Sol–gel precursors to HfB2 and ZrB2 are processed by high-energy ultrasonication of Hf,Zr oxychloride hydrates, triethyl borate, and phenolic resin to form precipitate-free sols that turn into stable gels with no catalyst addition. Both precursor concentration and structure (a sol or a gel) are found to influence the synthesis of the diboride phase at high temperature. Decreasing sol concentration increases powder surface area from 3.6 to 6.8 m2/g, whereas heat-treating a gel leads to residual oxides and carbides. Particles are either fine spherical particles, unique elongated rods, and/or platelets, indicating particle growth with directional coarsening. Investigation of the conversion process to ZrB2 indicates that a multistep reaction is likely taking place with: (1) ZrC formation, (2) ZrC reacts with B2O3 or ZrC reacts with B2O3 and C to form ZrB2. At low temperatures, ZrC formation is limiting, while at higher temperatures the reaction of ZrC to ZrB2 becomes rate limiting. ZrC is found to be a direct reducing agent for B2O3 at low temperature (~1200°C) to form ZrB2 and ZrO2, whereas at high temperatures (~1500°C) it reacts with B2O3 and C to form pure ZrB2.
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