Journal of Nanomaterials

Journal of Nanomaterials / 2009 / Article

Research Article | Open Access

Volume 2009 |Article ID 264026 |

W. S. Zhang, J. G. Zheng, W. F. Li, D. Y. Geng, Z. D. Zhang, "Synthesize and Characterization of Hollow Boron-Nitride Nanocages", Journal of Nanomaterials, vol. 2009, Article ID 264026, 4 pages, 2009.

Synthesize and Characterization of Hollow Boron-Nitride Nanocages

Academic Editor: Michael Harris
Received17 May 2009
Revised08 Sep 2009
Accepted20 Sep 2009
Published30 Nov 2009


The boron-nitride (BN) nanocages are synthesized by nitrogenation of amorphous boron nanoparticles at 1073 K under nitrogen and ammonia atmosphere. The BN nanocages exhibit a well-crystallized feature with nearly pentagonal or spherical shape, depending on their size. High-resolution transmission electron microscopy studies reveal that they are hollow nanocages. The growth mechanism of the BN nanocages is proposed.

1. Introduction

Much attention has been focused on boron-nitride (BN) nanotubes and other fullerene-like nanostructures since the discovery of carbon nanotubes. BN nanotubes have been synthesized by an arc-discharge method using boride-based rods such as HfB2 and ZrB2 [1, 2]. The formation of hexagonal-BN nanocapsules encapsulating metal/oxides, including cobalt oxides [3], iron oxides, gold, and germanium [4], Zr compounds [5], silver/oxides [6], iron, and cobalt nanoparticles [7], has been reported. BN nanocages are synthesized in large amounts by nitriding Fe-B nanoparticles under mild conditions, which shows rather promising solid-state lubricating properties [8]. A synthesis mechanism is also proposed. The effects of catalytic metals for synthesis of BN fullerene nanomaterials have also been investigated [9].

Graphite-like BN nanomaterials have layer structure similar to graphite. Nanocages belong to an important category of fullerene-like structures, to which particular attention should be addressed. This is because substances of hollow cages may show novel physical and chemical properties. For instance, nanocages may serve as nanocontainers for gas storage [1012]. Insulating BN nanocages may prevent encapsulated particles from oxidization and contamination [13]. In our recent work, we encapsulated the boron nanoparticles with boron nitrides [14]. In the present work, we prepare BN nanocages, by means of arc-discharging in a mixture of diborane and nitrogen, followed by a subsequent annealing under a mixture of nitrogen (N2) and ammonia (NH3) atmospheres at 1073 K. The structures of as-prepared nanoparticles and as-annealed BN nanocages are investigated by means of X-ray diffraction (XRD) and high-resolution transmission electron microscope (HRTEM).

2. Experimental Procedures

A mixture of amorphous boron nanoparticles and Ni (B) nanocapsules sheathed with boron oxide was prepared by arc-discharge in a mixture of diborane (B2H6) and nitrogen (N2) atmosphere. The anode was bulk Ni of 99.9% purity, while a flexible tungsten needle of 3 mm in diameter served as the cathode. The chamber was evacuated to 0.003 Pa before the introduction of gases. A mixture of B2H6 (purity 99.7%, 2000 Pa) and N2 (purity 99.7%, 16000 Pa) was introduced into the chamber. The gas mixture serves as a reactant gas and a source of hydrogen plasma. A voltage in the range of 20 to 30 V was applied between the cathode and the anode for evaporation. The deposits on the water-cooled wall of the chamber were collected.

To synthesize BN nanocages, the nanoparticles collected from the wall were first laid down on an aluminium oxide crucible lying in an aluminium oxide tube of the furnace, isolated from air by flowing pure NH3 and N2, and then heated to 1073 K for 4 hours. Finally, the sample was cooled down to room temperature under pure N2.

The samples for TEM observation were prepared in two steps. First, the deposit was dispersed in ethanol in an ultrasound bath and then a drop of the suspension was transferred onto a carbon-coated TEM mesh grid and the ethanol was allowed to evaporate. The samples were examined by a JEOL 2000EX HRTEM operating at 200 kV. XRD spectra were recorded at room temperature in a Riguku D/max-2500pc diffractrometer with Cu K radiation and a graphite monochromator.

3. Results and Discussion

Diffraction peaks in the XRD spectrum of the as-prepared nanoparticles (shown as Figure 1(a)) can be indexed as Ni and B2O3 phases. We cannot find XRD peaks for boron nanoparticles. The reasons may be that (1) Boron is in amorphous state, and (2) boron nanoparticles are surrounded by B2O3 shells, and it was too small to be detected by XRD. Figure 1(b) shows the XRD spectrum of the nanoparticles, after annealed under NH3 and N2 and then heated to 1073 K for 4 hours. Besides those for Ni, the XRD peaks that appear at about ° could be indexed as BN phase.

