Imperial College London

Lightweight Functional Nanomaterials


Hexagonal Boron Nitride - the most widely used nano structure, is remarkable for its physical, thermal and chemical properties.

Hexagonal Boron Nitride - the most widely used nano structure, is remarkable for its physical, thermal and chemical properties.

The Institute for Molecular Science and Engineering hosted a Lunchtime Seminar on the wonders of nano materials.

The latest Institute for Molecular Science and Engineering (IMSE) Lunchtime Seminar, given by Professor Milo Shaffer (Chemistry) and Dr. Camille Petit (Chemical Engineering), focused on nano carbon structures with exceptional properties. 

Dr Petit's specialty is on porous boron nitride, a composition of various forms of Boron (B) and Nitrogen (N) atoms, which has gained increasing attention for its remarkable physical, chemical and thermal properties, and potential in a wide range of applications. 

Camille Petit delivers her IMSE Lunchtime Seminar
Camille Petit delivers her IMSE Lunchtime Seminar.

Boron Nitride can take various forms. A hexagonal form, corresponding to graphite, is the most stable and soft and is used as a lubricant and an additive to cosmetic products. The cubic form, corresponding to diamond, is softer than diamond but its thermal and chemical stability is superior. Hexagonal and cubic BN is stable at temperatures up to 1000 °C in air and hence are now often used in the tool bits of cutting tools. 

In her seminar, Dr Petit explained how she is able to tune the stability of Boron Nitride, going from low chemical stability (relevant for drug delivery applications) to higher chemical stability (relevant to catalytic and separation applications). 

Carbon nanopolyelectrolytes and what to do with them

Carbon nanotubes can be functionalized to attain desired properties that can be used in a wide variety of applications. In the second talk, Professor Milo Shaffer outlined the challenge in the formation of functionalised single wall nanotubes (SWNTs).

Individual perfect nanocarbon structures have exceptional properties, the challenge is often how to exploit their potential in real macroscopic systems. Professor Milo Chaffer Professor of Chemistry

His approach relies on reductive charging to form pure nanocarbide anions which can be redissolved, purified, or optionally functionalised, whist avoiding the damage typically associated with sonication and oxidation based processing. This simple system is effective for a host of nanocarbon materials including multi wall nanotubes (MWCNTs), ultralong SWCNTs, carbon blacks, and graphenes. The resulting nanocarbon ions can be readily chemically grafted for a variety of applications.

Dispersed nanocarbon related materials can be assembled by electrophoresis, cryogel formation, or direct cross-linking to form Joule heatable networks, protein nucleants, supercapacitor electrodes, and catalyst supports, particularly suited to combination with other 2D materials, such as layered double hydroxides. Comparative studies allow the response of nanocarbons with different dimensionalities to be assessed to identify fundamental trends and the most appropriate form for specific applications.

About IMSE

The Institute for Molecular Science and Engineering (IMSE) is one of Imperial College London's Global Institutes, drawing on the strength of its four faculties to address some of the grand challenges facing the world today. The Institute's activities are focused on tackling problems where molecular innovation plays an important role.

The Highlight Seminar Series brings eminent speakers from across the globe to Imperial to increase awareness of areas where molecular science and engineering can make a valuable contribution and to promote exchanges with academic and industrial centres of excellence.


Dr Kieran Brophy

Dr Kieran Brophy
Faculty of Engineering

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