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How is boron used?

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Quick Answer

Boron is widely used in the medical, industrial, aesthetic and construction sectors. Boron can be easily manipulated and altered to serve a variety of purposes, which makes it one of the most versatile substances on Earth. It is a naturally occurring element and is most commonly found as borax.

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Full Answer

Boron is a common element found around the world. For centuries, compounds of boron and borax have been extracted, altered and used for human purposes, primarily in the areas of medicine and industry. Boron is chalky white in appearance. Its name comes from the Arabic word for “white,” and borax, the most common form of this element, is the lightest and brightest of all kinds of boron. Boron is relatively hardy and stable, making it suitable for industrial use. In fact, it is nearly as hard as diamond and is often used as a cheaper and more practical alternative to diamond, particularly when used for interior decorating and home remodeling. The same property of hardness makes boron ideal for use as an abrasive. In its acid form, called boracic acid, boron is used as a mild antiseptic. Lastly, compounds of boron are used for detergents and soaps, enamels, medicine and heat-resistant glass.

These three different compounds are very widely used in a variety of eyedrops and antiseptics, and they are also a common ingredient in washing powders. Borax is especially a common ingredient in many cosmetics and soaps.

Boron is also a primary compound used in the manufacturing of borosilicate glass, which is a hardened type of safety glass commonly known as Pyrex. Boric acid is also a common ingredient in pesticides in North America, which can be used to kill silverfish, ants, cockroaches, fleas and other small insects.

The boron-10 isotope also plays a major role in the regulation of nuclear reactors, as it is especially good at absorbing neutrons. Boron is also an important part of the production of many different lightweight materials, such as those used by the aerospace industry. Doctors have also discovered that certain boron compounds may be able to help treat arthritis as well.

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