Charging Ahead: The Power of Boron Nitride in Electric Vehicles
November 3, 2023
Boron nitride (BN) is a versatile compound with unique properties that make it an increasingly important material in the context of electric vehicles (EVs). It is a synthetic ceramic composed of boron and nitrogen atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice structure, like carbon in graphite; however, BN is uniquely suited where many materials, including graphite, fail.
In the realm of EVs, BN finds applications in various critical components. It can be found in hundreds of plastic components as a thermally conductive filler, including encapsulation resin, thermal interface materials (TIMs), and thermoplastic composites. It can also be found as a coating for superplastic forming of aluminum autobody panels, critical for lightweighting, and as a non-stick protection release agent during high temperature manufacturing. Lastly, it can be found as a solid in high temperature insulator caps on wiring, as well as in the manufacturing process of EV batteries, since it is not reactive with many elements used to make them. With BN’s superior thermal conductivity, inertness, high dielectric strength, and lubricity, it is no surprise that this material is being scoped for hundreds of applications in this space.
BN Powders Take the Heat
One of the primary uses of BN in EVs is as a thermally conductive filler. BN's exceptional thermal conductivity helps dissipate heat efficiently, enhancing the performance and lifespan of electronic components. One of its main applications as a filler is in thermal interface materials (TIMs). Traditional fillers are unable to achieve the same level of thermal conductivity as BN while preserving the necessary electrical insulation for system safety. This is critical in a variety of EV electrical systems, including power electronics, charging systems, infotainment and display, and LED lighting. It is also helpful in electric motors (emotors) to improve the thermal performance of insulating components, such as the slot liners, which helps with efficiency and longevity. Another critical area for thermal management is in the battery assembly. BN is a leading filler for multiple levels of the battery assembly, improving thermal performance of TIMs between cells and the pack. It is also being used with thermoplastics for the casing. It has been shown to help with thermal runaway and flame retardancy, allowing for improved lifetime, performance, and safety1.
BN Coatings Help to Form
Boron Nitride coatings are also being investigated for a variety of applications in this market. One is superplastic forming of aluminum bodies to help with lightweighting EVs. They are also being used in a variety of other upstream manufacturing processes as a high temperature, inert release agent to protect equipment and finished pieces. Many other materials in this space tend to fail due to the reactivity of common substances used in batteries. New opportunities with coatings are still being actively identified and scoped.
BN Solids Secure the System
Safety is a critical concern in EV design. Ensuring robust safety measures that protect the passengers and intricate interconnected components of the system are a top priority. BN solids can help with this challenge and are commonly used as insulator caps and electrical isolation barriers. These materials are the ideal solution due to its high thermal conductivity in combination with superior dielectric strength. Its chemical inertness is an advantage for safety, as there is little concern with it reacting with other materials. BN solids can also be used throughout the battery manufacturing process.
In conclusion, boron nitride is emerging as a cornerstone material in the electric vehicle revolution, proving instrumental in enhancing safety, performance, efficiency, and longevity. Its remarkable thermal conductivity, inertness, and electrical insulating properties make it indispensable in key components such as power electronics, battery systems, and upstream manufacturing. As the demand for electric vehicles continues to surge, the significance of boron nitride in this burgeoning industry cannot be overstated, underscoring its vital contribution towards a more efficient and sustainable future of transportation.
Saint-Gobain ensures that all boron nitride produced will meet the premier quality expectations needed for the automotive market through purity, performance, service, and understanding of how these systems cooperate. They are the technical experts in this space.
Saint-Gobain Solutions for Electric Vehicles
Saint-Gobain offers a wide portfolio of solutions for electric vehicles. For inquiries or more information about BN or other offerings for use in electric vehicles, please contact us!
References and Further Reading
1. Mehmet Dogan, Sengul Dilem Dogan, Lemiye Atabek Savas, Gulsah Ozcelik, Umit Tayfun, Flame retardant effect of boron compounds in polymeric materials, Composites Part B: Engineering, Volume 222, 2021, 109088, ISSN 1359-8368, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compositesb.2021.109088.