What is Boron? Hint: It's Elemental

What is Boron? Hint: It's Elemental

Boron is a simple atom: five protons, five or six neutrons, five electrons. It’s one of the 92 naturally-occurring elements, though it’s not as ubiquitous as oxygen or hydrogen. Unlike helium, it won’t make your voice sound like Donald Duck. Nor is it as famous as its neighbor to the right on the periodic table – carbon – though it should be. There is nothing boring about boron! We’ll give you the details in this article. 

In the environment, boron is combined with oxygen and other elements in compounds called borates. Borates are widely found in nature, and are present in oceans, sedimentary rocks, coal, shale and some soils. There are several commercially important borates, including borax (sodium tetraborate), boric acid, sodium perborate, and the minerals ulexite and colemanite. 

Mentions of boron compounds like borax date back to ancient times. Borax forms naturally during the evaporation of some salt lakes. In the eighth century A.D., borax was exported from Tibetan lake beds along the Silk Road for use by Arabic goldsmiths and silversmiths; it was also used to make ceramic glazes in China. In 1808, within a week and a half of each other, two research efforts, led by renowned chemists Sir Humphry Davy in London and Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac and Louis-Jacques Thénard in Paris, announced that they had isolated boron. They had not. Another great French chemist, Henri Moissan, later showed that the two earlier groups had made a compound consisting of 60% boron. Moissan also claimed to have isolated boron. But he was also mistaken, although he did do better than his predecessors with a compound of 90% boron. Not until 1909 was a sample of 99% pure boron produced.

Uses and Benefits of Boron

There may not be many mentions of boron in pop-culture, but science sure has a lot to say about this incredible element. For example, biologists have long known that without boron, plants do not grow; boron is an essential nutrient. In fact, in the eastern United States, farmers have been supplementing their soil with boron in order to boost crop yields for years. But what is it about boron that is so vital for plants? In 2015, researchers at the University of Missouri discovered the answer: boron is crucial to the stem cells of plants. Portions of the plant called “meristems” are made of stem cells, which themselves are capable of giving rise to all the different cells that make up a plant. Without boron, these meristems wither, the researchers found. 

Boron is also a vital nutrient for animal and human health. Scientists have known for many years that boron is essential for healthy bones, as it aids assimilation of calcium in the body. It has also been shown to significantly improve wound healing and prevents Vitamin D deficiency. Boron can easily be added to your diet, as plant-based boron sources are dried fruit, nuts, vegetables, legumes, and even wine! Recently, scientists have begun studying boron as a potential medicine to treat arthritis. 

And what about boron compounds? They have hundreds (if not thousands!) of uses. They can be found in soaps, eye drops, mild antiseptics, washing powders, and tile glazes. If you like to go to the swimming pool, you can thank boric acid, which helps to keep the water crystal clear. Borosilicate glass is used in laboratory glassware, electronics, as well as kitchen glassware. Reflecting telescopes also use this type of glass because it does not expand with heat as much as other types of glass. This property also led to the use of borosilicate glass coating on the protective thermal insulation tiles on NASA's Space Shuttle.

Natural Pest Control 

Borates have a long history of use in insect control and are effective against dust mites and fleas, as well as other pests like termites, cockroaches, and ants. The Ecology Works Dustmite & Flea Control features a patented, specially-formulated natural borate compound that mixes easily in water and provides long lasting control over dust mites and fleas. The Dustmite & Flea Control powder dissolves completely in water and can be used as a spray or in a carpet steamer to help keep those dust mites and fleas away naturally. Our pre-mixed dust mite and flea control spray features the same formula, and is highly effective against dust mite allergens and stubborn flea populations. 

 Have questions about our borate-based dust mite and flea control solutions? We have answers! The Ecology Works has been leading the way in green cleaning since 1993. We can help you select the products you need to live a better, allergen-free life. Please feel free to Contact Us or message us on Facebook. No question is too small! We’re here to help.