Boron is a fascinating element. Scientists call it a multipurpose element simply because of the myriads of uses of this element. In this article, we are going to learn 50 fascinating Boron facts that you might need for your school project.
If not, consider it as a refresher course or simply, you can just have fun playing quiz with your friends. So, instead of wasting time, let us simply begin…
Before we start with the facts, here is a quick table that might come in handy:
|Element Family||Group 13 or Earth Metal Family or Boron Family|
|Melting Point||2,075°C or 3,767°F or 2,348 Kelvin|
|Boiling Point||3,727°C or 7,232°F or 4,000 Kelvin|
|Density at 20°C||2.34 g/cm3|
|Number of Electrons||5|
|Number of Protons||5|
|Number of Neutrons (As found in most abundant isotope)||6|
|Element Structure||Rhombohedral but Isotope 12B is Icosahedral.|
|Atomic Radius||85 pm|
Boron Facts: Known Isotopes
|Isotope Name||Type and Abundance||Half-Life|
|6B||Radioactive||No data available|
|7B||Radioactive||3.255 * 10-22 s|
|9B||Radioactive||8.439 * 10-19 s|
|10B||Stable and 19.99% abundance||Stable so no half-life|
|11B||Stable and 80.1% abundance||Stable so no half-life|
|16B||Radioactive||< 190 ps|
|20B||Radioactive||No data available|
|21B||Radioactive||No data available|
Now that we are done with the basic table, we can proceed with the facts. Let’s begin…
Boron Facts: 1-5
1. Boron is not new to mankind. Since ancient times, Boron compounds such as Borax (Chemical name: Sodium Tetraborate | Chemical formula: Na2B4O7.10H2O) has been in use. However, Boron was never isolated until the beginning of the 19th century.
2. It was only in 1808 that first attempts to isolate Boron were made. L. J. Thenard and Joseph L. Gay-Lussac were the two French chemists who managed to isolate Boron, but only partially. What they did was that they used sodium or magnesium and made it react with boric acid. The end result was a gray solid.
3. Thenard and Gay-Lussac were convinced that the resultant gray solid had some common characteristics with phosphorus and sulfur, and hence, they came up with the name Bore.
4. In 1808, in London, Sir Humphry Davy managed to isolate Boron (also partially) independently of the two French chemists mentioned above. Davy first tried electrolysis of boric acid. However, the results that he achieved didn’t satisfy him. So, he used a hydrogen-rich atmosphere where he made potassium react with boric acid. The end result was that he found a substance that was powdery in nature.
5. Davy noted that the powdery substance didn’t make any scratch on a glass surface and that its color was the darkest shade that one can find in olive. After conducting various experiments with the powdery substance, he concluded that the substance was metallic by nature and proposed Boracium as its name.
Boron Facts: 6-10
6. However, it was in 1824 when Jöns Jakob Berzelius – a chemist from Sweden identified that Boron was actually an element.
7. The isolation attempts of 1808 only yielded 60% pure Boron. So, the hunt for pure Boron didn’t end. In 1909 came Ezekiel Weintraub – a chemist from America who used hydrogen to reduce Boron Halides and extracted Boron with 99% purity.
8. In 2004 came Vladimir L. Solozhenko and Jiuhua Chen. These people together managed to come up with a new form of Boron, but they were shrouded with uncertainty about the structure of this new Boron type they discovered.
9. In 2009 Artem Oganov led a team to find a completely new Boron form. This new form was made up of two different structures – B2 pairs and B12 icosohedra. This Boron was discovered by the name Gamma-Boron. One of the most interesting properties of Gamma-Boron is that compared to diamond, it has far more heat resistance. While in terms of hardness, it is as hard as diamond.
10. Now coming to the physical properties of Boron, did you know that Boron is a really tough element? When it is in crystalline form, Boron has a hardness of 9.3 Mohs. This makes Boron the second toughest after diamond (carbon).
