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General properties
Name, symbol, number boron, B, 5
Pronunciation / ˈ b ɔər ɒ n /
Metallic category metalloid
Group, period, block 13, 2, p
Standard atomic weight 10.81(1)
Electron configuration [He] 2s2 2p1
2, 3
Electron shells of boron (2, 3)
Discovery Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac and Louis Jacques Thénard (30 June 1808)
First isolation Humphry Davy (9 July 1808)
Physical properties
Phase solid
Liquid density at m.p. 2.08 g·cm−3
Melting point 2349 K, 2076 °C, 3769 °F
Boiling point 4200 K, 3927 °C, 7101 °F
Heat of fusion 50.2 kJ·mol−1
Heat of vaporization 480 kJ·mol−1
Molar heat capacity 11.087 J·mol−1·K−1
Vapor pressure
P (Pa) 1 10 100 1 k 10 k 100 k
at T (K) 2348 2562 2822 3141 3545 4072
Atomic properties
Oxidation states 3, 2, 1
(mildly acidic oxide)
Electronegativity 2.04 (Pauling scale)
Ionization energies
( more)
1st: 800.6 kJ·mol−1
2nd: 2427.1 kJ·mol−1
3rd: 3659.7 kJ·mol−1
Atomic radius 90 pm
Covalent radius 84±3 pm
Van der Waals radius 192 pm
Crystal structure rhombohedral
Boron has a rhombohedral crystal structure
Magnetic ordering diamagnetic
Electrical resistivity (20 °C) ~106 Ω·m
Thermal conductivity 27.4 W·m−1·K−1
Thermal expansion (25 °C) (β form) 5–7 µm·m−1·K−1
Speed of sound (thin rod) (20 °C) 16,200 m·s−1
Mohs hardness ~9.5
CAS registry number 7440-42-8
Most stable isotopes
Main article: Isotopes of boron
iso NA half-life DM DE ( MeV) DP
10B 19.9(7)%* 10B is stable with 5 neutrons
11B 80.1(7)%* 11B is stable with 6 neutrons
*Boron-10 content may be as low as 19.1% and as
high as 20.3% in natural samples. Boron-11 is
the remainder in such cases.

Boron is a chemical element with chemical symbol B and atomic number 5. Because boron is produced entirely by cosmic ray spallation and not by stellar nucleosynthesis, it is a low-abundance element in both the solar system and the Earth's crust. Boron is concentrated on Earth by the water-solubility of its more common naturally occurring compounds, the borate minerals. These are mined industrially as evaporites, such as borax and kernite.

Chemically uncombined boron, which is classed as a metalloid, is not found naturally on Earth. Industrially, very pure boron is produced with difficulty, as boron tends to form refractory materials containing small amounts of carbon or other elements. Several allotropes of boron exist: amorphous boron is a brown powder and crystalline boron is black, extremely hard (about 9.5 on the Mohs scale), and a poor conductor at room temperature. Elemental boron is used as a dopant in the semiconductor industry.

The major industrial-scale uses of boron compounds are in sodium perborate bleaches, and the borax component of fibreglass insulation. Boron polymers and ceramics play specialized roles as high-strength lightweight structural and refractory materials. Boron compounds are used in silica-based glasses and ceramics to give them resistance to thermal shock. Boron-containing reagents are used for as intermediates in the synthesis of organic fine chemicals. A few boron-containing organic pharmaceuticals are used, or are in study. Natural boron is composed of two stable isotopes, one of which ( boron-10) has a number of uses as a neutron-capturing agent.

In biology, borates have low toxicity in mammals (similar to table salt), but are more toxic to arthropods and are used as insecticides. Boric acid is mildly antimicrobial, and a natural boron-containing organic antibiotic is known. Boron is essential to life. Small amounts of boron compounds play a strengthening role in the cell walls of all plants, making boron necessary in soils. Experiments indicate a role for boron as an ultratrace element in animals, but its role in animal physiology is unknown.