The typical morphology of the as-prepared nanoparticles is represented in a TEM micrograph (Figure 2). There are two kinds of nanoparticles in Figure 2, that is, boron nanoparticles and Ni (B) nanocapsules. Boron nanoparticles are in irregular shape and it is difficult to identify their size exactly. The typical size of the Ni (B) nanocapsules is in range of  nm and the discernible contrast in the TEM micrograph clearly shows that these Ni (B) nanocapsules are composed of a core and a shell. In our previous work [15], the phases in the shell of Fe (B) nanocapsules were confirmed by HRTEM to be amorphous boron oxides. It is believed that it is true also for the phases in the shell of the present Ni (B) nanocapsules.

After annealing the as-prepared nanoparticles under NH3 and N2 at 1073 K for 4 hours, we succeeded in synthesizing hollow BN nanocages. A general view of the morphology is represented in Figure 3(a). It was clearly shown that big BN nanocages are in a nearly pentagonal shape, accompanied with some smaller nanocages in nearly spherical shape. The size of the big nanocages in the nearly pentagonal shape is about 200 nm, while the diameter of the nearly spherical nanocages is about 12–20 nanometers. The formation of multilayered hollow BN nanocages by nitriding boron nanoparticles has been confirmed by enlarged A and B parts in Figures 3(b) and 3(c). Lattice fringes, originating from c planes of h-BN parallel to the incident electron beam, are observed around the nanocages. The spacing of about 0.34 nm for equally separated BN layers is consistent with the interplanar distance of 0.334 nm in bulk hexagonal BN. The large BN nanocages have sharp inner angular, some defects as indicted by arrows, and the cages have some distortions. The contrast of the enlarged image reveals that they are really hollow nanocages (see Figures 3(b) and 3(c)).

The selected-area electron diffraction patterns from the big nanocages correspond to the (002) planes (with a spacing of 0.334 nm) of hexagonal BN bulk (see inset of Figure 3(b)). The three sets of patterns correspond to the three sides of the nanocages, as proved by Fourier transform. Fourier transform reveals that these patterns come from sides A, B and C (Figure 3(d)).

Encapsulation of cobalt nanoparticles in BN nanocapsules was obtained from Co and boron powders in H2/NH3 atmosphere under heating to 1073 K [13]. BN encapsulated Fe2B nanoparticles were synthesized by annealing the mechanochemically treated Fe-BN mixtures at 1133 K [16]. Oku et al. prepared huge BN nanocages by acid treatment of BN encapsulated Fe nanocapsules [17]. BN nanocages were also synthesized by arc discharge method using Ga/B powders [9]. It is our understanding that in this work the BN nanocages grew from the boron nanoparticles, not the Ni (B) nanocapsules. Usually, the traditional vapor-liquid-solid (VLS) can be used as the formation mechanism of the BN nanocages. But the VLS mechanism cannot be employed to the formation mechanism in this work, because the reaction temperature of about 1073 K is too low to evaporate boron. We ascribe the formation of the hollow BN nanocages to a solid reaction, as what have been illustrated in our previous work [14]: boron atoms at the surface of a boron nanoparticle first react with N2 gas to form a local BN layer, and then the layer grows along the surface of the boron nanoparticle. Compared with our previous work [14], we obtain the completely hollow BN nanocages at lower temperature. It is due to the existence of NH3, because NH3 is found to be much more effective than N2 in enhancing the sorption of nitrogen [18]. This gives a promising prospect for manufacturing different types of BN nanoparts easily.

4. Conclusion

Hexagonal boron-nitride (BN) nanocages were prepared by nitriding the amorphous boron nanoparticles at 1073 K under nitrogen and ammonia atmosphere. The big BN nanocages exhibit a well-crystallized feature with nearly pentagonal shape, while some small nanocages form with nearly spherical shape. HRTEM studies reveal that they are hollow nanocages.


The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial supports by the National Basic Research Program (no. 2010CB934603) of China, Ministry of Science and Technology China, and the National Natural Science Foundation of China under Grant no. 50831006, the Natural Science Foundation of Zhejiang Province under Grant no. Y407172.


