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Boron is a semi-metallic element, exhibiting some properties of a metal and some of

a non-metal. Its atomic number is 5 and its chemical symbol is B. In elemental form
it is a dark, amorphous, unreactive solid. (An amorphous substance is one that does
not form crystals.)

Boron is used mainly not as the element boron, but as compounds of boric oxide
(B2O3) and boric acid (H3BO3). Most people have never seen elemental boron.

Boron (pronounced /ˈbɔrɒn/) is the chemical element with atomic number 5 and the
chemical symbol B. Boron is a trivalent metalloid element which occurs abundantly
in the evaporite ores borax and ulexite.

Several allotropes of boron exist; amorphous boron is a brown powder, though

crystalline boron is black, extremely hard (9.3 on Mohs' scale), and a poor conductor
at room temperature. Elemental boron is used as a dopant in the semiconductor
industry, while boron compounds play important roles as light structural materials,
insecticides and preservatives, and reagents for chemical synthesis.

Boron is an essential plant nutrient. Whereas lack of boron results in boron

deficiency disorder, high soil concentrations of boron may also be toxic to plants. As
an ultratrace element, boron is necessary for the optimal health of rats and
presumably other mammals, though its physiological role in animals is yet poorly

Structure and physical properties

Boron is also similar to carbon with its capability to form stable covalently bonded
molecular networks. Brown amorphous boron is a product of certain chemical
reactions. It contains boron icosahedra that are randomly bonded to each other
without long range order.Crystalline boron is a very hard, black material with a high
melting point. It exists in four major polymorphs: α, ß, γ and T. The tetragonal (T)
boron phase contains 192 atoms per unit cell and has density 2.364 g/cm3.The γ-
phase can be described as a NaCl-type arrangement of two types of clusters, B12
icosahedra and B2 pairs.It can be produced by compressing other boron phases to
12-20 GPa, heating to 1500-1800 0C and is quenchable to ambient
conditions.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 ß γ
Symmetry Rhombohedral Rhombohedral Orthorhombic
Atoms/unit cell 12 ~105 28
Density (g/cm3) 2.46 2.35 2.52
Vickers hardness (GPa) 42 45 50-58
Bulk modulus (GPa) 185 224 227
Bandgap (eV) 2 1.6 2.1

Chemical properties

Chemically, boron is closer to silicon than to aluminium. Crystalline boron is

chemically inert and resistant to attack by boiling HF or HCl. 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 behavior of boron to air depends upon the crystallinity of the sample,
temperature, particle size, and purity. Boron does not react with air at room
temperature. At higher temperatures, boron burns to form boron trioxide:

4B + 3O2(g) → 2B2O3(s)

Boron reacts with sulfur to produce boron sulfide

2B + 3S(g) → B2S3(s)

The first synthesis was performed by Jöns Jakob Berzelius in 1824. Another
synthesis was favoured by Friedrich Wöhler and Henri Etienne Sainte-Claire Deville
first published in 1858, starting from boron and hydrogen sulfide.

2B + 3H2S → B2S3 + 3H2

Wöhler and Deville also documented vigorous reactions between boron and
halogens resulting in boron trichloride, Boron trifluoride and boron tribromide,e.g.,

2 B + 3 Br2 → 2 BBr3

Boron can form compounds whose formal oxidation state is not three, such as B(II)
in B2F4.Boron compounds such as BCl3 behave as electrophiles or Lewis acids in
their reactions.Boron is the least electronegative non-metal.

History and etymology

Boron was named for the mineral borax, thought to come from the Persian name
burah for that mineral. Boron minerals, mainly borax, were traded over a thousand
years ago, when sheep, camel and yak caravans brought borax from desert salt
beds in Persia and Tibet to India and the Arab countries. There it was used mainly in
making glass.

The element boron was not identified and isolated until 1808, when Sir Humphrey
Davy of England, and Joseph-Louis Gay-Lussac and Louis Jacques Thenard of
France, discovered that boron could be produced by combining boric acid (H3BO3)
and metallic potassium.The name boron comes from the Arabic word buraq and the
Persian word 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 Arabic alchemist Geber seems to mention it in 700.
Marco Polo brought some back to Italy in the 13th century. Agricola, around 1600,
reports its use as a flux in metallurgy. In 1777, boric acid was recognized in the hot
springs or 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. This was the main source of European borax from 1827 to 1872, at which date
American sources replaced it.

