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Aluminium magnesium boride

Aluminum magnesium boride or BAM is a chemical

compound of aluminium, magnesium and boron.
Whereas its nominal formula is AlMgB14 , the chemical
composition is closer to Al.Mg.B14 . It is a ceramic
alloy that is highly resistive to wear and has a low
coecient of sliding friction, reaching a record value
of 0.02 in lubricated AlMgB14 TiB2 composites. First
reported in 1970, BAM has an orthorhombic structure
with four icosahedral B12 units per unit cell.[1] This
ultrahard material has a coecient of thermal expansion
comparable to that of other widely used materials such
as steel and concrete.


Crystal structure of BAM viewed along the a crystal axis. Blue:

Al, green: Mg, red: B.

BAM powders are produced by heating a nearly

stoichiometric mixture of boron, aluminium and magnesium for a few hours at a temperature in the range
9001500 C. Spurious phases are then dissolved in hot
hydrochloric acid.[1][2] To ease the reaction and make the
product more homogeneous, the starting mixture can be
processed in a high-energy ball mill. All pretreatments
are carried out in a dry, inert atmosphere to avoid oxidation of the metal powders.[3][4]

containing icosahedra. Each icosahedron contains 12

boron atoms. Eight more boron atoms connect the icosahedra to the other elements in the unit cell. The occupancy of metal sites in the lattice is lower than one,
and thus while the material is usually identied with the
formula AlMgB14 , its chemical composition is closer
to Al.Mg.B14 .[3][4] Such non-stoichiometry is common for borides (see crystal structure of boron-rich metal
BAM lms can be coated on silicon or metals by pulsed borides and boron carbide). The unit cell parameters of
laser deposition, using AlMgB14 powder as a target,[5] BAM are a = 1.0313 nm, b = 0.8115 nm, c = 0.5848
whereas bulk samples are obtained by sintering the nm, Z = 4 (four structure units per unit cell), space group
Imam, Pearson symbol oI68, density 2.59 g/cm3 .[1] The
BAM usually contains small amounts of impurity ele- melting point is roughly estimated as 2000 C.[7]
ments (e.g., oxygen and iron) that enter the material during preparation. It is thought that the presence of iron
(most often introduced as wear debris from mill vials 2.2 Optoelectronic
and media) serves as a sintering aid. BAM can be alloyed with silicon, phosphorus, carbon, titanium diboride BAM has a bandgap of about ~1.5 eV. Signicant ab(TiB2 ), aluminium nitride (AlN), titanium carbide (TiC) sorption is observed at sub-bandgap energies and attributed to metal atoms. Electrical resistivity depends
or boron nitride (BN).[4][6]
on the sample purity and is about 104 Ohmcm. The
Seebeck coecient is relatively high, between 5.4 and
8.0 mV/K. This property originates from electron trans2 Properties
fer from metal atoms to the boron icosahedra and is favorable for thermoelectric applications.[7]



2.3 Hardness

Most superhard materials have simple, high-symmetry

crystal structures, e.g., diamond cubic or zinc blende.
However, BAM has a complex, low-symmetry crystal
structure with 64 atoms per unit cell. The unit cell is
orthorhombic and its most salient feature is four boron-

The microhardness of BAM powders is 3235 GPa. It

can be increased to 4550 GPa upon alloying BAM
with of TiB2 [4] or by depositing a quasi-amorphous

BAM lm.[5] Addition of AlN or TiC to BAM reduces its hardness.[6] By denition, a hardness value exceeding 40 GPa makes BAM a superhard material. In
the BAMTiB2 composite, the maximum hardness and
toughness are achieved at ~60 vol.% of TiB2 .[6] The wear
rate is improved by increasing the TiB2 content to 70
80% at the expense of ~10% hardness loss.[8] The TiB2
additive is a wear-resistant material itself with a hardness
of 2835 GPa.[6]


