Introduction to 2D Materials

The foundation of technology is the understanding of material systems. Specific material properties are required depending on the application.



Writen by

Dr. Amelia Wood

Application Scientist

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