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Boron carbide represents one of the hardest and densest materials on Earth. Manufacturers produce this special ceramic product by combining carbon molecules with a natural element called boron. These materials can be combined in an electric arc furnace or using an acid-based chemical reaction, both resulting in a material with four boron molecules and a single carbon molecule. The supreme level of hardness and density of this material makes it suitable for a wide variety of highly specialized applications that cannot be achieved with any other material.
One of the most common applications of boron carbide is in the nuclear power industry. Boron carbide is one of the only materials on earth that can safely contain nuclear control rods and prevent radiation leaks. This material also serves as an effective radiation shield outside of the nuclear industry, such as in a hospital or research environment where large amounts of radioactive energy can be used.
Boron carbide is also widely used in the manufacturing industry to make materials that require the highest level of durability. For example, this material is used to make armor plates for vehicles as well as highly effective body armor for soldiers and police. It is also used in high quality locks and security devices due to its ability to withstand almost any type of tampering or force. Manufacturers use boron carbide to make nozzles and other accessories for blasting equipment and to coat metal tools and other mechanical parts that are subject to high wear.
Many of boron carbide’s natural properties make it suitable for the toughest applications. This black or dark gray powder offers a diamond-like hardness and density and also provides supreme wear resistance. It has a high melting point and is chemically inert, which prevents unwanted reactions with surrounding materials or compounds. It is also lightweight and can be hot-pressed in molds to form various shapes.
Despite its many advantages, boron carbide is also associated with a number of potential disadvantages in some applications. Temperature variations can lead to a phenomenon known as thermal shock failure, and this material is also more susceptible to oxidation than some other similar materials. Products made from boron carbide are only limited to what can be created with hot-press manufacturing, as other production techniques are not suitable for this material. Finally, boron carbide is extremely expensive and typically costs five to ten times as much as steel.