Probing Wettability Alteration of the Boron Nitride Surface through Rheometry

Langmuir. 2019 Jan 8;35(1):128-140. doi: 10.1021/acs.langmuir.8b03025. Epub 2018 Dec 24.


While the surface of many ceramic particles is covered by positive and negative species, boron nitride displays no charge on the surface. Nevertheless, the interest in boron nitride is rising: Little materials combine electrical insulation and high thermal conductivity; both properties are required for many applications, for instance, in electronic devices and sensors. Hydroxyl (-OH) groups are usually created on the surface to increase the hydrophilicity of particles. In this work, we compare four treatments to select the one that increases most significantly the hydrophilicity of hexagonal boron nitride platelets, that is to say, for which the most -OH groups are grafted onto the surface. The treated particles have been studied by SEM, FTIR, and XPS. Our results show that these techniques are not appropriate to probe slight chemical changes. Indeed, hydroxyl groups are more likely introduced on the edges of the platelets. The highest hydroxyl concentration corresponds to 2.4% of boron atoms functionalized. The settling of low concentrated suspensions has been followed by optical visualization. Multiple light scattering was used for high concentrated suspensions. The rheological behavior of stable suspensions in water and isopropanol has been determined by transient flow and dynamic tests. Measuring the viscosity of suspensions appears as a way to evaluate the surface alterations of boron nitride. The method involving thermal treatment is the most efficient to increase the concentration of hydroxyl groups when the particles are suspended in water. The treatment with nitric acid seems to be the most efficient when the particles are suspended in isopropanol. Moreover, the thermal treatment is more environmentally friendly than using strong acids or bases. Hydroxylated particles can be used either as a starting material for further modification such as covalent functionalization or directly to prepare suspensions or polymeric based composites.