boron carbide ceramic

Boron carbide (B4C) is an extremely hard synthetic material widely used in abrasive and wear-resistant products, lightweight composite materials, strike face protection for military armored vehicles and more.

Green or biscuit form and sintered into dense shapes using hot pressing requires high pressure and temperature (2100-2200 degC).


Boron carbide ceramic boast a Mohs hardness scale rating of 9.49, making them the third hardest material behind diamond and cubic boron nitride. Their combination of hardness and low density make it an excellent material choice for bulletproof vests, helmets, abrasive materials and other applications where high resistance to wear is desired.

Boron carbide is a complex compound composed of a boron-carbon matrix with icosahedral crystal structures. It features low self-diffusion coefficient and strong covalent bonding among its atoms that contributes to its hardness; additionally, its crystalline structure gives rise to increased strength and stiffness.

Due to its superior combination of hardness, low density, and chemical stability, boron carbide is one of the most frequently used materials for making abrasives. Hardness may be increased further by adding silicon; doing so also enhances ceramic’s abrasion resistance.

Boron carbide in its pure form is a grayish-white powder with a density of 2.52 g/cm3, but can be produced using different color additives to meet various applications. Furthermore, its carbon ratio can also be changed for tailored production of unique products with specific properties.

Boron carbide’s crystal structure consists of icosahedral units linked by three-atom chains, giving rise to high hardness and elastic modulus properties as well as its low density and chemical stability.

Hot pressing sintering is the primary method used for producing B4C ceramics and is one of the primary methods for their formation into solid forms. This process entails heating the powder to 2100 degrees Celsius while applying pressure of between 80-100 MPa before slowly cooling to room temperature and producing an end product with an approximate density of 98{3acecd06353d99efc7e310a3f1da5a7d22fc0f88af6041abe641b496d156e631} of its theoretical value.


Boron carbide’s density is approximately four times that of steel, making it highly resistant to being destroyed through impact, making it ideal for applications such as tank armour, bulletproof vests and various industrial uses. Furthermore, its Mohs hardness of 9.3 ranks it nearly equal to diamond and approximately as hard as cubic boron nitride – providing ample strength in one material!

B4C is a covalent compound produced in electric arc furnaces by reacting boron oxide with carbon at temperatures exceeding 2,400 degC/4,352 degF to create a shiny black granular powder, which can then be ground into desired sizes and particle shapes. Prior to manufacturing, this powder must first be combined with an appropriate binder (typically tungsten carbide), in order to maintain proper chemistry during sintering as well as ensure the formation of an uninterrupted solid mass.

Sintering produces boron carbide that is very close in tolerance to its green or biscuit state and therefore ideal for complex geometries. Unfortunately, though, due to body shrinkage of around 20{3acecd06353d99efc7e310a3f1da5a7d22fc0f88af6041abe641b496d156e631} during sintering it becomes very challenging to achieve tight tolerances when fully sintered boron carbide has been produced; in order to do this successfully it must either be machined using extremely precise diamond coated tools or ground down using abrasive wheels.

Military vehicle strike face material made of boron carbide is an advanced tungsten carbide-based material that provides outstanding ballistic protection from conventional and advanced projectiles, but less so against some modern IEDs. When struck by high velocity rounds it suffers shear localisation with the initial sign being reduced dimensional stability and diminished Vickers hardness, likely caused by shear deformation of disordered phases within its crystalline structure (see figure 7.16).

Wear Resistance

Boron carbide ceramic boast high hardness, low density, corrosion resistance and are highly resistant to abrasion and impact, making them suitable for use in applications involving grinding and polishing abrasives, such as diamond grinding and polishing applications. Their grinding abilities exceed even that of diamond while their grindability surpasses that of silicon carbide and corundum materials significantly. Their resistance to erosion makes boron carbide ceramics suitable for industrial uses like shot blast nozzles and cyclone components.

Wear resistance of boron carbide depends on its grain size; larger grains make it harder for cracks to propagate between them, thus increasing wear resistance and wear resistance. Grain refinement may increase strength by spreading stress more evenly and helping distribute stress across an material’s structure.

Boron carbide can be combined with other materials, like titanium and carbon additives, to increase its abrasion resistance and lower cracking rates while simultaneously increasing thermal stability – leading to reduced cracking rates and greater wear resistance.

To minimize wear of boron carbide, it is crucial to ensure the sintering process takes place under ideal conditions. This may involve using a vacuum sintering furnace or heating the powder at an appropriate temperature; additionally, constant rates must also be employed so as to maintain particle uniformity and distribution of crystallites evenly throughout. By adhering to these guidelines, durable and strong ceramic boron carbides can be produced; something which is especially relevant in applications where high levels of impact occur.

Corrosion Resistance

Boron Carbide is well-known for its ability to withstand corrosion (in an acid environment). This material can be found in many products including refractory materials, engineering ceramics and even sand-blasting and high pressure water cutting nozzles.

Corrosion resistance of boron carbide ceramics is determined by their binder composition and additives, as well as other variables including spray process, cooling rate and flame temperature. Overall, boron carbide tends to offer greater acidic solution resistance while providing lesser alkaline solution resistance.

Tetrahedral-structured materials with high hardness such as sapphire are only rivaled by diamond and cubic boron nitride in terms of hardness. Their characteristics also include low density, high melting point, good chemical stability and radiation protection – the mainstay components in deceleration elements in nuclear reactors.

B4C can be formed into various shapes using various methods. Most frequently, it is produced into powder form before being sintered using hot pressing techniques or controlled melt oxidation techniques to create thick slabs or blocks.

Corrosion resistance can be measured by analyzing the current-versus-voltage curve. When approaching Ecorr, its slope changes into a straight line which allows the calculation of resistance.

Note that the corrosion resistance of boron carbide ceramic can vary with time and use. When exposed to acidic or alkaline environments, its corrosion resistance decreases due to reaction between ions with surface particles or phase change processes. Furthermore, coating thickness and bonding with base material also can affect its corrosion resistance.


Boron carbide boasts high thermal conductivity, making it an excellent material to use as a thermocouple element with temperatures reaching 2300 deg C of operation.

Boron can be found as a major component in composite materials to provide mechanical reinforcement (e.g. a whisker) or as an oxidation protection at non-oxide systems’ interfaces, as well as acting as a shock absorber delivering outstanding ballistic performance for tank armored vehicles, body armor, and helicopters.

Boron carbide, as a dense ceramic material, demonstrates superior wear resistance compared to zirconia and magnesium oxide ceramics. With its Mohs hardness of 9.3, this dense material is often employed for production of dense parts as well as industrial, bulletproof, and ballistic applications.

At temperatures up to 1600 degC, the dimensional shrinkage rate of commercial pure B4C was measured at 10 degC min-1 over an hour-and-a-half time interval. Our findings revealed a linear relationship between composition and sintering behavior – particularly with regards to TiSi2 additives; specifically adding just 5{3acecd06353d99efc7e310a3f1da5a7d22fc0f88af6041abe641b496d156e631} increased the temperature significantly and produced optimal results.

Sintering experiments using various additions to B4C have been conducted and it was discovered that by varying metal boride composition, Seebeck coefficient can be tuned by two orders of magnitude, making B4C an effective thermocouple at very high temperatures.

For effective production of close-tolerance and dimensionally accurate boron carbide ceramic, it is imperative that every stage of the sintering process is closely managed. This may be accomplished via carbothermal reduction, self-propagating thermal reduction techniques or mechanochemical reactions; whatever method or combination thereof used must be optimized so as to produce desired microstructure.