History and etymology

The name boron originates from the Arabic word بورق buraq or the Persian word بوره burah; which are names for the mineral borax.


Boron compounds were known thousands of years ago. Borax was known from the deserts of western Tibet, where it received the name of tincal, derived from the Sanskrit. Borax glazes were used in China from AD300, and some tincal even reached the West, where the Persian alchemist Jābir ibn Hayyān seems to mention it in 700. Marco Polo brought some glazes back to Italy in the 13th century. Agricola, around 1600, reports the use of borax as a flux in metallurgy. In 1777, boric acid was recognized in the hot springs ( soffioni) near Florence, Italy, and became known as sal sedativum, with mainly medical uses. The rare mineral is called sassolite, which is found at Sasso, Italy. Sasso was the main source of European borax from 1827 to 1872, at which date American sources replaced it. Boron compounds were relatively rarely used chemicals until the late 1800s when Francis Marion Smith's Pacific Coast Borax Company first popularized these compounds and made them in volume and hence cheap.

Boron was not recognized as an element until it was isolated by Sir Humphry Davy and by Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac and Louis Jacques Thénard. In 1808 Davy observed that electric current sent through a solution of borates produced a brown precipitate on one of the electrodes. In his subsequent experiments he used potassium to reduce boric acid instead of electrolysis. He produced enough boron to confirm a new element and named the element boracium. Gay-Lussac and Thénard used iron to reduce boric acid at high temperatures. They showed by oxidizing boron with air that boric acid is an oxidation product of boron. Jöns Jakob Berzelius identified boron as an element in 1824. Pure boron was arguably first produced by the American chemist Ezekiel Weintraub in 1909.



Boron chunks

Boron is similar to carbon in its capability to form stable covalently bonded molecular networks. Even nominally disordered ( amorphous) boron contains regular boron icosahedra which are, however, bonded randomly to each other without long-range order. Crystalline boron is a very hard, black material with a high melting point of above 2000 °C. It exists in four major polymorphs: α, β, γ and T. Whereas α, β and T phases are based on B12 icosahedra, the γ-phase can be described as a rocksalt-type arrangement of the icosahedra and B2 atomic pairs. It can be produced by compressing other boron phases to 12–20 GPa and heating to 1500–1800 °C; it remains stable after releasing the temperature and pressure. The T phase is produced at similar pressures, but higher temperatures of 1800–2200 °C. As to the α and β phases, they might both coexist at ambient conditions with the β phase being more stable. Compressing boron above 160 GPa produces a boron phase with an as yet unknown structure, and this phase is a superconductor at temperatures 6–12 K.

Boron phase α β γ T
Symmetry Rhombohedral Rhombohedral Orthorhombic Tetragonal
Atoms/unit cell 12 ~105 28
Density (g/cm3) 2.46 2.35 2.52 2.36
Vickers hardness (GPa) 42 45 50–58
Bulk modulus (GPa) 185 224 227
Bandgap (eV) 2 1.6 2.1

Chemistry of the element

Elemental boron is rare and poorly studied because the material is extremely difficult to prepare. Most studies on "boron" involve samples that contain small amounts of carbon. Chemically, boron behaves more similarly to silicon than to aluminium. Crystalline boron is chemically inert and resistant to attack by boiling hydrofluoric or hydrochloric acid. When finely divided, it is attacked slowly by hot concentrated hydrogen peroxide, hot concentrated nitric acid, hot sulfuric acid or hot mixture of sulfuric and chromic acids.

The rate of oxidation of boron depends upon the crystallinity, particle size, purity and temperature. Boron does not react with air at room temperature, but at higher temperatures it burns to form boron trioxide:

4 B + 3 O2 → 2 B2O3
Ball-and-stick model of tetraborate anion, [B4O5(OH)4]2−, as it occurs in crystalline borax, Na2[B4O5(OH)4]·8H2O. Boron atoms are pink, with bridging oxygens in red, and four hydroxyl hydrogens in white. Note two borons are trigonally bonded sp2 with no formal charge, while the other two borons are tetrahedrally bonded sp3, each carrying a formal charge of −1. The oxidation state of all borons is III. This mixture of boron coordination numbers and formal charges is characteristic of natural boron minerals.

