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Boron: Properties, Uses, and Benefits

Amruta Deshpande Jan 22, 2019
Boron and its compounds have a wide range of applications, ranging from the field of medicine to agriculture. Read on to know more about the properties, benefits, and uses of this element in everyday life.
Boron is a chemical element with atomic number 5 and is represented by the symbol 'B'. It was first isolated by Sir Humphrey Davy, Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac, and Louis Jacques Thénard, but recognized as an element in 1824 by Jons Jakob Berzilius.
The name boron is derived from the Arabic word Buraq, which is a word for the mineral 'borax.'

Boron is the fifth element in the periodic table and is a trivalent metalloid that exhibits some properties of metals as well as of non-metals.

Properties

✦ Elemental boron is dark, amorphous, and a nonreactive solid.

✦ It occurs in nature in the form of orthoboric acid, colemanite, borax, and ulexite.

✦ Pure boron can be obtained by decomposing diborane, which is a compound made up of boron and hydrogen at high temperatures.
✦ This element is electron-deficient. It acts as an electrophile and a Lewis acid.

✦ The melting point of boron is 2079°C, while its boiling/sublimation point is 2550°C.

✦ Boron fails to conduct electricity at room temperatures; however, it is a good conductor at high temperatures.
✦ The specific gravity of amorphous form of this element is 2.37, whereas that of its crystalline form is 2.34.

✦ Boron filaments are lightweight, yet have high tensile strength.

✦ This element can form stable covalently bonded molecular networks just like carbon.

Uses

Boron and its compounds have been used for thousands of years for various purposes. The unique physical and chemical properties of boron are responsible of its various applications. Following are some uses of boron.
✦ One of the main applications of boron is in the form of sodium tetraborate pentahydrate, Na2B4O7. Sodium tetraborate is used in the manufacture of insulating fiberglass and in cleaning products such as bleaches and detergents.
✦ Sodium perborate, a compound containing this element, serves as a source of active oxygen in many laundry detergents, cleaning products, and tooth-bleaching formulas.
✦ Boron carbide shields have a high cross-section for neutron capture; hence, they are used as control rods in nuclear reactors. Boron carbide is also used in tank armor and in making bulletproof vests.
✦ Borosilicate glass is a common example of boron being used in glass and ceramic industries. This type of glass has a low coefficient of thermal expansion and shows excellent resistance to thermal shocks.
✦ Boron fibers have a high tensile strength, yet are lightweight. Thus, they are used in advanced aerospace structures, as well as for consumer and sporting goods such as fishing rods and golf clubs.
✦ Boron is used as a dopant in the semiconductor industry, for semiconductors like germanium, silicon, and silicon carbide.

✦ It is used in agriculture for making various chemicals, pest controls, fertilizers, soil supplements. It is one of the essential nutrients required by plants.

Benefits

Boron, in addition to being so useful in agriculture and in industries has several health benefits too.

✦ It helps in preventing osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, thus, maintaining overall bone health. It strengthens the bones by increasing the absorption of calcium and magnesium.
✦ It plays a significant role in regulating cell membrane functioning and metabolic activity. Regular intake of boron helps in efficient absorption of certain salts in the body, thus, reducing the risk of kidney stones.

✦ It is also important for brain health. Boron deficiency can decrease cognitive performances and result in impaired brain functioning.
✦ Borax solution is useful in the treatment of mouth ulcers. It can also treat eye infections effectively.

✦ Boron compounds also find uses as abrasives, lubricants, fire retardants, and insecticides.