Electrical insulators of h-BN
What is Boron Nitride?
Boron nitride (BN is a synthetic material that, although discovered in the early 19th century, was not developed as a commercial material until the latter half of the 20th century. Boron and nitrogen are neighbors of carbon in the periodic table - in combination, boron, and nitrogen have the same number of outer shell electrons - the atomic radii of boron and nitrogen are similar to that of carbon. It is not surprising, therefore, that boron nitride and carbon exhibit similarities in their crystal structure. In the same way, carbon exists as graphite and diamond, boron nitride can be synthesized in hexagonal and cubic forms. The hexagonal boron nitride powder is synthesized by nitridation or analysis of boric oxide at elevated temperatures. Cubic boron nitride is formed by high-pressure, high-temperature treatment of hexagonal BN.
Information on Boron Nitride
Hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN) is the equivalent in graphite structure. Like graphite, it's plate-like microstructure and layered lattice structure give it good lubricating properties. H-BN is resistant to sintering and is usually formed by hot pressing. Cubic boron nitride (C-BN) has the same structure as diamonds, and its properties mirror diamonds. Indeed C-BN is the second hardest material next to diamond. C-BN was first synthesized in 1957, but only in the last 15 years have commercial production of C-BN developed. H-BN has excellent lubricating properties. In the hot-pressed state, h-BN is readily machinable using conventional metal cutting techniques; hence complex shaped components can be fashioned from hot-pressed billet.
Electrical insulators of h-BN
The combination of high dielectric breakdown strength and volume resistivity leads to h-BN being used as an electrical insulator; however, its' tendency to oxidize at high temperatures often restricts its use in vacuum and inert atmosphere operations. Its chemical inertness leads to its application as thermocouple protection sheaths, crucibles, and linings for reaction vessels, though, as above, oxidation must be avoided. H-BN is used in bulk form or as a coating for refractory molds used in glass forming and in the superplastic forming of titanium (see Figure 2). It is also used as a constituent in composite materials, e.g., TiB2/BN composites for metal evaporation boats and Si3N4/BN for break rings in continuous steel casting.
Price of Boron Nitride
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