Boron undergoes halogenation to give trihalides, for example,

2 B + 3 Br2 → 2 BBr3

The trichloride in practice is usually made from the oxide.

Chemical compounds

Boron (III) trifluoride structure, showing "empty" boron p orbital in pi-type coordinate covalent bonds

In its most familiar compounds, boron has the formal oxidation state III. These include oxides, sulfides, nitrides, and halides.

The trihalides adopt a planar trigonal structure. These compounds are Lewis acids in that they readily form adducts with electron-pair donors, which are called Lewis bases. For example, fluoride (F-) and boron trifluoride (BF3) combined to give the tetrafluoroborate anion, BF4-. Boron trifluoride is used in the petrochemical industry as a catalyst. The halides react with water to form boric acid.

Boron is found in nature on Earth entirely as various oxides of B(III), often associated with other elements. The more than one hundred borates all feature boron in oxidation state +3. These minerals resemble silicates in some respect, although boron is often found not only in a tetrahedral coordination with oxygen, but also in a trigonal planar configuration. Unlike silicates, the boron minerals never feature boron with coordination number greater than four. A typical motif is exemplified by the tetraborate anions of the common mineral borax, shown at left. The formal negative charge of the tetrahedral borate centers is balanced by metal cations in the minerals, such as the sodium (Na+) in borax.

The boron nitrides are notable for the variety of structures that they adopt. They adopt structures analogous to various allotropes of carbon, including graphite, diamond, and nanotubes. In the diamond-like structure called cubic boron nitride (tradename Borazon), boron atoms exist in the tetrahedral structure of carbons atoms in diamond, but one in every four B-N bonds can be viewed as a coordinate covalent bond, wherein two electrons are donated by the nitrogen atom which acts as the Lewis base to a bond to the Lewis acidic boron(III) centre. Cubic boron nitride, among other applications, is used as an abrasive, as it has a hardness comparable with diamond (the two substances are able to produce scratches on each other). In the BN compound analogue of graphite, hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN), the positively-charged boron and negatively-charged nitrogen atoms in each plane lie adjacent to the oppositely charged atom in the next plane. Consequently graphite and h-BN have very different properties, although both are lubricants, as these planes slip past each other easily. However, h-BN is a relatively poor electrical and thermal conductor in the planar directions.

Organoboron chemistry

A large number of organoboron compounds are known and many are useful in organic synthesis. Organoboron(III) compounds are usually tetrahedral or trigonal planar, for example, tetraphenylborate (B(C6H5)4-) vs triphenylborane (B(C6H5)3). Many are produced from hydroboration, which employs diborane (B2H6).

Compounds of B(I) and B(II)

Although these are not found on Earth naturally, boron forms a variety of stable compounds with formal oxidation state less than three. As for many covalent compounds, formal oxidation states are often of little meaning in boron hydrides and metal borides. The halides also form derivatives of B(I) and B(II). BF, isoelectronic with N2, is not isolable in condensed form, but B2F4 and B4Cl4 are well characterized.

Ball-and-stick model of superconductor magnesium diboride. Boron atoms lie in hexagonal aromatic graphite-like layers, with a charge of −1 per boron. Magnesium (II) ions lie between layers

Binary metal-boron compounds, the metal borides, feature boron in oxidation state less than III. Illustrative is magnesium diboride (MgB2). Each boron atom has a formal −1 charge and magnesium is assigned a formal charge of 2+. In this material, the boron centers are trigonal planar, with an extra double bond for each boron, with the boron atoms forming sheets akin to the carbon in graphite. However, unlike the case with hexagonal boron nitride which by comparison lacks electrons in the plane of the covalent atoms, the delocalized electrons in the plane of magnesium diboride allow it to conduct electricity similar to isoelectronic graphite. In addition, in 2001 this material was found to be a high-temperature superconductor.

