University of KwaZulu-Natal South Africa

The electronics industry is extremely dynamic as technologies, materials, and business models are continuously restructured to meet evolving consumer demand. Durability, size and performance are major concerns in the electronics industry. For that, manufacturers are now focusing on developing advanced materials to improve the performance and life of electronic devices. Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and graphene have been identified as the potential candidates that can potentially replace traditional materials in the electronics sector. Due to their exceptional properties CNTs have gained significant attention and printable carbon nanotubes inks have begun to hit the market.

However, there are many production challenges that plague carbon nanomaterials and its eventual uptake by the industry for consumer electronics. There are difficulties in working with carbon nanomaterials in the large scale production of electronics devices. Recently there has been a growing interest in boron nanomaterials and research has revealed that these materials have unique properties making it suitable for use in advanced electronics. Unlike CNTs, boron nanomaterials possess a much wider band gap (~5.5 eV), exhibit higher resistance to oxidation and show greater thermal stability.

Interestingly, Boron shares some similar attributes as that of carbon i.e. boron can also form nanotubes, nanosheets (borophene), spheres etc. Boron nanostructures are expected to serve as the key components for the next generation of nanodevices, such as high-temperature semiconductor devices, field-effect transistors, field emission devices, as well as superconductors. However, these materials are not available anywhere on the chemical market due to the difficulty in the production of these materials. UKZN Researchers have developed a method for producing boron nanotubes.

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