Boron nitride is a synthetic compound that belongs to the group of advanced ceramic materials. It has a wide range of applications in industries such as electronics, aerospace, defense, and medical. Its unique physical and chemical properties make it an attractive material for various scientific and engineering applications.

One of the essential factors that determine the physical and chemical properties of boron nitride is its structure. The structure of boron nitride affects its mechanical, thermal, electrical, and optical properties. In this article, we will examine the influence of boron nitride structure on its physical and chemical properties.

What is Boron Nitride?

Boron nitride is a compound consisting of boron and nitrogen atoms arranged in a crystalline lattice structure. It can exist in two principal forms: hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN) and cubic boron nitride (c-BN). h-BN is also known as white graphite because of its similar layered structure to graphite. c-BN, on the other hand, has a diamond-like crystal structure.

Hexagonal Boron Nitride (h-BN)

Hexagonal Boron Nitride (h-BN) has a layered structure in which boron and nitrogen atoms form a honeycomb-like lattice structure. Each layer is held together by weak van der Waals forces. The layers are arranged in a parallel fashion, with weak bonding between them. These weak bonds make h-BN an excellent lubricant material, which is widely used in the aerospace industry. When subjected to high temperatures, h-BN undergoes a transformation from hexagonal to cubic structure.

Cubic Boron Nitride (c-BN)

Cubic Boron Nitride (c-BN) has a diamond-like lattice structure in which each boron atom is bonded to four neighboring nitrogen atoms in a tetrahedral arrangement. c-BN is the second hardest material after diamond and is used in cutting tools and abrasives.

Influence of Structure on Physical Properties


The hardness of boron nitride is dependent on its structure. Cubic boron nitride (c-BN) is the hardest form of boron nitride. Its crystal structure includes strong covalent bonds, making it resistant to mechanical wear and thermal shock. h-BN, on the other hand, has a lower level of hardness due to weaker Van der Waals forces between its layers.

Thermal Conductivity

Boron nitride has excellent thermal conductivity, making it an ideal material for high-temperature applications. The thermal conductivity of boron nitride is dependent on its structure. In h-BN, heat flows parallel to the planes, making it an excellent thermal insulator. In contrast, c-BN has superior thermal conductivity due to its three-dimensional arrangement of boron and nitrogen atoms.

Optical Properties

Boron nitride exhibits unique optical properties due to its crystal structure. h-BN is optically transparent and has an optical bandgap of 5.9 eV, which is comparable to that of diamond. The optical properties of h-BN are dependent on the thickness of its layers. Thicker layers exhibit more absorption in the UV range, while thinner layers absorb more strongly in the visible range.

Influence of Structure on Chemical Properties

Chemical Stability

The chemical stability of boron nitride is influenced by its structure. c-BN has excellent chemical stability, even under extreme conditions. Its diamond-like crystal structure contributes to its ability to resist chemical reactions, making it resistant to corrosion. h-BN, on the other hand, is chemically stable but can undergo oxidation at high temperatures.

Reactivity with Water

Boron nitride is hydrophobic and does not react with water. However, when exposed to water vapor at high temperatures, h-BN can undergo surface oxidation, leading to a loss of its hydrophobic properties.


In conclusion, boron nitride is an advanced material that exhibits unique physical and chemical properties. The influence of its structure on its properties is significant. Cubic boron nitride (c-BN) with its diamond-like crystal structure is the hardest form of boron nitride, while hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN) is a good lubricant material due to its weak bonding between layers. The thermal conductivity of boron nitride is determined by the arrangement of boron and nitrogen atoms in its lattice structure. In addition, boron nitride exhibits excellent chemical stability, making it resistant to corrosion.