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Physics > Atomic and Molecular Structure > Carbide – Definition and Uses of Carbide
Atomic and Molecular Structure

Carbide – Definition and Uses of Carbide


Carbide is a term which indicates a compound of carbon and some other element or group of elements. When you hear anyone mentioning about this chemical compound, that person is generally referring to calcium or tungsten carbide.

Uses of Carbide

Similarly, there are other types too which serve different purposes. For instance, there is silicon, aluminium, and boron.

All these different types are used in various sectors of industrial, household and more. Let us take a look at these different kinds and look at what use they are off in various sectors.


Calcium Carbide

Calcium carbide is a substance which is produced by an industrial process. The molecular formula of this is CaC2. After looking at this formula, one can easily figure out that one molecule of this consists of one atom of calcium and two atoms of carbon.

You will notice that its pure form has no colour and is crystalline solid much like rock salt. The most common use of this chemical compound is in the chemical production of acetylene.

We use it as fuel to generate quite a high flame of heat. Moreover, if you look at the past, you will see that acetylene’s solution was used in street lighting. Further, we also harden large steel objects with the help of this.

Tungsten Carbide

It appears to be grey in colour, which is like a fine powder. If you look at the molecular formula, you will find in comprises of tungsten and carbon in equal quantities.

When we press it, it creates a particularly hard substance which serves different purposes.

For instance, the armour-piercing weaponry which the people in military use is made with the help of this chemical compound only.

Moreover, the poles which hikers use, their tips consist of this as well. In addition, the tools we use, razor blades and tips of ballpoint pens all use it. Similarly, jewellery, especially of men is made from this due to dark lustre and high resistance to scraping.

Silicon Carbide

Next, we have this chemical compound which has a molecular formula of SiC. Thus, this molecular formula denotes that it contains one atom of silicon and one of carbon.

We also refer to it as carborundum. It arises in nature as the awfully rare mineral called moissanite.

When you manufacture and fuse together the grains of this chemical compound, it results in the formation of quite a hard and durable substance.

Therefore, we use it in products like car brakes, turbine bearings and more. Particular kinds of seals and bearings also contain this. Similarly, its large crystals are grown artificially as the diamond imitation jewel moissanite.

Aluminum Carbide

You can say it is a by-product of manufacturing calcium carbide. It has an appearance of yellow or brown colour. It resembles crystals which can dissolve in water easily.

We use it in cutting tools and also add it to some metals. This will help in preventing any mishaps that can take place when we pressurize it over time.

Boron Carbide

This is one of the hardest synthetic materials which are a ceramic substance. It is made up of four atoms of boron and one atom of carbon.

We use it in tank armour, cutting tools, security padlocks and more. We also use it in nuclear reactors because of the chemical reaction of this compound.

Solved Question for You

Question– Which of the following used in a nuclear reactor?

A. Silicon Carbide
B. Boron Carbide
C. Tungsten Carbide
D. Aluminium Carbide.

Answer– The correct answer is option B.

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