Boron Facts: 11-15
11. Boron has a very high melting point. There are only 11 other elements which are known to have melting points higher than Boron. These elements are given in the table below:
|Element Name||Element Symbol|
12. Boron is available both in Amorphous form and Crystalline form. The Amorphous form is the form where an element is in the form of a powder (non-crystalline) where the atoms of an element are arranged in any random order.
13. Crystalline Boron is black, but Amorphous Boron has brown color. The crystalline format is not very reactive but the amorphous Boron is pretty reactive.
14. At room temperature, Boron is a very poor conductor of electricity.
15. Boron is a metalloid. This simply means that this element exhibits the properties of both nonmetals and metals. This makes the element a complicated element.
Boron Facts: 16-20
16. Though there are many isotopes of Boron, there are only two isotopes that occur naturally and are stable. These are 10B and 11B. 10B forms 19.9% of all naturally occurring Boron. 11B makes up the remaining 80.1% of naturally occurring Boron.
17. Boron has a very high tendency of combining with carbon. This is the reason why creating pure Boron even in laboratory conditions is pretty difficult.
18. Here is something really interesting. Take Boron solution and add some glue into it. The end result is that you get something called oobleck. It is a non-Newtonian fluid. What does that mean? It means that you try to pour it down slowly and it will act like a liquid. Now, put it under pressure and it will act solid.
19. Boron actually gets its name from Borax. Borax in turn gets its name from ‘Buraq’, which is an Arabic word. Buraq means white.
20. How did Boron come into this universe? It was not Big Bang that brought this element. It was not even nuclear fusion taking place inside stars. So, what was it? It was nuclear fusion taking place in a collision of cosmic rays. Scientists say that most of the Boron that is present today was actually formed before our solar system came to existence.
Boron Facts: 21-25
21. Boron as an element is very rare in our entire solar system. Did you know that our Earth’s crust consists of merely 0.001% Boron? That’s pretty rare, right? However, did you know that compounds of Boron are pretty common?
Here is the table which briefly tells you about the abundance of boron in earth’s crust and solar system:
|Boron’s abundance||By weight||By moles|
|Earth’s crust||10 PPM||1 PPM|
|Solar system||2 PPB||0.2 PPB|
PPM – Parts Per Million
PPB – Parts Per Billion
22. Just how common are Boron compounds? There are at least 100 minerals where you will find Boron.
23. If that isn’t satisfying you, here is something else you need to know. Any food that we eat that comes from plant sources will invariably contain Boron. Why like that? That’s because, Boron is an essential element needed by all green plants. Boron is found in every cell wall of every plant studied till now.
24. Now that question – is Boron toxic? Well, no, not really! Boron is not toxic unless of course you think of taking it in large quantities.
25. Boron has the ability of transmitting portions of IR or Infrared light. That’s incredible!
Boron Facts: 26-30
26. Heat Boron to pretty high temperatures and this element which used to poorly conduct electricity at room temperature will suddenly become a very good conductor of electricity.
27. Boron is good at absorbing neutrons. It is this property of Boron which makes it an extremely useful element when it comes to controlling nuclear reactions. Nuclear reactors have control rods. These control rods are made by alloying steel with Boron or mixing Boron with other elements like carbon, zirconium or titanium.
28. You may be wondering what really happens and what type of nuclear reaction is in question. Boron is used for nuclear fission reactions where neutrons are made to bombard with atoms of uranium.
29. We are talking of atomic level. So there are actually hundreds of thousands and even millions of atoms and neutrons out there in the reactor. If they are just allowed to react freely, the reaction will soon become uncontrollable and the reactor will reach supercritical state.
30. It is because of this, it is very necessary to ensure that one fission event that is taking place leads to no more than just one more fission reaction. This can be done only when neutrons are absorbed as quickly as they are released. This is where the control rods come in. Boron in these rods immediately absorb the neutrons, preventing a runaway reaction.
Boron Facts: 31-35
31. Wondering which Boron isotope is used for controlling nuclear reactions? It is 10B – one of the two naturally occurring and stable isotopes.
32. Boron might have played a very critical role in the evolution of life on Earth. Did you know that RNA or Ribonucleic Acid has a part called Ribose? This Ribose needs to stay stable. The element that helps in maintaining the stability of Ribose is none other than Boron.
