Low Temperature Synthesis of Boron-Based Materials in Molten Salts
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Compared with conventional synthesis techniques, the so-called molten salt synthesis (MSS) technique has attracted substantial interest and has been used extensively to synthesise a range of advanced materials because it offers several advantages: (1) the synthesis reaction can be completed at a relatively low temperature and within a short time; (2) the resultant product powders are generally well dispersed and have high surface reactivity; (3) the grain shapes (spheroidal, platelet-shaped or rod-like) and sizes (nanoscale to microscale) can be controlled; and (4) the process is easy to perform, scalable and cost effective. In this thesis, a molten-salt-mediated magnesiothermic reduction technique was used to synthesise high-quality boron-based fine powders, including titanium diboride (TiB2), hafnium diboride (HfB2), lanthanum hexaboride (LaB6), calcium hexaboride (CaB6), amorphous boron and alumina-titanium diboride (Al2O3-TiB2) nanocomposites, at relatively low temperatures, from relatively cheap oxide-based raw materials. The effects of the processing parameters, such as salt type, starting batch composition, and firing temperature and time, on the reaction extents were investigated, based on which, the synthesis conditions optimised and the responsible underlying mechanisms proposed. Among the three chloride salts (NaCl, KCl and MgCl2), MgCl2 showed the best accelerating effect on the MSS of amorphous boron, TiB2, HfB2 and LaB6.This finding could be explained by the higher solubility levels of Mg and MgO in molten MgCl2 than in the other two salts. When using appropriately excessive amounts of Mg and/or B2O3 to compensate for their evaporation losses at reaction temperatures, phase-pure TiB2, HfB2 and LaB6 fine powders of 100-200 nm were synthesised after 4-6 h firing in MgCl2 at 900-1000°C. In the MSS of amorphous boron, 15 mol% excessive Mg was used. High-purity amorphous boron fine powders with sizes of 100-200 nm were achieved after 6 h firing in MgCl2 at 900°C and further leaching with hot H2SO4 solution. In the MSS of CaB6, CaCl2 facilitated the overall synthesis more effectively than NaCl, KCl or MgCl2. Upon using 20 mol% excessive Mg, phase-pure CaB6 nanoparticles of ~50 nm were formed in CaCl2 after 6 h at 800°C. Unlike in the molten-salt-mediated magnesiothermic reduction technique, Al2O3-TiB2 nanocomposite powders were synthesised via the aluminothermic reduction in molten salt. In this case, NaCl was regarded as the most appropriate reaction medium. When using appropriately excessive amounts of Al and B2O3, phase-pure Al2O3-TiB2 nanocomposite powders were synthesised after 4 h at 1150°C or 5 h at 1050°C. These synthesis conditions were much milder than those required by many other techniques reported previously. The “dissolution-precipitation” mechanism was found to be more dominant in the overall MSS processes than the “template-growth” mechanism. The success of this work indicates that the MSS technique could be a promising alternative approach to low-temperature synthesis of a range of nanomaterials. In addition, the MSS route opens new possibilities for the synthesis of known materials as well as new materials with complex structures, such as new zeolitic materials, metal organic frameworks and polymer chemistry by utilising tailored salt systems.
PhD in Engineering