In the world of materials science, there are certain elements that play a pivotal role in shaping the technological landscape across various industries. Boron, with its remarkable properties, has emerged as a strategic material that is powering multiple sectors, from electronics to defense. In this article, we delve into the diverse applications of boron, highlighting its significance in driving innovation, ensuring national security, and advancing key industries.
Boron as a Material
Boron is a compound that occurs in nature. It is often found combined with other substances to form compounds called borates. Common borate compounds include boric acid, salts of borates, and boron oxide. Several companies in the United States produce most of the world’s borates by processing boron compounds. Borates are used mostly to produce glass. They are also used in fire retardants, leather tanning industries, cosmetics, photographic materials, soaps and cleaners, and for high-energy fuel. Some pesticides used for cockroach control and some wood preservatives also contain borates.
Natural boron exists in 2 stable isotopes however pure boron is hard to prepare due to contamination by different elements. It is also found for applications including ceramics, high-hardness or abrasive compounds, metal coatings, detergents, bleaching agents, insecticides, semiconductors, magnets, wood preservatives, and an additive in glass fibers of boron-containing fiberglass for insulation and structural materials. Boric acid contains antiseptic, antifungal, and antiviral properties thus it is used as a water clarifier in swimming pool water treatment.
Boron and its compounds are considered as most promising candidates to be used as hydrogen storage and production material. Therefore, the importance of boron increases for hydrogen and fuel cell energy technologies. Hydrogen can be produced by sodium borohydride giving no harmful by-products. Boron is also a potential engine fuel and engine fuel additive due to its high combustion ability.
Boron-based materials have unique properties that make them useful for a wide range of applications. The properties of boron-based materials can be enhanced by doping them with other elements, or by forming compounds with other elements such as nitrogen, carbon, or oxygen.
Boron is a chemical element that is used in a wide range of industrial and strategic applications. In terms of material, boron can be found in several different forms, including:
- Boron carbide (B4C): A very hard and lightweight material that is often used as an abrasive and in the production of armor and bulletproof vests.
- Boron nitride (BN): A synthetic material that has a similar structure to graphite and is used as a lubricant and as a thermal insulation material.
- Boron-doped diamond: A material that has high electrical conductivity and thermal conductivity, it is used as a field-emission cathode, a sensor, and a substrate for growing single-crystal diamond.
- Boron fibers: a very strong and lightweight fibers that are used in aerospace and defense applications, such as the production of composite materials for aircraft and missiles.
- Boron oxide (B2O3): This material is used as a glass former and as a flame retardant.
- Boron-based chemicals: Boron compounds such as boric acid and sodium tetraborate (borax) are used in a wide range of industrial applications, including as a flame retardant, a water softener, and a cleaning agent.
For in-depth understanding on Boron material and applications please visit: Boron: A Comprehensive Guide to a Strategic Material
Boron is a strategic material
Boron is a chemical element that is used in a wide range of industrial and strategic applications. It is considered a strategic material because it is used in many important industrial and defense-related applications that are critical to national security.
Boron in Electronics:
The electronics industry thrives on advancements in materials that can meet the demands of smaller, faster, and more efficient devices. Boron, with its unique electrical and thermal properties, has become an integral part of this revolution. Boron-based materials, such as boron nitride nanotubes and boron-doped semiconductors, enable the development of high-performance electronic components, contributing to the miniaturization and enhanced functionality of electronic devices.
Boron in Energy Storage:
The global push for clean and renewable energy has fueled the demand for advanced energy storage solutions. Boron, with its potential as an energy carrier and storage material, has gained attention in this field. Boron-based compounds and materials are being explored for their applications in high-capacity batteries, fuel cells, and supercapacitors, offering the promise of more efficient energy storage and utilization.
Boron in Aerospace and Defense:
Boron’s exceptional properties make it an ideal material for applications in the aerospace and defense sectors. Its high strength-to-weight ratio, excellent thermal stability, and resistance to abrasion and impact have led to its use in manufacturing lightweight, yet robust, components. Boron fibers and composites find application in aerospace structures, military armor, and ballistic-resistant materials, ensuring enhanced safety and performance in these critical areas.
Boron in Nuclear Technology:
Boron’s neutron absorption capabilities make it invaluable in nuclear technology and radiation shielding. Boron compounds, such as boron carbide, are utilized in control rods, which regulate nuclear fission reactions in power plants. Boron’s presence in nuclear reactors ensures safety and stability, preventing the possibility of uncontrolled chain reactions.
Boron in Agriculture:
Boron’s importance extends to the agricultural sector, where it plays a vital role in soil fertility and crop production. This micronutrient is essential for the growth and development of plants, influencing various physiological processes. Adequate boron levels in the soil promote healthy root development, flowering, and fruit formation. By optimizing boron management, farmers can improve crop yields, enhance food quality, and contribute to sustainable agriculture practices.
