Oxidation is a big deal for many applications, as it can change a material's properties or compromise a material's strength. For these reasons, many methods to prevent oxidation have been created, but some environments are too extreme for those methods to survive. Researchers at Rice University though have discovered that hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN) can protect a material from oxidizing, even when it is applied as a thin film just nanometers thick.
Hexagonal boron nitride is a sheet of boron and nitrogen that can be as little as one atom thick, and has special properties because of it. These properties are why it is being studied for use in electronic and photonic devices, but if it can be produced at a large enough scale, we may see it used for other applications. Using chemical vapor deposition, the researchers were able to grow a film of h-BN on nickel foil and expose it to temperatures as high as 1100 ºC in an oxygen-rich environment, without any oxidation of the nickel. The researchers were also able to grow the thin-film on pieces of graphene, to be transferred to copper and steel.
With such amazing performance, despite its small size, the researchers see it having potential in turbines, jet engines, and underwater environments. Hexagonal boron nitride could also be used to protect solar panels, as at just nanometers thick, it is effectively invisible.
Source: Rice University