DMPQ: What are allotropes? Discuss the allotropes of carbon with their features.

Allotrope: An element, in different forms, having different physical properties but similar chemical properties is known as allotropes of that element. Carbon has three well known allotropes which are graphite, diamond and buck minster fullerene. These are formed by carbon atoms.

Following are the allotropes of carbon:

Graphite:  Each carbon atom is bonded to three other carbon atoms in the same plane giving a hexagonal array. One of these bonds is a double-bond, and thus the valency of carbon is satisfied. Graphite structure is formed by the hexagonal arrays being placed in layers one above the other. Graphite is also a very good conductor of electricity unlike other non-metals

          Diamond:  Each carbon atom is bonded to four other carbon atoms forming a rigid three-dimensional structure. Diamond is the hardest substance known while graphite is smooth and slippery. Diamonds can be synthesised by subjecting pure carbon to very high pressure and temperature. These synthetic diamonds are small but are otherwise indistinguishable from natural diamonds.

          Fullerenes form another class of carbon allotropes. The first one to be identified was C-60 which has carbon atoms arranged in the shape of a football. Since this looked like the geodesic dome designed by the US architect Buckminster Fuller, the molecule was named fullerene.

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