Boron is a chemical element which is represented by the symbol 'B' and has an atomic number of 5. Wondering where is boron found? Well, boron is a naturally-occurring element, however, the pure isolated boron or free boron is believed to be a rarity on earth. Producing the pure form of boron industrially is believed to be an extremely difficult task, however, boron is abundantly found in the form of an ore called borax.
In Nature, boron is mainly found in rocks, soil and water. However, it is primarily found in the form of chemical compounds called borates. The countries wherein boron mines are found include United States of America, Turkey, China, Argentina, Peru, Chile and Russia. Boron figures in the list of essential trace minerals, and is therefore needed in small quantities for the normal functioning of the human body. Boron plays a crucial role in plant kingdom as well. It is the presence of boron that aids in the production of certain plant proteins. Boron also enables plants to draw water from the soil. The absence or deficiency of this critical trace element may be seen in an unhealthy coloring and even damage on plant leaves. Given below is some information on where boron is found in nature along with information on natural processes and human activities through which boron is released into the environment
What is Boron Used For?
Before we move on to the forms in which boron is found in nature, let's find out about the uses of boron. As mentioned earlier, boron is a trace element that promotes optimal health. It is believed that small amounts of boron are critical for regulating the levels of key hormones such as testosterone and estrogen. Prunes, dates, grapes, apricot, apple, pears, oranges, raisins, hazel nuts, avocado and honey are some of dietary sources of boron.
Various compounds of boron are also widely used for household purposes. Boron is used in detergents and bleaches. Borax is another compound of boron that is used for making adhesives. The properties of borax also make it an important ingredient of anti-corrosion systems. Boric acid is a derivative of boron that has been used as an insecticide for long. Metal borides are often used to enhance the strength of substances on which they are used. Neodynium iron boron magnets, which are also referred to as rare earth magnets, are used in important diagnostic imaging procedures. Boron is also an important constituent of control rods in nuclear reactors. Boron is used in bullet-proof vests and armored heavy combat vehicles. Lightweight boron filaments are also an integral part of the complex aerospace structures.
How is Boron Released into the Environment?
As discussed, due to boron's innate properties it is extremely rare to find it in its pristine isolated form. Hence, minerals which contain boron are used in industrial applications that require boron. The minerals that contain this element include tincal, ulexite, colemanite and rasorite. On account of its extreme rarity, even mining for boron is regarded as commercially prohibitive and hence is not a widespread industry. Mining for boron-containing minerals is primarily concentrated in USA, Turkey and Russia. Various natural processes also give rise to emission of boron into the environment. Weathering of rocks and soil is one of the geographical phenomena that largely contributes to the release of boron. Boron is mainly found in the sedimentary rocks. Wind and rain are some of the agents that are responsible for weathering of boron-containing rocks, which in turn, causes the release of boron into its surroundings. Geothermal and hydrothermal activities are also an important source of boron. Volcanic eruptions and geothermal steam also emit boron into the environment.
During volcanic eruptions, the high temperature causes boron to be emitted from the boron-containing rocks in the form of vapors. Ocean water being a major source of boron, the hydrothermal eruptions from the water bodies are likely to emit boron. Also, borates and boric acid traces are released when ocean water undergoes the process of evaporation. Borates do not usually remain in the atmosphere for too long and are known to return to land and sea especially during rains, thereby resetting the stage for the next round of emissions of boron.
Boron is also released into the environment through various activities that are carried out by human beings. For instance, fossil fuels such as coal and gas are known to contain boron and their usage contributes to the release of boron into the atmosphere. Borates are also an important constituent in fertilizers. Hence, farming and agricultural activities involving the use of fertilizers and herbicides too may be pointed as an important source of boron emissions. Disposal of sewage may also act as a contributory factor for the release of boron. Boron mining, manufacture of glass and industrial usage of boron is also known to release boron into our surroundings. The burning of crops, waste and even wood is known to emit boron into the environment.
This was some information the sources and uses of the element boron. While natural processes such as volcanic eruptions and weathering mainly contribute to the release of boron, certain human activities are also known to facilitate the release of borates into the surroundings.