Industrialization of Boron Nitride Nanotubes: From Synthesis to Applications

K.S. Kim, M.B. Jakubinek, A. Hrdina, Y. Martinez-Rubi, B. Ashrafi, M. Plunkett, S. Lin, S. Denommee, C.T. Kingston, B. Simard
National Research Council Canada, CA

Keywords: nanotubes, boron nitride nanotubes, synthesis, pilot scale, composites, sheets

Summary:

Boron nitride nanotubes (BNNTs) exhibit a range of properties that are as impressive as those of carbon nanotubes (CNTs), including comparable mechanical properties and thermal conductivity, but with substantially higher thermal stability and, unlike CNTs, polarizability, wide band gap, and transparency in the visible region. These characteristics make BNNTs attractive for the development of high-performance light-weight engineering materials. Historically, very low production volume has prevented the science and technology of BNNTs from evolving at even a fraction of the pace of CNTs, especially in areas such as reinforced composites where substantial quantities. The National Research Council Canada (NRC) has recently addressed this limitation through the development of an industrially scalable plasma process for BNNT production from pure hexagonal boron nitride. The method produces few-walled, highly crystalline small-diameter BNNTs at a rate of ~20 g/hr, which is significantly higher than previous literature reports and with demonstrated single-run yields approaching 200 g. This world-leading production capacity enables, in some cases for the first time in the history of BNNTs, development of large-scale BNNT applications including for polymer, ceramic and metal composites, BNNT sheets and coatings, and BNNT fibers. A range of initial examples will be presented, including non-woven sheets and composites.