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Boriding, also called boronizing, is the process by which boron is added to a metal or alloy. It is a type of surface hardening. In this process boron atoms are diffused into the surface of a metal component. The resulting surface contains metal borides, such as iron borides, nickel borides, and cobalt borides, As pure materials, these borides have extremely high hardness and wear resistance. Their favorable properties are manifested even when they are a small fraction of the bulk solid. [1] Boronized metal parts are extremely wear resistant and will often last two to five times longer than components treated with conventional heat treatments such as hardening, carburizing, nitriding, nitrocarburizing or induction hardening. Most borided steel surfaces will have iron boride layer hardnesses ranging from 1200-1600 HV. Nickel-based superalloys such as Inconel and Hastalloys will typically have nickel boride layer hardnesses of 1700-2300 HV.



Boriding can be achieved in several ways, but commonly the metal piece is packed with a boriding mixture and heating at 900 °C. Typical boriding mixture consists of boron carbide powder diluted with other refractory materials. The process converts some of the Fe to iron boride, consisting of two phases: FeB concentrated near the surface, and diiron boride (Fe2B). [1] Boride layer depths can range from 0.001 - 0.015 inches (25.4 - 38µm) depending on base material selection and treatment.


It is often used on steel, but is applicable to a variety of alloys and cermet materials. [2] [3] A wide range of materials suitable for treatment including plain carbon steels, alloy steels, tool steels, nickel-based super alloys, cobalt alloys, and stellite.

Properties conferred

Boriding gives the material the following desirable properties: wear resistance, improved hardness (1300-2000HV is possible), thermal stability, resistance to corrosion by acids, reduced coefficient of friction, and increased galling/cold-welding resistance. It is possible to combine boriding with other heat treatments such as carburizing, hardening or induction hardening to create deeper wear layers or high core hardness.

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Alloy Mixture or metallic solid solution composed of two or more elements

An alloy is a combination of metals or metals combined with one or more other elements. For example, combining the metallic elements gold and copper produces red gold, gold and silver becomes white gold, and silver combined with copper produces sterling silver. Elemental iron, combined with non-metallic carbon or silicon, produces alloys called steel or silicon steel. The resulting mixture forms a substance with properties that often differ from those of the pure metals, such as increased strength or hardness. Unlike other substances that may contain metallic bases but do not behave as metals, such as aluminium oxide (sapphire), beryllium aluminium silicate (emerald) or sodium chloride (salt), an alloy will retain all the properties of a metal in the resulting material, such as electrical conductivity, ductility, opaqueness, and luster. Alloys are used in a wide variety of applications, from the steel alloys, used in everything from buildings to automobiles to surgical tools, to exotic titanium-alloys used in the aerospace industry, to beryllium-copper alloys for non-sparking tools. In some cases, a combination of metals may reduce the overall cost of the material while preserving important properties. In other cases, the combination of metals imparts synergistic properties to the constituent metal elements such as corrosion resistance or mechanical strength. Examples of alloys are steel, solder, brass, pewter, duralumin, bronze and amalgams.

Heat treating Process of heating something to alter it

Heat treating is a group of industrial, thermal and metalworking processes used to alter the physical, and sometimes chemical, properties of a material. The most common application is metallurgical. Heat treatments are also used in the manufacture of many other materials, such as glass. Heat treatment involves the use of heating or chilling, normally to extreme temperatures, to achieve the desired result such as hardening or softening of a material. Heat treatment techniques include annealing, case hardening, precipitation strengthening, tempering, carburizing, normalizing and quenching. Although the term heat treatment applies only to processes where the heating and cooling are done for the specific purpose of altering properties intentionally, heating and cooling often occur incidentally during other manufacturing processes such as hot forming or welding.

Carbon steel Steel in which the main interstitial alloying constituent is carbon

Carbon steel is a steel with carbon content from about 0.05% up to 2.1% by weight. The definition of carbon steel from the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) states:

High-speed steel Subset of tool steels

High-speed steel is a subset of tool steels, commonly used as cutting tool material.

Quenching Rapid cooling of a workpiece to obtain certain material properties

In materials science, quenching is the rapid cooling of a workpiece in water, oil or air to obtain certain material properties. A type of heat treating, quenching prevents undesired low-temperature processes, such as phase transformations, from occurring. It does this by reducing the window of time during which these undesired reactions are both thermodynamically favorable, and kinetically accessible; for instance, quenching can reduce the crystal grain size of both metallic and plastic materials, increasing their hardness.


Carburising, carburizing, or carburisation is a heat treatment process in which iron or steel absorbs carbon while the metal is heated in the presence of a carbon-bearing material, such as charcoal or carbon monoxide. The intent is to make the metal harder. Depending on the amount of time and temperature, the affected area can vary in carbon content. Longer carburizing times and higher temperatures typically increase the depth of carbon diffusion. When the iron or steel is cooled rapidly by quenching, the higher carbon content on the outer surface becomes hard due to the transformation from austenite to martensite, while the core remains soft and tough as a ferritic and/or pearlite microstructure.

Galling A form of wear caused by adhesion between sliding surfaces

Galling is a form of wear caused by adhesion between sliding surfaces. When a material galls, some of it is pulled with the contacting surface, especially if there is a large amount of force compressing the surfaces together. Galling is caused by a combination of friction and adhesion between the surfaces, followed by slipping and tearing of crystal structure beneath the surface. This will generally leave some material stuck or even friction welded to the adjacent surface, whereas the galled material may appear gouged with balled-up or torn lumps of material stuck to its surface.