Certain other metal borides find specialized applications as hard materials for cutting tools.

From the structural perspective, the most distinctive chemical compounds of boron are the hydrides. Included in this series are the cluster compounds dodecaborate (B12H122-), decaborane (B10H14), and the carboranes such as C2B10H12. Characteristically such compounds feature boron with coordination numbers greater than four.


Boron has two naturally occurring and stable isotopes, 11B (80.1%) and 10B (19.9%). The mass difference results in a wide range of δ11B values, which are defined as a fractional difference between the 11B and 10B and traditionally expressed in parts per thousand, in natural waters ranging from −16 to +59. There are 13 known isotopes of boron, the shortest-lived isotope is 7B which decays through proton emission and alpha decay. It has a half-life of 3.5×10−22 s. Isotopic fractionation of boron is controlled by the exchange reactions of the boron species B(OH)3 and [B(OH)4]. Boron isotopes are also fractionated during mineral crystallization, during H2O phase changes in hydrothermal systems, and during hydrothermal alteration of rock. The latter effect results in preferential removal of the 10B(OH)4 ion onto clays. It results in solutions enriched in 11B(OH)3 and therefore may be responsible for the large 11B enrichment in seawater relative to both oceanic crust and continental crust; this difference may act as an isotopic signature. The exotic 17B exhibits a nuclear halo, i.e. its radius is appreciably larger than that predicted by the liquid drop model.

The 10B isotope is good at capturing thermal neutrons. Natural boron is about 20% 10B and 80% 11B. The nuclear industry enriches natural boron to nearly pure 10B. The less-valuable by-product, depleted boron, is nearly pure 11B.

Commercial isotope enrichment

Because of its high neutron cross-section, boron-10 is often used to control fission in nuclear reactors as a neutron-capturing substance. Several industrial-scale enrichment processes have been developed, however only the fractionated vacuum distillation of the dimethyl ether adduct of boron trifluoride (DME-BF3) and column chromatography of borates are being used.

Enriched boron (boron-10)

Neutron cross section of boron (top curve is for 10B and bottom curve for 11B)

Enriched boron or 10B is used in both radiation shielding and is the primary nuclide used in neutron capture therapy of cancer. In the latter ("boron neutron capture therapy" or BNCT), a compound containing 10B is incorporated into a pharmaceutical which is selectively taken up by a malignant tumor and tissues near it. The patient is then treated with a beam of either thermal neutrons, or else neutrons of low energy, at a relatively low neutron radiation dose. The neutrons, however, trigger energetic and short-range secondary alpha particle and lithium-7 heavy ion radiation that are products of the boron + neutron nuclear reaction, and this ion radiation additionally bombards the tumor, especially from inside the tumor cells.

In nuclear reactors, 10B is used for reactivity control and in emergency shutdown systems. It can serve either function in the form of borosilicate control rods or as boric acid. In pressurized water reactors, boric acid is added to the reactor coolant when the plant is shut down for refueling. It is then slowly filtered out over many months as fissile material is used up and the fuel becomes less reactive.

In future manned interplanetary spacecraft, 10B has a theoretical role as structural material (as boron fibers or BN nanotube material) which would also serve a special role in the radiation shield. One of the difficulties in dealing with cosmic rays, which are mostly high energy protons, is that some secondary radiation from interaction of cosmic rays and spacecraft materials is high energy spallation neutrons. Such neutrons can be moderated by materials high in light elements such as polyethylene, but the moderated neutrons continue to be a radiation hazard unless actively absorbed in the shielding. Among light elements that absorb thermal neutrons, 6Li and 10B appear as potential spacecraft structural materials which serve both for mechanical reinforcement and radiation protection.

Depleted boron (boron-11)

Cosmic radiation will produce secondary neutrons if it hits spacecraft structures. Those neutrons will be captured in 10B, if it is present in the spacecraft's semiconductors, producing a gamma ray, an alpha particle, and a lithium ion. These resultant decay products may then irradiate nearby semiconductor 'chip' structures, causing data loss (bit flipping, or single event upset). In radiation hardened semiconductor designs, one countermeasure is to use depleted boron which is greatly enriched in 11B and contains almost no 10B. 11B is largely immune to radiation damage. Depleted boron is a by-product of the nuclear industry.

