Carbon atoms can be found in a variety of structures, including the tetrahedra of diamond, the stacked planes of graphite, and the celebrated fullerene spheres and nanotubes. The graphite family alone includes a rich variety of materials, ranging from pencil “lead” to interstellar dust to chimney soot, and from metallurgical coke to activated charcoal for water filtration to lightweight composites for aerospace components—such as the nose cone of the space shuttle, for which carbon composites were chosen because of their high strength at elevated temperatures.

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