Case-hardening or surface hardening is the process of hardening the surface of a metal object while allowing the metal deeper underneath to remain soft, thus forming a thin layer of harder metal at the surface. For iron or steel with low carbon content, which has poor to no hardenability of its own, the case-hardening process involves infusing additional carbon or nitrogen into the surface layer. Case-hardening is usually done after the part has been formed into its final shape, but can also be done to increase the hardening element content of bars to be used in a pattern welding or similar process. The term face hardening is also used to describe this technique, when discussing modern armour.

Tempering (metallurgy) Process of heat treating used to increase toughness of iron-based alloys

Tempering is a process of heat treating, which is used to increase the toughness of iron-based alloys. Tempering is usually performed after hardening, to reduce some of the excess hardness, and is done by heating the metal to some temperature below the critical point for a certain period of time, then allowing it to cool in still air. The exact temperature determines the amount of hardness removed, and depends on both the specific composition of the alloy and on the desired properties in the finished product. For instance, very hard tools are often tempered at low temperatures, while springs are tempered at much higher temperatures.


Carbonitriding is a metallurgical surface modification technique that is used to increase the surface hardness of a metal, thereby reducing wear.

Chromium(II) carbide

Chromium(II) carbide is a ceramic compound that exists in several chemical compositions: Cr3C2, Cr7C3, and Cr23C6. At standard conditions it exists as a gray solid. It is extremely hard and corrosion resistant. It is also a refractory compound, which means that it retains its strength at high temperatures as well. These properties make it useful as an additive to metal alloys. When chromium carbide crystals are integrated into the surface of a metal it improves the wear resistance and corrosion resistance of the metal, and maintains these properties at elevated temperatures. The hardest and most commonly used composition for this purpose is Cr3C2.


Nitriding is a heat treating process that diffuses nitrogen into the surface of a metal to create a case-hardened surface. These processes are most commonly used on high-carbon, low-alloy steels. They are also used on medium and high-carbon steels, titanium, aluminium and molybdenum. In 2015, nitriding was used to generate unique duplex microstructure, known to be associated with strongly enhanced mechanical properties.

Electroless nickel-phosphorus plating

Electroless nickel-phosphorus plating is a chemical process that deposits an even layer of nickel-phosphorus alloy on the surface of a solid substrate, like metal or plastic. The process involves dipping the substrate in a water solution containing nickel salt and a phosphorus-containing reducing agent, usually a hypophosphite salt. It is the most common version of electroless nickel plating and is often referred just by that name. A similar process uses a borohydride reducing agent, yielding a nickel-boron coating instead.

Induction hardening is a type of surface hardening in which a metal part is induction-heated and then quenched. The quenched metal undergoes a martensitic transformation, increasing the hardness and brittleness of the part. Induction hardening is used to selectively harden areas of a part or assembly without affecting the properties of the part as a whole.

Alloy steel

Alloy steel is steel that is alloyed with a variety of elements in total amounts between 1.0% and 50% by weight to improve its mechanical properties. Alloy steels are broken down into two groups: low alloy steels and high alloy steels. The difference between the two is disputed. Smith and Hashemi define the difference at 4.0%, while Degarmo, et al., define it at 8.0%. Most commonly, the phrase "alloy steel" refers to low-alloy steels.


Austempering is heat treatment that is applied to ferrous metals, most notably steel and ductile iron. In steel it produces a bainite microstructure whereas in cast irons it produces a structure of acicular ferrite and high carbon, stabilized austenite known as ausferrite. It is primarily used to improve mechanical properties or reduce / eliminate distortion. Austempering is defined by both the process and the resultant microstructure. Typical austempering process parameters applied to an unsuitable material will not result in the formation of bainite or ausferrite and thus the final product will not be called austempered. Both microstructures may also be produced via other methods. For example, they may be produced as-cast or air cooled with the proper alloy content. These materials are also not referred to as austempered.

Mangalloy Alloy steel containing around 13% manganese

Mangalloy, also called manganese steel or Hadfield steel, is an alloy steel containing an average of around 13% manganese. Mangalloy is known for its high impact strength and resistance to abrasion once in its work-hardened state.

Ferritic nitrocarburizing or FNC, also known by the proprietary names Tenifer, Tufftride and Melonite as well as ARCOR, is a range of proprietary case hardening processes that diffuse nitrogen and carbon into ferrous metals at sub-critical temperatures during a salt bath. Other methods of ferric nitrocarburizing include gaseous process such as Nitrotec and ion (plasma) ones. The processing temperature ranges from 525 °C (977 °F) to 625 °C (1,157 °F), but usually occurs at 565 °C (1,049 °F). At this temperature steels and other ferrous alloys remain in the ferritic phase region. This allows for better control of the dimensional stability that would not be present in case hardening processes that occur when the alloy is transitioned into the austenitic phase. There are four main classes of ferritic nitrocarburizing: gaseous, salt bath, ion or plasma, and fluidized-bed.

Iron boride

Iron boride refers to various inorganic compounds with the formula FexBy. Two main iron borides are FeB and Fe2B. Some iron borides possess useful properties such as magnetism, electrical conductivity, corrosion resistance and extreme hardness. Some iron borides have found use as hardening coatings for iron. Iron borides have properties of ceramics such as high hardness, and properties of metal properties, such as thermal conductivity and electrical conductivity. Boride coatings on iron are superior mechanical, frictional, and anti-corrosive. Iron monoboride (FeB) is a grey powder that is insoluble in water. FeB is harder than Fe2B, but is more brittle and more easily fractured upon impact.


  1. 1 2 Helmut Kunst, Brigitte Haase, James C. Malloy, Klaus Wittel, Montia C. Nestler, Andrew R. Nicoll, Ulrich Erning and Gerhard Rauscher "Metals, Surface Treatment" in Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry, 2006, Wiley-VCH, Weinheim. doi : 10.1002/14356007.a16_403.pub2

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