White graphene, alternatively known as boronitrene or boron nitride nanomesh, is hexagonal BN (hBN) which has obtained its name due to its structure being similar to graphene in terms of its ability to form thin sheets of regularly spaced atoms. It forms a single layer of sp2 hybridized atoms of boron and nitrogen in the shape of a honeycomb lattice.
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This material possesses a 2D nano structure consisting of a single boron nitride (BN) layer formed by self-assembly with a very consistent mesh structure due to the exposure of a high-temperatured ruthenium or rhodium surface to borazine under an ultra-high vacuum.
White graphene possesses the ability to maintain its stability in air, vacuum, and certain solvents, as well as temperatures up to 800°C (making it flame-retardant). Furthermore, it can create a well-arranged array since it traps molecules in sizes similar to that of the nanomesh pores.
Because of the extraordinary properties displayed by white graphene, it finds applications in quantum computing, spintronics, data storage media (such as hard drives), surface functionalization, and catalysis. It has also garnered the interest of the global researcher community. hBN is already used in thermal management & high heat resistance, cosmetics & makeup, lubrication, and non-wetting applications. However, the viability of replacing graphene with hBN or white graphene is still under evaluation.
There exist over 93 patents and 120 academic research papers related to white graphene. Its key application is anticipated to be in the electronics industry due to its flame-retardant and heat-resistant properties.
The European Commission launched the “Graphene FET Flagship Project” in 2013, which is likely to create a technological impact primarily on high-frequency electronics and novel logic as well as spintronic devices. Along with the EU Commission, National Science Foundation and several other research institutes have been working on projects related to white graphene, either independently or in collaboration with major hBN manufacturers.
There are several ongoing as well as new studies being carried out related to white graphene. According to a report in Nature Communications, porous nanosheets of white graphene are capable of absorbing considerable amounts of pollutants such as industrial oil or waste chemicals. It also reported that white graphene can be reused after absorbed chemicals are eliminated by heating. These reported attributes of porous nanosheets demonstrate their potential in applications such as water purification and treatment.
Regular graphene, despite being a good heat conductor, displays limitations. Transfer of heat is carried out through a single layer surface of graphene, but not through multiple layers when stacked. According to a research study at Rice University, the 3D structure of white graphene nanotubes can overcome these limitations, allowing transfer of heat in every direction.
The patents and research related to white graphene span across areas such as antifouling, battery, bioanalysis, ceramics, coatings, devices & structures, transistors, electrocatalysts, flame retardancy, insulation, reinforcement, super capacitors, surface treatments, and transparency.
Several researchers and experts in the industry believe that hBN as white graphene is likely to be equivalent to graphene. However, the market is not fully commercialized. A major obstacle is its cost of production.
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Based on possible applications of white graphene, the market can be segmented into the following categories: electronics, water treatment, construction of novel devices, antifouling, and ceramics.
Key institutions and manufacturers working in the field of white graphene include Yonsei University, UCLA, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, New Mexico State University, Saint-Gobain Advanced Ceramics LLC, Metmat Inc, Precision Ceramics, ZYP Coatings Inc., Del Stark Technology Solutions, Oxford Instruments, and 2Dsemiconductors Inc.