Researchers Find Unexpected Properties in Boron Nitride Nanocomposites
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Researchers Find Unexpected Properties in Boron Nitride Nanocomposites

Boron nitride, a versatile compound akin to carbon, has emerged as a pivotal material in the realm of advanced technology. 

As carbon takes on diverse forms, from the brittle core of a pencil to the brilliance of a diamond, boron nitride showcases similar variability. 

While much remains unknown about its various structures and their responses to temperature and pressure changes, researchers at Rice University have unraveled significant insights.

In their groundbreaking study, scientists at Rice University combined hexagonal boron nitride, commonly referred to as “white graphite” due to its softness, with cubic boron nitride, a material rivaling diamond in hardness. 

The resultant nanocomposite exhibited unforeseen interactions with light and heat, hinting at prospective applications in cutting-edge fields such as microchips and quantum devices.

Lead author Abhijit Biswas described hexagonal boron nitride as a widely used, lightweight, and stable substance, often utilized in coatings, lubricants, and cosmetics. 

On the other hand, cubic boron nitride, renowned for its extreme hardness, holds potential for electronics. Surprisingly, the composite outperformed its parent materials in multiple aspects.

The researchers noted that the composite displayed notably low thermal conductivity, making it suitable for heat insulation in electronic devices. 

This unique blend also possessed distinct thermal and optical properties, deviating from the average characteristics of its constituent boron nitride varieties.

Hanyu Zhu, one of the study’s corresponding authors, shared the unexpected discovery of amplified second harmonic generation, a measure of the optical property, upon heating.

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Shifting Boron Nitride Grains Fuel Tech Breakthrough

researcher-unexpected-properties-boron-nitride-nanocomposites
Boron nitride, a versatile compound akin to carbon, has emerged as a pivotal material in the realm of advanced technology.

This enhancement occurred due to a refined arrangement of boron and nitrogen atoms, forming larger and more coherent grains within the lattice structure.

An intriguing outcome of the study was the revelation that cubic boron nitride grains within the composite grew instead of diminishing, contrary to expectations. 

This finding challenged both theoretical predictions and experimental observations about the stability of boron nitride phases.

The composite’s response to spark plasma sintering, a high-temperature technique, was particularly illuminating. 

This treatment transformed the composite into hexagonal boron nitride, aligning with theoretical projections. 

Importantly, the resulting hexagonal boron nitride showcased superior quality compared to the initial material used in the mixture.

This research paves the way for tailoring boron nitride materials with precise blends of hexagonal and cubic structures. 

Such customization could yield a broad spectrum of mechanical, thermal, electrical, and optical properties, ushering in a new era of technological advancement.

Pulickel Ajayan, another corresponding author of the study, highlighted the study’s significance in expanding possibilities for engineering boron nitride to meet diverse requirements. 

With the potential to revolutionize multiple sectors, from electronics to materials science, this breakthrough promises an array of future innovations.

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Source: PHYS ORG

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