Boron Nitride: Chemistry’s Unappreciated Secret

Boron nitride is a compound that was first discovered in the 18th century but was not produced on a commercial basis until the 1940s. Boron nitride consists of a single boron atom combined with one nitrogen atom. It is made commercially through the reaction of boric acid or boron trioxide with ammonia or urea.

The product is a compound in which adjacent atoms share electrons in the same way as carbon atoms do in its different forms, or allotropes. Just as carbon comes in the form of diamond, which is the hardest known element, or the graphite that is used as a lubricant, so can this compound.

It can even adopt fullerene — another carbon allotrope — shapes ranging from squares to octagons and spheres and including pentagons and hexagons.

A diamond-like version is produced by subjecting the compound to intense temperatures and pressures, just as synthetic diamonds are produced by using the same technique on graphite. But boron nitride sometimes has the upper hand over diamonds as some nano particles of the compound have been found to be harder that synthetic diamonds.

In a hexagonal structure, boron nitride can be a lubricant just like graphite. But it has an advantage here too, as it is less chemically reactive and more resistant to heat than graphite. This form of boron nitride can be used in cosmetics, high-performance ceramics, laser printers and pencil leads. It can be used as a lubricant in advanced aerospace applications because it does not need the extra gas and liquid required by graphite to work effectively.

When used in bullet coatings, this compound ensures a cleaner gun barrel and straighter shot.

Molecules of the compound can be rolled into tubes, just like carbon, to make nanotubes. But unlike carbon, these tubes can be insulators and are more resilient to chemicals and high temperatures.

If a boron 10 isotope is used to make boron nitride, the product is able to absorb radiation.

The compound can also be formed into nano sheets (like graphene nano sheets) and used as a filter. It can absorb nearly 33 times its weight in organic solvents and oils while at the same time repelling water. Once used, the sheet can be cleaned of the contaminant by burning off the oils and organic compounds, leaving the nano sheets undamaged.

If you would like to learn more regarding boron nitride and how you could use it within your industry then do not hesitate to contact Multi-Lab. We will be happy to provide informative advice and guide you into choosing the right product for your needs.