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The existence of elements in two or more different forms (allotropes). In the case of oxygen, there are two forms: ‘normal’ dioxygen (O2) and ozone, or trioxygen (O3). These two allotropes have different molecular configurations. More commonly, allotropy occurs because of different crystal structures in the solid, and is particularly prevalent in groups 14, 15, and 16 of the periodic table. In some cases, the allotropes are stable over a temperature range, with a definite transition point at which one changes into the other. For instance, tin has two allotropes: white (metallic) tin stable above 13.2°C and grey (nonmetallic) tin stable below 13.2°C. This form of allotropy is called enantiotropy. Carbon also has two allotropes – diamond and graphite – although graphite is the stable form at all temperatures. This form of allotropy, in which there is no transition temperature at which the two are in equilibrium, is called monotropy. See also polymorphism.

Subjects: Chemistry.

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