The growth of nanotube films can have important applications in building nanoscale functional devices or solving interfacial and heat problems. We report that high-density boron nitride nanotube (BNNT) films with any desired pattern can be grown on complicated surfaces using a boron (B) ink process. The special B ink, a mixture of nanosized B particles, metal nitrate and ethanol, is first painted, sprayed or inkjet printed at the desired location with required pattern, and then the ink layer is annealed in a nitrogen-containing atmosphere to form BNNT film. This is the first method capable of growing BNNTs on complex non-flat surfaces, which greatly broadens the potential application of BNNTs. For example, it is demonstrated here that a BNNT coated steel mesh can separate water and oil on a microlitre scale; a needle given an internal BNNT coating could greatly enhance microfluidic transport; and a coated screw could be used to minimize wear at the interface.
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