Boron was never recognized as an element until it was isolated by Sir Humphry
Davy, Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac and Louis Jacques Thénard in 1808 through the
reaction of boric acid and potassium. Davy called the element boracium. Jöns Jakob
Berzelius identified boron as an element in 1824. The first pure boron was arguably
produced by the American chemist W. Weintraub in 1909.


Boron is a relatively rare element in the Earth's crust, representing only 0.001%. The
worldwide commercial borate deposits are estimated as 1010 kg.Turkey and the
United States are the world's largest producers of boron.Turkey has almost 72% of
the world’s boron reserves.[34] 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 a borate mineral
that naturally has fiber-optics properties.

Economically important sources are from the ore rasorite (kernite) and tincal (borax
ore) which are both found in the Mojave Desert of California, with borax being the
most important source there. The largest borax deposits are found in Central and
Western Turkey including the provinces of Eskişehir,
Kütahya and Balıkesir.

Borax crystals
The major ores of boron are a small number of borate (boron oxide) minerals,
including ulexite (NaCaB5O9.8H2O), borax (Na2B4O5(OH)4.8H2O), colemanite
(Ca2B6O11.5H2O) and kernite (Na2B4O6(OH)2.3H2O). These minerals form when
boron-bearing waters percolate into inland desert lakes and evaporate, leaving
layers of borates, chlorides, and sulfates. These minerals are referred to as
evaporite minerals. Very large deposits of evaporite boron minerals are found in the
United States (especially California), Turkey, Chile and Argentina. Less-important
deposits occur in Iran (formerly called Persia), and elsewhere.

In addition, boron silicate minerals are mined as boron ores in China, Russia, and a
few other countries.

Turkey, the United States and Russia are the largest producers of boron minerals.
Argentina, Chile, and China have important ore production, and five or six other
countries produce minor amounts. The U.S. production is all from the deserts of
southeastern California.

In addition to its own production, the United States imports borate minerals and
processed compounds, and exports a large amount of finished products containing


Pure elemental boron is difficult to extract. The earliest methods involved reduction
of boric oxide with metals such as magnesium or aluminum. 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. Very pure
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.

Isotope enrichment

Because of its high neutron cross-section, boron-10 is often used to control fission in
nuclear reactors as 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 used.
Applications of elemental boron

Glass and ceramics

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

Boron fibers and sub-millimeter sized crystalline boron springs have been produced
by laser-assisted chemical vapor deposition. It is the translation of the focused laser
beam that allowed to produce those complex helical structures. The structures
showed 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.

Semiconductor industry

Boron is an important technological dopant for such important semiconductors as

silicon, germanium and silicon carbide. Having one less valence electron than the
host atom, it donates a hole resulting in p-type conductivity.

Boron compounds and their applications

The boron oxygen compounds sodium tetraborate, boric acid and sodium perborate
are produced on a large scale. Sodium borohydride is one of the few hydrides
produced on industrial scale as reduction reagent in chemical synthesis. Boron
carbide and boron nitride are mainly used for industrial applications.

Health issues

Elemental boron and borates are non-toxic to humans and animals (approximately
similar to table salt with the lethal dose being 2 to 3 grams per kilogram). The LD50
(dose at which there is 50% mortality) for humans is about 6 g per kg of body
weight. Anything above 2 g is considered non-toxic, and borates are only 2 to 3
times as toxic as aspirin. Therefore, you are pretty safe unless you eat a pound and
a half of borax for a snack. Borates are more toxic to insects than to mammals. The
boranes 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 (boron hydrogen compounds) 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.

Substitutes and Alternative Sources

In detergents, boron compounds can be replaced with chlorine and enzymes.

Lithium compounds can be used to make enamels and glass products. However, the
known boron ores in the world should easily meet the world demand for boron
compounds for many years to come.