Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Allotropy

Allotropy or allotropism is the property of some chemical elements to exist in two or more different forms, known as allotropes of these elements. Allotropes are different structural modifications of an element; the atoms of the element are bonded together in a different manner.

Take carbon for example: 4 common allotropes of carbon are diamond (where the carbon atoms are bonded together in a tetrahedral lattice arrangement), graphite (where the carbon atoms are bonded together in sheets of a hexagonal lattice), graphene (single sheets of graphite), and fullerenes (where the carbon atoms are bonded together in spherical, tubular, or ellipsoidal formations).

The term allotropy is used for elements only, not for compounds. The more general term, used for any crystalline material, is polymorphism. Allotropy refers only to different forms of an element within the same phase (i.e. different solid, liquid or gas forms); the changes of state between solid, liquid and gas in themselves are not considered allotropy.

For some elements, allotropes have different molecular formulae which can persist in different phases – for example, two allotropes of oxygen (dioxygen, O2 and ozone, O3), can both exist in the solid, liquid and gaseous states. Conversely, some elements do not maintain distinct allotropes in different phases – for example phosphorus has numerous solid allotropes, which all revert to the same P4 form when melted to the liquid state.

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