BNNT Background & Historical Timeline

BNNT Application Potential

BNNT (Boron Nitride Nanotubes) will be the basis for industry game changing revolutionary new materials and processes.

  • Ultra lightweight aerospace structures: polymer and metal matrix composites with unprecedented strength, even at high temperatures.
  • Membranes, filters and catalyst: energy enhancements from filtering salt water to high temperature filters and thermal conductors.
  • Killing cancer: already lab results for significant enhancement of irreversible electroporation.
  • Winning sports equipment: the most advanced materials where weight, strength and endurance count.


BNNT Historical Timeline

1994-2009: In 1994, Marvin Cohen (UC Berkeley) [1] theorized the existence of Boron Nitride Nanotubes (BNNTs), similar to carbon nanotubes (CNTs), and in the following year Alex Zettl [2,3] first synthesized BNNTs using the arc discharge/arc-jet plasma method. In the past 15 years the state-of-the-art has been nanotubes either short (0.1 to 1 micron) and fulleretic or long, riddled with defects these tubes frequently having wavy walls, elbows, herringbone or bamboo-like morphologies. For the past fifteen years, the quantities of high quality/fulleretic BNNTs have typically only been milligrams; the quantities of the longer but defect laden tubes can be at the level of multiple grams.

2009-2010: Recently very long, small diameter, single and few-walled BNNT in macroscopic quantities have been produced [6]. A high temperature 'pressurized vapor/condenser' (PVC) method yields, without catalysts, the highly crystalline BNNTs. Nanotube lengths are observed to be 100 times that of those grown by the most closely related method. The new synthesis technique is scalable to gram quantities, and preserves the desirable morphology of small diameter, few-walled tubes. The technique produces tubes of extraordinary length, giving the raw material the appearance of conventional textile fibers. This fibril appearance is further reinforced by natural macroscopic alignment of the as-grown material.

The techniques for synthesizing BNNT were developed at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Jefferson Lab in Newport News, Virginia in collaboration with NASA Langley Research Center and the National Institute of Aerospace using the Office of Naval Research funded Free-Electron Laser.