Scientists have predicted that carbon’s immediate neighbors on the periodic chart, boron and nitrogen, may also form perfect nanotubes, since the advent of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) in 1991. First proposed then synthesized by researchers at UC Berkeley in the mid 1990’s, the boron nitride nanotube (BNNT) has proven very difficult to make until now. Herein we provide an update on a catalyst-free method for synthesizing highly crystalline, small diameter BNNTs with a high aspect ratio using a high power laser under a high pressure and high temperature environment first discovered jointly by NASA/NIA/JSA. Progress in purification methods, dispersion studies, BNNT mat and composite formation, and modeling and diagnostics will also be presented. The white BNNTs offer extraordinary properties including neutron radiation shielding, piezoelectricity, thermal oxidative stability (> 800°C in air), mechanical strength, and toughness. The characteristics of the novel BNNTs and BNNT polymer composites and their potential applications are discussed.
Tailoring the solar absorptivity (αs) and thermal emissivity (ƐT) of materials constitutes an innovative approach to solar energy control and energy conversion. Numerous ceramic and metallic materials are currently available for solar absorbance/thermal emittance control. However, conventional metal oxides and dielectric/metal/dielectric multi-coatings have limited utility due to residual shear stresses resulting from the different coefficient of thermal expansion of the layered materials. This research presents an alternate approach based on nanoparticle-filled polymers to afford mechanically durable solar-absorptive and thermally-emissive polymer nanocomposites. The αs and ƐT were measured with various nano inclusions, such as carbon nanophase particles (CNPs), at different concentrations. Research has shown that adding only 5 wt% CNPs increased the αs and T by a factor of about 47 and 2, respectively, compared to the pristine polymer. The effect of solar irradiation control of the nanocomposite on solar energy conversion was studied. The solar irradiation control coatings increased the power generation of solar thermoelectric cells by more than 380% compared to that of a control power cell without solar irradiation control coatings.