Boron nitride nanotubes have structural similarities with carbon nanotubes. However, where carbon nanotubes are made with carbon, boron nitride nanotubes are made with boron and nitrogen. The diameter of these tubes is minute enough to be measured in nanometres.
Properties of Boron Nitride Nanotubes
The similarity between carbon and boron nitride nanotubes is not just limited to their structure. They also have similarities in their properties. For example, both nanotubes have a very high tensile strength and thermal conductivity.
Differences in Properties Between Boron Nitride Nanotubes and Carbon Nanotubes
The fact that boron nitride nanotubes are transparent makes them applicable in the optical industry. In addition, they are stiff and lightweight. Another interesting property of boron nitride nanotubes is that they are biomedically compatible and hydrophobic.
In contrast to carbon nanotubes, they have wide band gaps and are not affected by variations in chirality. Boron nitride nanotubes are highly resistant to oxidation and high temperatures. They are also electrical insulators. This makes them highly versatile.
They have a piezoelectric property. This means they can produce an electric charge when they undergo mechanical stress.
Boron nitride nanotubes are not quite easy to synthesize. A very high temperature is required for the synthesis of boron nitride nanotubes. In the past, there were many struggles associated with synthesizing boron nitride nanotubes. However, most of these challenges, which include the presence of impurities, have been overcome with advancements in technology. Some of the methods used to synthesize boron nitride nanotubes include.
This method of synthesizing boron nitride nanotubes was first used in 1995. It is the earliest method of boron nitride nanotube synthesis. At first, boron nitride rods were used in this method. However, with time, it was replaced by chemical compounds that contain boron. This replacement can be attributed to the fact that boron nitride rods are poor conductors. The major setback of this method is that boron nitride nanotubes cannot be produced in bulk.
Chemical Vapor Deposition
For a long time, this method has been used to synthesize carbon nanotubes. However, it is also employed in the synthesis of boron nitride nanotubes. Both the boron nitride and the carbon nanotubes are synthesized in a similar fashion to the chemical vapor deposition method. In the presence of catalysts such as nickel and cobalt and a high temperature, solid and liquid sources of boron nitride are used to produce boron nanotubes in this method. A major advantage of this method is that there is greater control of the result. Unfortunately, like the arc discharge method, boron nitride tubes cannot be synthesized in bulk.
This method is cheaper than the other methods previously mentioned. Also, with this method, boron nitride nanotubes can be produced in bulk. Iron is usually used as a catalyst in this method. The downside of this method is that the boron nitride nanotube produced has a significant amount of impurities.
The boron nitride nanotubes produced by this method are of top quality. Laser heat is used to melt a solid source of boron nitride in this method. Nickel and Cobalt are used as catalysts for this method.
Thermal Plasma Jet
This method has a high production rate of boron nitride nanotubes. Just like the laser ablation method, the nanotubes produced by this method are of top quality. Hydrogen gas is used as a catalyst in this method.
Applications of Boron Nitride Nanotubes
Since their discovery in 1995, boron nitride nanotubes have been applied in various industries.
Boron nitride nanotubes are an asset in aerospace. The boron present in the nanotubes can be used with other materials to make them stronger and safer from harmful radiation. Boron nitride nanotubes can absorb harmful radiation because they are able to absorb neutrons effectively.
When Boron nitride nanotubes are allowed into the body, they have very little or no toxicity. Therefore, they can be used as nanocarriers. Nanocarriers are used in the pharmaceutical industry for drug delivery. They can be used to target specific organs and sites in the body, which would ordinarily be difficult to access due to their size.
The fact that boron nitride nanotubes are remarkably stiff and chemically stable makes them perfect for reinforcement. They are used to reinforce ceramics and metals such as aluminum. The use of boron nitride nanotubes to reinforce aluminum is particularly interesting because the same will not be possible with carbon nanotubes. This is because carbon nanotubes are highly reactive with aluminum, whereas boron nanotubes are not.
Boron nitride nanotubes have excellent thermal conductivity. For this reason, they can be employed in nanoelectronics for materials that require the transfer of heat.
Although it is difficult to synthesize Boron nitride nanotube in large quantity, extensive research is still being carried out on how to scale productions. This is because it has been identified as a valuable material in different industries.
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