Thermal expansion

The thermal expansion coecient (TEC) for AlMgB14

was measured as 9106 K1 by dilatometry and by high
temperature X-ray diraction using synchrotron radiation. This value is fairly close to the COTE of widely used
materials such as steel, titanium and concrete. Based on
the hardness values reported for AlMgB14 and the materials themselves being used as wear resistant coatings, the
COTE of AlMgB14 could be used in determining coating application methods and the performance of the parts
once in service.[3][4]



A composite of BAM and TiB2 (70 volume percent) has

one of the lowest values of friction coecients, which
amounts to 0.040.05 in dry scratching by a diamond
tip[5] (cf. 0.04 for Teon) and decreases to 0.02 in waterglycol-based lubricants.[9][10]


BAM is commercially available and is being studied for

potential applications. For example, pistons, seals and
blades on pumps could be coated with BAM or BAM
+ TiB2 to reduce friction between parts and to increase
wear resistance. The reduction in friction would reduce
energy use. BAM could also be coated onto cutting tools.
The reduced friction would lessen the force necessary
to cut an object, extend tool life, and possibly allow increased cutting speeds. Coatings only 23 micrometers
thick have been found to improve eciency and reduce
wear in cutting tools.[11]


[1] V. I. Matkovich and J. Economy (1970). Structure of

MgAlB14 and a brief critique of structural relationships
in higher borides. Acta Cryst. B 26 (5): 616621.
[2] Higashi, I; Ito, T (1983). Renement of the structure of
MgAlB14. Journal of the Less Common Metals 92 (2):
239. doi:10.1016/0022-5088(83)90490-3.


[3] Russell, A. M., B. A. Cook, J. L. Harringa and T. L. Lewis

(2002). Coecient of thermal expansion of AlMgB14.
Scripta Materialia 46 (9): 62933. doi:10.1016/S13596462(02)00034-9.
[4] Cook, B. A., J. L. Harringa, T. L. Lewis and A. M.
Russell (2000). A new class of ultra-hard materials
based on AlMgB14. Scripta Materalia 42 (6): 597602.
[5] Tian, Y.; Bastawros, A. F.; Lo, C. C. H.; Constant, A.
P.; Russell, A. M.; Cook, B. A. (2003). Superhard
self-lubricating AlMgB14 lms for microelectromechanical devices. Applied Physics Letters 83 (14): 2781.
[6] Ahmed, A; Bahadur, S; Cook, B; Peters, J (2006). Mechanical properties and scratch test studies of new ultrahard AlMgB14 modied by TiB2. Tribology International 39 (2): 129. doi:10.1016/j.triboint.2005.04.012.
[7] Werhcit, Helmut; Kuhlmann, Udo; Krach, Gunnar; Higashi, Iwami; Lundstrm, Torsten; Yu, Yang (1993).
Optical and electronic properties of the orthorhombic
MgAIB14-type borides. Journal of Alloys and Compounds 202: 269. doi:10.1016/0925-8388(93)90549-3.
[8] Cook, B.A.; Peters, J.S.; Harringa, J.L.; Russell, A.M. (2011).
Enhanced wear resistance in
AlMgB14TiB2 composites. Wear 271 (56): 640.
[9] Kurt Kleiner (2008-11-21). Material slicker than Teon
discovered by accident. New Scientist. Archived from the
original on 20 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-25.
[10] Higdon, C.; Cook, B.; Harringa, J.; Russell, A.; Goldsmith, J.; Qu, J.; Blau, P. (2011). Friction and wear
mechanisms in AlMgB14-TiB2 nanocoatings. Wear 271
(910): 2111. doi:10.1016/j.wear.2010.11.044.
[11] Tough nanocoatins boost industrial energy eciency.
Ames Laboratory. Press release. Department of Energy.
18 Nov. 2008.

5 External links
Material slicker than Teon New Scientist Article on
News on AlMgB14 Press Release with photos.