33. RNA is basically a self-assembling molecule and scientists hold the view that RNA might have come before DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid). Worth mentioning here that viruses that often wreak havoc on us are nothing but strands of RNA that keep on moving constantly. RNA is a self-assembling molecule. This explains why viruses are so dangerous.
34. Coming back to the point. A study took place back in 2014 in the month of June. It was found that a rock on Earth, which is 3.8 billion years old (in simple words, the oldest rock on Earth) has Boron in it. This made the scientific community believe that Boron might have played a vital role in evolution of life on Earth, because Boron is essential to build RNA.
35. Alternatively, some even think that perhaps Boron was not in the evolution process but the first RNA actually got Boron from outer space. In 2013 another study was conducted where a meteorite from Mars was studied. That meteorite fell in Antarctica. What was found was that the meteorite’s Boron content was 10x higher compared to any extraterrestrial object that was measured by scientists previously.
Boron Facts: 36-40
36. If you have the question “how was Boron formed?” Here are the steps for the formation of boron that scientists usually agree upon:
- First Big Bang took place.
- Cosmic rays bombarded on various objects. Cosmic rays are nothing but charged and highly energetic particles in the form of alpha particles, protons and nuclei of various heavy elements.
- This bombardment of cosmic rays on various objects led to nuclear fission reaction as well as nucleosynthesis.
- This whole process is called Cosmic Ray Spallation. It is this process that led to formation of Boron. So, Boron was not formed by nuclear fusion inside stars.
37. We said earlier that Boron is present in all green plants. But exactly where? Plants have stem cells in their portions known as meristems. It turns out that these stem cells produce all other types of cells that are present in a plant. Scientists have found that Boron is an essential element for meristems. Take out Boron from meristems and they will simply wither.
38. Boron in its elemental form is mostly used in high tech applications. For example, filaments or fibers of Boron are usually found in materials that are considered as high tensile. For example, composite materials that are mostly used in aerospace applications. Even high quality sports gear such as golf clubs, and even fishing rods use Boron.
39. One of the most important uses of Boron is manufacturing of neodymium magnets, which are extremely powerful magnets made of Boron and Iron alloy. These magnets are found in speakers of cell phones, hard drives of computers, electric vehicles, extremely powerful drive motors and more.
40. Boron is used for making borosilicate glass. This is way different from normal glass. Borosilicate glass does not expand when heated, and hence, they are usually found in reflecting telescopes. NASA’s space shuttles make use of a coating of borosilicate glass to attain thermal insulation.
Boron Facts: 41-45
41. Majority of the Boron that is extracted is used for manufacturing Boric Acid. Boric acid is used as a preservative, an insecticide and even as a pH buffer.
42. Boric Acid is also used as an antifungal agent or antiseptic in the medical world.
43. Have you ever been into swimming pools? What do you think is used to keep the water in the pools clear? It is nothing other than Boric Acid.
44. In school and college laboratories and in high tech scientific laboratories, glassware that are used are usually made of borosilicate glass.
45. Borax is yet another widely used Boron compound. Snake skins often require some cure. Borax is that substance that is used to give our not so beloved serpents some relief from skin issues.
Boron Facts: 46-50
46. Borax is low toxicity to humans. This is one of the primary reasons why borax is commonly used as insecticide.
47. There is something called heterodiamond. This is made using Boron, Nitrogen and Carbon. It has extreme resistance to heat and is extremely hard.
48. Boron and Boron compounds when put to flame test produce a bright green light. Ever wondered what gave the green light in firecrackers. Now you know, don’t you?
49. The United States and Turkey are the two largest borax producers in the world. Actually, we are talking of borax mines here. World’s largest borax mine is in the Mojave Desert in California. California has a place called Boron, which is located in Kern County. The borax mine is located there.
50. Talk of military applications and Boron has made its way even there. Bullet proof vests and tank armor make use of Boron Carbide.
That concludes our article on Boron facts. Hope you enjoyed this article. In case you want to add a few more facts, feel free to drop comments.