What is Boron?

What is Boron?

It is difficult to comprehend the variety of uses of boron in construction, manufacturing, medicine, science, microelectronics, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, space travel, communication satellites, specialty metals, battery technology and more! We could not survive without the element boron. It is found all around us and we are in constant contact with this vital element – even though we are, for the most part, not aware of it.  Interestingly, economic occurrences of Boron are quite rare and large economic deposits exist in only a few places.

Some common applications of boron include glass production, insulation, fertilizer, silicon, metallurgy, LCD screens, stealth technology, sports equipment, nuclear reactors and waste storage, lithium batteries, computers, heat shields and medicines. Boron can also be found in automotive products like motor oil, brake fluid, steering fluid and antifreeze.

The number of items that contain boron in homes is surprising. Roofing materials, wallboard, paint, fiberglass insulation and cellulose insulation all contain boron. When used as a treatment for construction materials such as wood, plastic, bricks, pipes and wires, boron helps to protect from mold, fungus and insects. Boron is found in the ceramic tiles on the floors, in the porcelain enamel used on your sink, refrigerators, pots and pans. Boron is also in heat resistant cookware, crystal glass and dishwasher detergent. Boron is also found in soap, shampoo, creams, lotions, makeup, shaving cream, lens solution, hair products (dye, straighteners, perms etc.) and even tooth and denture products. Sheets, bed coverings and clothing contain boron that improves fibre performance. Boron is also used in detergents, laundry boosters and bleaches.

 

boronAll plant life requires boron to grow. Boron is key to the flowering, pollen, seed and fruit development and germination itself. It also plays a major part in the production of sugar and carbohydrates within leaves and roots. Fertilizers also contain boron. It would not be possible to grow many crops, especially in areas where the natural occurrence of boron is low, without the addition of boron.

  Boron is a critically important industrial mineral. World production of boron minerals reached an estimated 4.35 million metric tons in 2010.

Consumption of borates used in high-technical applications is expected to increase by 10% in North America and 13% in Europe by 2012. China is the largest consumer of boron, where consumption has risen by 15 percent per year from 2000 to 2010.

Borate minerals and refined borate products are used extensively worldwide in the manufacture of vitreous products such as fiberglass insulation, textile fiberglass, borosilicate glass (e.g. LCD screens), ceramic glazes and porcelain enamels. These applications account for approximately 60 per cent of borate consumption, with detergents, fire retardants, metallurgy, agriculture, insecticides, wood preservatives and specialty products accounting for the remainder.

Source: US Geological Survey, Report on Boron – 2010 (with 2011 update).

Market prices reflect the relative scarcity of borates with prices averaging: US$500-$700/tonne for colemanite concentrate (40% B2O3); $500-$700/tonne for ulexite (40% B2O3); $620-$900/tonne for boric acid.

Source Industrial Minerals Online. June 2011

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