A three-dimensional porous nanostructure would have a balance of strength, toughness and ability to transfer heat that could benefit nanoelectronics, gas storage and composite materials that perform multiple functions, according to engineers at Rice University.
The researchers made this prediction by using computer simulations to create a series of 3-D prototypes with boron nitride, a chemical compound made of boron and nitrogen atoms. Their findings were published online July 14 in the Journal of Physical Chemistry C.
The 3-D prototypes fuse one-dimensional boron nitride nanotubes and two-dimensional sheets of boron nitride.
"We combined the tubes and sheets together to make them three-dimensional, thus offering more functionality," said Rouzbeh Shahsavari, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and of materials science and nanoengineering, who co-authored the paper with graduate student Navid Sakhavand. In the 3-D nanostructure, the extremely thin sheets of boron nitride are stacked in parallel layers, with tube-shaped pillars of boron nitride between each layer to keep the sheets separated.
Shahsavari noted that in the one-dimensional and two-dimensional versions of boron nitride, there is always a bias in directional properties, either toward the tube axis or in-plane directions, which is not suitable for widespread 3-D use in technology and industrial applications.
For example, a one-dimensional boron nitride nanotube can be stretched about 20 percent of its length before it breaks, but the 3-D prototype of boron nitride can be stretched about 45 percent of its length without breaking.
When the typical one- or two-dimensional boron nitride materials are stretched in one direction, they tend to shrink in the other perpendicular directions. In the 3-D prototype, however, when the material stretches in the in-plane direction, it also stretches in perpendicular directions. "Here, t
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