Elements Covers

Mineralogy Matters

Graphite to Graphene: From a Mineral to an Advanced Technological Material

Carbon is one of a small number of elements that occur in the “native” state. The two most dominant naturally occurring forms of carbon are graphite and diamond, and these could hardly be more different in their properties: diamond is the hardest known natural material, whereas graphite is one of the softest (see Hazen et al. 2013 for a review of carbon mineralogy). Maybe for some, “diamonds are a girl’s best friend”, but I would argue that “graphite is one of society’s most useful minerals”. The focus of this article is on graphite and, more particularly, on the closely related material graphene. And graphene is important because of its extraordinary properties and potential range of applications.

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Boron — The Crustal Element

Figure 1. This photograph, which was acquired on October 30, 2013 by an astronaut on the International Space Station, shows one of the largest borate mines in the world (Rio Tinto Borax Mine). The mine is located northwest of Boron, California (USA). The borate minerals in the deposit—largely borax, Na2B4O5(OH)4·8H2O, kernite,  Na2B4O6(OH)2·3H2O, and ulexite,  NaCaB5O6(OH)6·5H2O — formed in…

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