The properties of hexagonal boron nitride are generally different from those of graphite


What is boron nitride?

Boron nitride (chemical formula BN), a synthetically produced crystalline compound of boron and nitrogen, is an industrial ceramic material of limited but important application, principally in electrical insulators and cutting tools. It is made in two crystallographic forms, hexagonal boron nitride (H-BN) and cubic boron nitride (C-BN). H-BN is prepared by several methods, including heating boric oxide (B2O3) with ammonia (NH3). It is a platy powder consisting, at the molecular level, of sheets of hexagonal rings that slide easily past one another. This structure, similar to that of the carbon mineral graphite (see Figure), makes H-BN a soft, lubricious material; unlike graphite, though, H-BN is noted for its low electric conductivity and high thermal conductivity. H-BN is frequently molded and then hot-pressed into shapes such as electrical insulators and melting crucibles. It also can be applied with a liquid binder as a temperature-resistant coating for metallurgical, ceramic, or polymer processing machinery.


Boron nitride is said to be isoelectronic with elemental carbon

Because boron and nitrogen contain the same number of valence electrons (eight) as two bonded carbon atoms, boron nitride is considered isoelectronic with elemental carbon; boron nitride exists in two structural forms, analogous to two forms of carbon—graphite, and diamond. The hexagonal form, similar to graphite, has a layered structure with planar, six-membered rings of alternating boron and nitrogen atoms stacked so that a boron atom in one layer is located directly over a nitrogen atom in the adjacent layer. In contrast, successive hexagonal layers of graphite are offset so that each carbon atom is directly above an interstice (hole) in an adjacent layer and directly over a carbon atom of alternate layers. Hexagonal boron nitride can be prepared by heating boron trichloride, BCl3, over ammonia at 750 °C (1,400 °F).


The properties of hexagonal boron nitride are in general different from those of graphite.

The properties of hexagonal boron nitride are generally different from those of graphite. While both are slippery solids, boron nitride is colorless. It is a good insulator (whereas graphite is black and is an electrical conductor), and boron nitride is more stable chemically than graphite. Hexagonal BN reacts with only elemental fluorine, F2 (forming the products BF3 and N2), and hydrogen fluoride, HF (producing NH4BF4). The diamond (cubic) form of BN can be prepared by heating hexagonal BN to 1,800 °C (3,300 °F) under very high pressure (85,000 atmospheres; the pressure at sea level is one atmosphere) in the presence of an alkali metal or alkaline earth metal catalyst. Like the analogous diamond form of carbon, cubic boron nitride is extremely hard. 


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