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Boron carbide (B4C) is one of the hardest manufacturing materials in the world. Its strong chemical bonds and hard surface minimize wear in harsh environments. So it has been used in many extreme applications, such as tank armor and bulletproof vests. Its hardness provides excellent protection, while a lightweight product maximizes fluidity. In addition, the material has high neutron absorption capacity and is also very suitable for radiation shielding, so it has been used in the nuclear industry and other radiation generating industries. What is boron carbide used for?
Boron carbide, also known as black diamond, is an organic substance. It was discovered in the 19th century as a by-product of metal boride research, and scientific research was not carried out until the 1930s. Boron carbide can be obtained by reducing diboron trioxide with carbon in an electric furnace. Boron carbide can absorb a large number of neutrons without forming any radioactive isotopes. Therefore, it is an ideal neutron absorber in nuclear power plants. The neutron absorber mainly controls the rate of nuclear fission. Boron carbide is mainly made into controllable rods in the field of nuclear reactors, but sometimes it is made into powder due to increased surface area. Due to the high hardness of boron carbide powder, it is used as an abrasive in polishing and grinding applications and as a loose abrasive in cutting applications such as waterjet cutting. It can also be used to dress diamond tools.

How hard is boron carbide?
Diamonds have their limitations, and the cost is not the only limitation. Diamonds are prone to oxidation at high temperatures (over 600 degrees Celsius) and tend to chemically react with ferrous metals. This has led many researchers to search for a (better) alternative material that is equally hard but can withstand high pressure, high temperature and corrosion. Most research in this field has focused on various materials containing C, N, B and O elements. Generally, these elements produce short covalent bonds with a certain directionality, which makes them difficult to deform. Therefore, materials made of these elements tend to have high hardness.

The Mohs hardness of boron carbide is between 9 and 10, which is one of the hardest known synthetic materials. Only cubic boron nitride and diamond will exceed it. Therefore, it has been used in many extreme applications, such as tank armor and bulletproof vests.

Is boron carbide expensive?
Boron carbide, like tungsten carbide, is used in many machines to make tools and other types of wear-resistant equipment. This method consumes a lot of energy and time, making the price of boron carbide products 10 times higher than other non-wear-resistant ceramic materials that currently dominate the market. Compared with diamond and cubic boron nitride, boron carbide is easy to manufacture and low in cost, so it has been widely used. It can replace expensive diamonds in some places and is usually used for grinding, sanding and drilling.

Is boron carbide conductive?
Boron carbide is a very hard refractory solid (melting point> 2400degC). In addition, its thermoelectric performance is unconventional in the high-temperature range above 700degC. That is low electrical resistivity, high Seebeck coefficient and low thermal conductivity.

Swedish 3D printing companies Additive Composite and Add North 3D have developed and released a new boron carbide composite filament suitable for radiation shielding applications. The material, available under the name Addbor N25, is made up of boron carbide and a co-polyamide matrix.

The new filament developed by Uppsala-based Additive Composite and filament developer Add North 3D, leverages the anti-radiation properties of boron carbide but in a printable, filament format. The development of the material was also supported by research at Uppsala University.
The filament’s boron carbide content is capable of absorbing neutrons generated by nuclear or research facilities that use radiation sources. By combining the material with a printable polymer matrix, the Swedish companies are creating new opportunities for the types of products that can be created.

As Additive Composite says: “The ability to make complex shapes easily by means of 3D printing is important to provide effective shielding of stray radiation and to provide collimated beams.”

“Additive manufacturing is changing how many products are being designed and produced,” said Adam Engberg, CEO of Additive Composite Uppsala AB. “We believe that Addbor N25 contributes to this development and helps both industry and large research facilities to replace toxic materials that could eventually contaminate the environment. Our new product is the first in a range of radiation shielding materials that we are currently developing.”

(aka. Technology Co. Ltd.) is a trusted global chemical material supplier & manufacturer with over 12 years’ experience in providing super high-quality chemicals and Nanomaterials. The boron carbide powder produced by our company has high purity, fine particle size. Please contact us if necessary.

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