Israeli company seeks to crack rare chemicals market

Israeli company seeks to crack rare chemicals market

Tel Aviv-based BCL offers boron nitrate, used in airplanes and missiles, at half the market price, but not getting any bites

Boron nitride under the microscope. The numbers refer to the nanometer size of each boron nitride particle (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Boron nitride under the microscope. The numbers refer to the nanometer size of each boron nitride particle (Photo credit: Courtesy)

An Israeli company has figured out a way to produce one of the world’s essential chemicals for half of what it currently costs to produce, but manufacturers don’t seem interested.

The chemical compound the company is referring to is boron nitride, which is widely used in mechanical operations — from cars and dentist drills to missiles and airplanes.

According to Dan Yardeni, founder and chairman of the board of Tel Aviv-based Boron Compounds Ltd. (BCL), boron nitride costs about $50 to $100 a kilo depending on its purity and the size of the particles. His company, however, has developed a way to make it for less than $20 a kilo. But, manufacturers don’t seem rushing to save money.

“We’re not quite sure why,” questioned Yardeni, “but I suspect that a lot of it is professional jealousy, that scientists who have positions in these chemical companies just don’t want to admit that someone does better work than they do. It’s a well-known issue in many industries, called NIH [Not Invented Here] syndrome.”

Boron nitride can remain stable at temperatures of up to 1,000°C in an air atmosphere and up to 2,400°C in an inert gas atmosphere. As a result, boron nitride, in its usual hexagonal form, is perfect for any environment where there are high temperatures, including in car engines, rockets, electrical systems, hydrogen fuel cells, and so on.

The material can also be shaped into cubic form, with the additional benefit of being extremely hard – second only to diamonds, the hardest material on the planet.

As a result, cubic boron nitride is increasingly being used in applications where a hard contact point is important; the compound has largely replaced diamonds in drills used by dentists, for example.

Part of BCL’s advantage is that it can easily make boron nitride in numerous forms, taking the raw material and developing it for specific needs.

“Very few companies in the world can do that, and none can do it for the price that we can,” said Yardeni, who developed the synthesized boron nitrite with his partner, metallurgist Oleg Prilutzky.

About 4,000 tons of boron nitride powder is produced each year, but Yardeni is convinced that even more is needed. BCL’s technology could add as much as 100 tons of the material to the world’s supply for a lot less than its regular cost.

“The world really needs more of this for many of the new, advanced technologies, like hydrogen power,” said Yardeni. “Without a material like boron nitride protecting fuel cells, they will be too unstable to produce and use commercially. The same goes for advanced aircraft, missiles, and other systems that operate at high temperatures.”

“We believe Israel has a lot to contribute to solving this, and we are very eager to get to work,” he said.


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