11B is also a candidate as a fuel for aneutronic fusion. When struck by a proton with energy of about 500 k eV, it produces three alpha particles and 8.7 MeV of energy. Most other fusion reactions involving hydrogen and helium produce penetrating neutron radiation, which weakens reactor structures and induces long term radioactivity thereby endangering operating personnel. Whereas, the alpha particles from 11B fusion can be turned directly into electric power, and all radiation stops as soon as the reactor is turned off.

NMR spectroscopy

Both 10B and 11B possess nuclear spin. The nuclear spin of 10B is 3 and that of 11B is 3/2. These isotopes are, therefore, of use in nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy; and spectrometers specially adapted to detecting the boron-11 nuclei are available commercially. The 10B and 11B nuclei also cause splitting in the resonances of attached nuclei.


A fragment of ulexite
Borax crystals

Boron is a relatively rare element in the Earth's crust, representing only 0.001%. The worldwide commercial borate deposits are estimated at 10 million tonnes. Turkey and the United States are the world's largest producers of boron. Turkey has 63% of the world’s boron reserves. Boron does not appear on Earth in elemental form but is found combined in borax, boric acid, colemanite, kernite, ulexite and borates. Boric acid is sometimes found in volcanic spring waters.

Ulexite is one of over a hundred borate minerals; it is a fibrous crystal where individual fibers can guide light like optical fibers.

Economically important sources of boron are rasorite ( kernite) and tincal (borax ore). They are both found in the Mojave Desert of California where the Rio Tinto Borax Mine (also known as the U.S. Borax Boron Mine) 35°2′34.447″N 117°40′45.412″W near Boron, CA is California's largest open-pit mine and the largest borax mine in the world, producing nearly half the world's borates from this single site. However, the largest borax deposits known, many still untapped, are in Central and Western Turkey including the provinces of Eskişehir, Kütahya and Balıkesir.


The production of boron compounds does not involve formation of elemental boron, but exploits the convenient availability of borates.

The earliest routes to elemental boron involved reduction of boric oxide with metals such as magnesium or aluminium. However the product is almost always contaminated with metal borides. Pure boron can be prepared by reducing volatile boron halides with hydrogen at high temperatures. Ultrapure boron, for the use in semiconductor industry, is produced by the decomposition of diborane at high temperatures and then further purified with the zone melting or Czochralski processes.

Market trend

Estimated global consumption of boron rose to a record 1.8 million tonnes of B2O3 in 2005, following a period of strong growth in demand from Asia, Europe and North America. Boron mining and refining capacities are considered to be adequate to meet expected levels of growth through the next decade.

The form in which boron is consumed has changed in recent years. The use of ores like colemanite has declined following concerns over arsenic content. Consumers have moved towards the use of refined borates and boric acid that have a lower pollutant content. The average cost of crystalline boron is $5/g.

Increasing demand for boric acid has led a number of producers to invest in additional capacity. Eti Mine Company of Turkey opened a new boric acid plant with the production capacity of 100,000 tonnes per year at Emet in 2003. Rio Tinto Group increased the capacity of its boron plant from 260,000 tonnes per year in 2003 to 310,000 tonnes per year by May 2005, with plans to grow this to 366,000 tonnes per year in 2006. Chinese boron producers have been unable to meet rapidly growing demand for high quality borates. This has led to imports of sodium tetraborate ( borax) growing by a hundredfold between 2000 and 2005 and boric acid imports increasing by 28% per year over the same period.