  1. N. G. Chopra, R. J. Luyken, K. Cherrey et al., “Boron nitride nanotubes,” Science, vol. 269, no. 5226, pp. 966–967, 1995. View at: Google Scholar
  2. M. Terauchi, M. Tanaka, T. Matsumoto, and Y. Saito, “Electron energy-loss spectroscopy study of the electronic structure of boron nitride nanotubes,” Journal of Electron Microscopy, vol. 47, no. 4, pp. 319–324, 1998. View at: Google Scholar
  3. M. Kuno, T. Oku, and K. Suganuma, “Encapsulation of cobalt oxide nanoparticles and Ar in boron nitride nanocapsules,” Scripta Materialia, vol. 44, no. 8-9, pp. 1583–1586, 2001. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  4. T. Hirano, T. Oku, M. Kawaguchi, and K. Suganuma, “Formation and properties of boron nitride nanocapsules with metals and semiconductor nanoparticles,” Molecular Crystals and Liquid Crystals Science and Technology. Section A, vol. 340, pp. 787–792, 2000. View at: Google Scholar
  5. Y. Saito, M. Maida, and T. Matsumoto, “Structures of boron nitride nanotubes with single-layer and multilayers produced by arc discharge,” Japanese Journal of Applied Physics, Part 1, vol. 38, no. 1A, pp. 159–163, 1999. View at: Google Scholar
  6. T. Oku, T. Kusunose, T. Hirata et al., “Formation and structure of Ag, Ge and SiC nanoparticles encapsulated in boron nitride and carbon nanocapsules,” Diamond and Related Materials, vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 911–915, 2000. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  7. N. Koi, T. Oku, I. Narita, and K. Suganuma, “Synthesis of huge boron nitride cages,” Diamond and Related Materials, vol. 14, no. 3–7, pp. 1190–1192, 2005. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  8. Y. Pan, K. Huo, Y. Hu et al., “Boron nitride nanocages synthesized by a moderate thermochemical approach,” Small, vol. 1, no. 12, pp. 1199–1203, 2005. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  9. I. Narita and T. Oku, “Effects of catalytic metals for synthesis of BN fullerene nanomaterials,” Diamond and Related Materials, vol. 12, no. 3–7, pp. 1146–1150, 2003. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  10. M. S. Dresselhaus, K. A. Williams, and P. C. Eklund, “Hydrogen adsorption in carbon materials,” MRS Bulletin, vol. 24, no. 11, pp. 45–50, 1999. View at: Google Scholar
  11. S. Trasobares, O. Stéphan, C. Colliex et al., “Electron beam puncturing of carbon nanotube containers for release of stored N2 gas,” European Physical Journal B, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 117–122, 2001. View at: Google Scholar
  12. M. Terrones, R. Kamalakaran, T. Seeger, and M. Rühle, “Novel nanoscale gas containers: encapsulation of N2 in CNx nanotubes,” Chemical Communications, no. 23, pp. 2335–2336, 2000. View at: Google Scholar
  13. H. Kitahara, T. Oku, T. Hirano, and K. Suganuma, “Synthesis and characterization of cobalt nanoparticles encapsulated in boron nitride nanocages,” Diamond and Related Materials, vol. 10, no. 3–7, pp. 1210–1213, 2001. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  14. P. Z. Si, M. Zhang, C. Y. You et al., “Amorphous boron nanoparticles and BN encapsulating boron nano-peanuts prepared by arc-decomposing diborane and nitriding,” Journal of Materials Science, vol. 38, no. 4, pp. 689–692, 2003. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  15. Z. D. Zhang, J. L. Yu, J. G. Zheng et al., “Structure and magnetic properties of boron-oxide-coated Fe(B) nanocapsules prepared by arc discharge in diborane,” Physical Review B, vol. 64, no. 2, Article ID 024404, 5 pages, 2001. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  16. B. Bokhonov, M. Korchagin, and Yu. Borisova, “Formation of nanosized particles encapsulated in boron nitride during low-temperature annealing of mechanochemically treated Fe-BN mixtures,” Journal of Alloys and Compounds, vol. 372, no. 1-2, pp. 141–147, 2004. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  17. T. Oku, I. Narita, and H. Tokoro, “Synthesis and magnetic property of boron nitride nanocapsules encaging iron and cobalt nanoparticles,” Journal of Physics and Chemistry of Solids, vol. 67, no. 5-6, pp. 1152–1156, 2006. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  18. Z. Yang, R. Ren, X. Xie, and L. L. Shaw, “On nitrogen sorption during high energy milling of silicon powders in ammonia and nitrogen,” Metallurgical and Materials Transactions A, vol. 30, no. 4, pp. 1109–1117, 1999. View at: Google Scholar

Copyright © 2009 W. S. Zhang et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Related articles

No related content is available yet for this article.
 PDF Download Citation Citation
 Download other formatsMore
 Order printed copiesOrder

Related articles

No related content is available yet for this article.

Article of the Year Award: Outstanding research contributions of 2021, as selected by our Chief Editors. Read the winning articles.