Researchers from BGU and the University of Western Australia are the first and only research group in the world to be able to produce sizable amounts of special valued closed-cage, hollow "nano-onion" structures from boron nitride (BN). NASA, the US space agency, has already requested samples of BN nano-onions for tests geared toward use on US satellitesAt less than one-thousandth the diameter of a human hair, their size, hollow structure and crystalline nature, coupled with their chemical properties, make them remarkable lubricants for use in high-temperature and high-pressure applications where conventional lubricants are inadequate, most notably aerospace systems. BN nano-onions can also be introduced into 3D printers to increase the tensile strength of the matrix material without increasing weight.
However, the hollow closed-cage BN
nano-particles have proved especially elusive until now. Prof. Emeritus Jeffrey
Gordon of BGU’s Department of Solar Energy & Environmental Physics in the
Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research and Prof. Hui Tong Chua of the
Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Western Australia (UWA)
have succeeded in synthesizing BN nano-onions in sizable amounts, in a one-step
process that is safe (devoid of any toxic substances), rapid and, most
importantly for the possibility of having large-scale impact, amenable to
patent application has been filed for the technology, and an agreement with
Innovyz Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Pty Ltd (Innovyz) of Adelaide,
Australia has been executed which provides Ablano (a start-up owned by Innovyz)
with an 18-month option to license the technology technology invented by Prof.
Chua and Prof. Gordon, who are now collaborating with industry experts sourced
by Innovyz to scale up the technology and fast track its commercialization.
Their achievement was also
published last year in a leading journal in the field, Nano Research.
(Left) Transmission electron microscope image of clusters
of BN nano-onions, which intimate the significant yields that can be achieved
with the new method developed in the BGU-UWA collaboration. (Center) A
magnified view of an individual nano-onion. (Right) A schematic of the lamp
ablation optical system.