The rise in global demand has been driven by high growth rates in fibreglass and borosilicate production. A rapid increase in the manufacture of reinforcement-grade fiberglass in Asia with a consequent increase in demand for borates has offset the development of boron-free reinforcement-grade fiberglass in Europe and the USA. The recent rises in energy prices may lead to greater use of insulation-grade fibreglass, with consequent growth in the boron consumption. Roskill Consulting Group forecasts that world demand for boron will grow by 3.4% per year to reach 21 million tonnes by 2010. The highest growth in demand is expected to be in Asia where demand could rise by an average 5.7% per year.


Nearly all boron ore extracted from the Earth is destined for refinement into boric acid and sodium tetraborate pentahydrate. In the United States, 70% of the boron is used for the production of glass and ceramics.

Glass and ceramics

Borosilicate glassware. Displayed are two beakers and a test tube.

Borosilicate glass, which is typically 12–15% B2O3, 80% SiO2, and 2% Al2O3, has a low coefficient of thermal expansion giving it a good resistance to thermal shock. Duran and Pyrex are two major brand names for this glass, used both in laboratory glassware and in consumer cookware and bakeware, chiefly for this resistance.

Boron filaments are high-strength, lightweight materials that are used chiefly for advanced aerospace structures as a component of composite materials, as well as limited production consumer and sporting goods such as golf clubs and fishing rods. The fibers can be produced by chemical vapor deposition of boron on a tungsten filament.

Boron fibers and sub-millimeter sized crystalline boron springs are produced by laser-assisted chemical vapor deposition. Translation of the focused laser beam allows to produce even complex helical structures. Such structures show good mechanical properties ( elastic modulus 450 GPa, fracture strain 3.7%, fracture stress 17 GPa) and can be applied as reinforcement of ceramics or in micromechanical systems.

Detergent formulations and bleaching agents

Borax is used in various household laundry and cleaning products, including the well-known " 20 Mule Team Borax" laundry booster and " Boraxo" powdered hand soap. It is also present in some tooth bleaching formulas.

Sodium perborate serves as a source of active oxygen in many detergents, laundry detergents, cleaning products, and laundry bleaches. However, despite its name, "Borateem" laundry bleach no longer contains any boron compounds, using sodium percarbonate instead as a bleaching agent.


Boric acid is used as an insecticide, notably against ants, fleas, and cockroaches.


Boron is a useful dopant for such semiconductors as silicon, germanium, and silicon carbide. Having one fewer valence electron than the host atom, it donates a hole resulting in p-type conductivity. Traditional method of introducing boron into semiconductors is via its atomic diffusion at high temperatures. This process uses either solid (B2O3), liquid (BBr3), or gaseous boron sources (B2H6 or BF3). However, after 1970s, it was mostly replaced by ion implantation, which relies mostly on BF3 as a boron source. Boron trichloride gas is also an important chemical in semiconductor industry, however not for doping but rather for plasma etching of metals and their oxides. Triethylborane is also injected into vapor deposition reactors as a boron source. Examples are the plasma deposition of boron-containing hard carbon films, silicon nitride-boron nitride films, and for doping of diamond film with boron.


Boron is a component of neodymium magnets (Nd2Fe14B), which are the strongest type of permanent magnet. They are found in a variety of domestic and professional electromechanical and electronic devices, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), various motors and actuators, computer HDDs, CD and DVD players, mobile phones, timer switches, speakers, and so on.

High-hardness and abrasive compounds

Boron carbide is used for inner plates of ballistic vests

Several boron compounds are known for their extreme hardness and toughness.

Boron carbide and cubic boron nitride powders are widely used as abrasives. Metal borides are used for coating tools through chemical vapor deposition or physical vapor deposition. Implantation of boron ions into metals and alloys, through ion implantation or ion beam deposition, results in a spectacular increase in surface resistance and microhardness. Laser alloying has also been successfully used for the same purpose. These borides are an alternative to diamond coated tools, and their (treated) surfaces have similar properties to those of the bulk boride.

