Through 3D printing, researchers at Deakin University in Australia have unlocked design potential of two of the strongest materials on Earth. With “ultralight”, “super strong” and incredibly heat resistant properties, a Boron Nitride Nanotube (BNNT)/Titanium composite has immense possibilities in manufacturing for aerospace, automotive, power, defense and medical industries.

As a leader in BNNT research, Deakin University has announced this as a world-first breakthrough for the technology, and is aiming to commercialize the material.

A 3D printed cube of BNNT/Titanium. Photo via Deakin University

A 3D printed cube of BNNT/Titanium. Photo via Deakin University

Unleashing “the real power of BNNTs into the marketplace”

Boron Nitride Nanotubes (BNNTs) were first discovered in 1995, though it has been consistently difficult to produce them in large amounts. In modifying a milling and controlled cooling method, Deakin University effectively produced the tubes using boron ink.

Professor Ying Chen, Chair in Nanotechnology at Deakin University explains,

Our novel and scalable manufacturing process can effectively eliminate this production bottleneck and unleash the real power of BNNTs into the marketplace.

Material properties

In addition to super-strength and an ability to withstand temperatures up to 800°C, BNNTs are resistant to ultraviolet radiation and have unusual electrical properties. By insulating electric, and even generating a charge when under pressure, the BNNTs could potentially be used in 3D printed batteries, such as those produced at Harvard.

Carbon nanotube armor coatings, known as buckypapers (after Buckminster Fuller), can also be created in BNNTs. Professor Chen explains,

BN buckypapers could be used in aircraft as a radiation shielding layer, as filters for removing contaminants from water, and to make lightweight and stronger vehicles and aircraft.

Structure of a carbon buckytubes. Image via Carbon Nanotechnologies, Inc.

Structure of a carbon buckytubes. Image via Carbon Nanotechnologies, Inc.

Nanotubes are key to creating super-strength in many materials.  With Boron Nitrate, researches now have a new avenue for exploration, giving significant promise to future innovations, especially with the flexibility of 3D printing.

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Featured image: planes performing a loop the loop Australian International Airshow 2017, where Deakin University present the 3D printed BNNT/Titanium. Photo via Australian International Airshow on Facebook

 

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