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Graphite and graphite powder are valued in industrial applications for their self-lubricating and dry lubricating properties. There is a common belief that graphite's lubricating properties are solely due to the loose interlamellar coupling between sheets in the structure. However, it has been shown that in a vacuum environment (such as in technologies for use in space), graphite degrades as a lubricant, due to the hypoxic conditions. This observation led to the hypothesis that the lubrication is due to the presence of fluids between the layers, such as air and water, which are naturally adsorbed from the environment. This hypothesis has been refuted by studies showing that air and water are not absorbed. Recent studies suggest that an effect called superlubricity can also account for graphite's lubricating properties. The use of graphite is limited by its tendency to facilitate pitting corrosion in some stainless steel, and to promote galvanic corrosion between dissimilar metals (due to its electrical conductivity). It is also corrosive to aluminium in the presence of moisture. For this reason, the US Air Force banned its use as a lubricant in aluminium aircraft, and discouraged its use in aluminium-containing automatic weapons. Even graphite pencil marks on aluminium parts may facilitate corrosion. Another high-temperature lubricant, hexagonal boron nitride, has the same molecular structure as graphite. It is sometimes called white graphite, due to its similar properties.

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