Boron carbide

Boron carbide is a ceramic material which is obtained by decomposing B2O3 with carbon in the electric furnace:

2 B2O3 + 7 C → B4C + 6 CO

Boron carbide's structure is only approximately B4C, and it shows a clear depletion of carbon from this suggested stoichiometric ratio. This is due to its very complex structure. The substance can be seen with empirical formula B12C3 (i.e., with B12 dodecahedra being a motif), but with less carbon as the suggested C3 units are replaced with B-C chains, and there are smaller (B6) octahedra present as well. (See the article for structural analysis).

The repeating polymer plus semi-crystalline structure of boron carbide gives it great structural strength per weight. It is used in tank armor, bulletproof vests, and numerous other structural applications.

Boron carbide's ability to absorb neutrons without forming long-lived radionuclides (especially when doped with extra boron-10) makes the material attractive as an absorbent for neutron radiation arising in nuclear power plants. Nuclear applications of boron carbide include shielding, control rods and shut-down pellets. Within control rods, boron carbide is often powdered, to increase its surface area.

Mechanical properties of BCN solids and ReB2
Material Diamond cubic-BC2N cubic-BC5 cubic-BN B4C ReB2
Vickers hardness (GPa) 115 76 71 62 38 22
Fracture toughness (MPa m1/2) 5.3 4.5 9.5 6.8 3.5

Other superhard boron compounds

  • Heterodiamond (also called BCN);
  • Boron nitride. This material is isoelectronic to carbon. Similar to carbon, it has both hexagonal (soft graphite-like h-BN) and cubic (hard, diamond-like c-BN) forms. h-BN is used as a high temperature component and lubricant. c-BN, also known under commercial name borazon, is a superior abrasive. Its hardness is only slightly smaller, but chemical stability is superior to that of diamond.
  • Rhenium diboride can be produced at ambient pressures, but is rather expensive because of rhenium. The hardness of ReB2 exhibits considerable anisotropy because of its hexagonal layered structure. Its value is comparable to that of tungsten carbide, silicon carbide, titanium diboride or zirconium diboride.
  • AlMgB14 + TiB2 composites possess high hardness and wear resistance and are used in either bulk form or as coatings for components exposed to high temperatures and wear loads.

Shielding in nuclear reactors

Boron shielding is used as a control for nuclear reactors, taking advantage of its high cross-section for neutron capture.

Other nonmedical uses

Launch of Apollo 15 Saturn V rocket, using triethylborane ignitor
  • Because of its distinctive green flame, amorphous boron is used in pyrotechnic flares.
  • Starch and casein-based adhesives contain sodium tetraborate decahydrate (Na2B4O7•10 H2O)
  • Some anti-corrosion systems contain borax.
  • Sodium borates are used as a flux for soldering silver and gold and with ammonium chloride for welding ferrous metals. They are also fire retarding additives to plastics and rubber articles.
  • Boric acid (also known as orthoboric acid) H3BO3 is used in the production of textile fibreglass and flat panel displays and in many PVAc and PVOH based adhesives.
  • Triethylborane is a substance which ignites the JP-7 fuel of the Pratt & Whitney J58 turbojet/ ramjet engines powering the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. It was also used to ignite the F-1 Engines on the Saturn V Rocket utilized by NASA's Apollo and Skylab programs from 1967 until 1973. Triethylborane is suitable for this because of its pyrophoric properties, especially the fact that it burns with a very high temperature. Triethylborane is an industrial initiator in radical reactions, where it is effective even at low temperatures.

Pharmaceutical and biological applications

Boric acid has antiseptic, antifungal, and antiviral properties and for this reasons is applied as a water clarifier in swimming pool water treatment. Mild solutions of boric acid have been used as eye antiseptics.

Bortezomib (Velcade). Boron appears as an active element in its first-approved organic pharamaceutical in the novel pharmaceutical bortezomib, a new class of drug called the proteasome inhibitors, which are active in myeloma and one form of lymphoma (it is in currently in experimental trials against other types of lymphoma). The boron atom in bortezomib binds the catalytic site of the 26S proteasome with high affinity and specificity.

  • A number of potential boronated pharmaceuticals using boron-10, have been prepared for use in boron neutron capture therapy (BNCT).
  • Some boron compounds show promise in treating arthritis, though none have as yet been generally approved for the purpose.

Research areas

Magnesium diboride is an important superconducting material with the transition temperature of 39 K. MgB2 wires are produced with the powder-in-tube process and applied in superconducting magnets.

Amorphous boron is used as a melting point depressant in nickel-chromium braze alloys.

Hexagonal boron nitride forms atomically thin layers, which have been used to enhance the electron mobility in graphene devices. It also forms nanotubular structures ( BNNTs), which have with high strength, high chemical stability, and high thermal conductivity, among its list of desirable properties.

Natural biological role

There is a boron-containing natural antibiotic, boromycin, isolated from streptomyces. Boron is an essential plant nutrient, required primarily for maintaining the integrity of cell walls. Conversely, high soil concentrations of > 1.0  ppm can cause marginal and tip necrosis in leaves as well as poor overall growth performance. Levels as low as 0.8 ppm can cause these same symptoms to appear in plants particularly sensitive to boron in the soil. Nearly all plants, even those somewhat tolerant of boron in the soil, will show at least some symptoms of boron toxicity when boron content in the soil is greater than 1.8 ppm. When this content exceeds 2.0 ppm, few plants will perform well and some may not survive. When boron levels in plant tissue exceed 200 ppm symptoms of boron toxicity are likely to appear.

As an ultratrace element, boron is necessary for the optimal health of rats, although it is necessary in such small amounts that ultrapurified foods and dust filtration of air is necessary to induce boron deficiency, which manifest as poor coat or hair quality. Presumably, boron is necessary to other mammals. No deficiency syndrome in humans has been described. Small amounts of boron occur widely in the diet, and the amounts needed in the diet would, by analogy with rodent studies, be very small. The exact physiological role of boron in the animal kingdom is poorly understood.

Boron occurs in all foods produced from plants. Since 1989 its nutritional value has been argued. It is thought that boron plays several biochemical roles in animals, including humans. The U.S. Department of agriculture conducted an experiment in which postmenopausal women took 3 mg of boron a day. The results showed that supplemental boron reduced excretion of calcium by 44%, and activated estrogen and vitamin D, suggesting a possible role in the suppression of osteoporosis. However, whether these effects were conventionally nutritional, or medicinal, could not be determined. The U.S. National Institutes of Health states that "Total daily boron intake in normal human diets ranges from 2.1–4.3 mg boron/day."

Congenital endothelial dystrophy type 2, a rare form of corneal dystrophy, is linked to mutations in SLC4A11 gene that encodes a transporter reportedly regulating the intracellular concentration of boron.

Analytical quantification

For determination of boron content in food or materials the colorimetric curcumin method is used. Boron has to be transferred to boric acid or borates and on reaction with curcumin in acidic solution, a red colored boron- chelate complex, rosocyanine, is formed.

Health issues and toxicity

Elemental boron, boron oxide, boric acid, borates, and many organoboron compounds are non-toxic to humans and animals (approximately similar to table salt). The LD50 (dose at which there is 50% mortality) for animals is about 6 g per kg of body weight. Substances with LD50 above 2 g are considered non-toxic. The minimum lethal dose for humans has not been established. An intake of 4 g/day of boric acid was reported without incidents, but more than this is considered toxic for more than a few doses. Intakes of more than 0.5 grams per day for 50 days cause minor digestive and other problems suggestive of toxicity. Single medical doses of 20 g of boric acid for neutron capture therapy have been used without undue toxicity. Fish have survived for 30 min in a saturated boric acid solution and can survive longer in strong borax solutions. Boric acid is more toxic to insects than to mammals, and is routinely used as an insecticide.

The boranes (boron hydrogen compounds) and similar gaseous compounds are quite poisonous. As usual, it is not an element that is intrinsically poisonous, but toxicity depends on structure.

The boranes are toxic as well as highly flammable and require special care when handling. Sodium borohydride presents a fire hazard due to its reducing nature, and the liberation of hydrogen on contact with acid. Boron halides are corrosive.

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