Boron in Chemical Processes:
Boron-based compounds and catalysts have garnered attention for their potential in chemical processes. They exhibit unique properties that enhance reaction rates, selectivity, and efficiency in diverse chemical transformations. Boron catalysts find applications in petrochemical refineries, pharmaceutical synthesis, and other industrial processes, enabling the production of valuable products with reduced energy consumption and environmental impact.
Boron and its compounds boric acid, boron carbide, rare-earth and refractory metal borides find extensive applications in the nuclear industry as neutron sensors, human and instrument shielding against neutrons, nuclear/neutron poison, control/shutoff rods and in nuclear material storage, due to their high neutron absorption cross section.
Boron has two principal isotopes, 10B and 11B and the effectiveness of boron as neutron absorber is due to the high absorption cross sections. of 10B isotope (thermal neutron absorption cross-section for 10B and 11B are 3837 barn and 0.005 barn respectively).
One of the basic requirements associated with the development and operation of nuclear reactors is control and containment of neutrons that sustain, and are also produced during fission reaction. Boron is one of the few elements to possess nuclear properties, which warrant its consideration as neutron absorber material.
Boron carbide and refractory metal borides in addition have an attractive combination of properties such as low density, high melting point and hardness, chemical inertness and excellent thermal and electrical characteristics making them potential materials for many advanced applications.
Born carbide is also being used to make bulletproof jackets. ET has found that 40% of the jacket material, comprising fabric and boron carbide powder, are being imported from China. Chinese companies are now the main overseas raw material source for the 180,000-jacket order after Indian company SMPP changed its suppliers after winning the bid in April last year. The order has been described by the government as one of its biggest contributions for soldiers who have been denied similar jackets in the past.
Some of the actual applications of boron and its compounds in Indian nuclear industry are as follows: Boric acid is used as poison in moderator/coolant of research reactors. Boric acid and boron carbide powder have been used in concrete while constructing reactor buildings
Due to its strategic importance, the production and distribution of boron is closely monitored by governments around the world. Countries may also maintain stockpiles of boron as a strategic reserve to ensure a steady supply in case of supply chain disruption.
The biggest of the four suppliers – Beijing Protech New Material Science Company Ltd – said in its profile that the company was started in 2003 and that its products have been certified by the Chinese government. A listing on Chinese portal Alibaba showed that 45% of its exports are to the Middle East and 10% to Southeast Asian companies.
Boron arsenide keeps electronics cool
Laptops, cell phones, and other electronic items generate heat during use, which can reach critical levels, slowing down operation or leading to complete failure. Large data centers, for example, have to expend a significant portion of energy usage on effective cooling systems. Managing unwanted heat is now a bottleneck in the development of smaller and more powerful electronic systems and new materials that can conduct and dissipate heat more effectively are urgently needed.
Boron arsenide (BAs) has been identified as a promising semiconductor material with high thermal conductivity, according to recent studies published in Science. Researchers from multiple universities measured the thermal conductivity of BAs crystals and found levels three times greater than silicon carbide, which is commonly used for heat dissipation. Researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and University of Houston measured thermal conductivity levels of 1000 ± 90W/m/K at room temperature in millimeter-scale BAs crystals using a technique called time-domain thermoreflectance (TDTR)
BAs has the potential to address the challenge of heat management in electronics, enabling the development of smaller and more powerful devices while reducing energy consumption.
The exceptional thermal conductivity of BAs positions it as a viable solution for effective heat dissipation in electronic and optoelectronic devices. Its properties make it comparable to diamond, the ultimate thermal conductor (with a thermal conductivity exceeding 2000W/m/K), but with the advantage of being more cost-effective and easier to produce on a larger scale.
BAs’ compatibility with silicon-based electronics offers opportunities for seamless integration into existing systems, minimizing thermal stresses and reducing the need for additional materials. Overall, BAs shows great promise in revolutionizing heat management in electronics and enabling enhanced performance in various industries.
The global Boron Market USD 2418.4 Million in 2021, with a change of Percent between 2021 and 2022. The global Boron market size will reach USD 3214.6 Million in 2030, growing at a CAGR of 4.1% over the analysis period.
The global high-purity boron market is estimated at USD 1,057.4 Million in 2022 and is forecast to surpass USD 1,498.7 Million by 2032, growing at a CAGR of 3.5% from 2022 to 2032.
The global boron market is expected to experience significant growth in the coming years, driven by increasing demand in various end-use industries such as construction, aerospace, and energy.
- Construction: The construction industry is a major end-user of boron, specifically in the form of boron-based chemicals used as a flame retardant in building materials. The increasing construction activity in emerging economies is expected to drive the growth of the boron market.
- Aerospace: The aerospace industry is a major end-user of boron fibers, used in the production of composite materials for aircraft and missiles. The increasing demand for lightweight and strong materials in the aerospace industry is expected to drive the growth of the boron market.
- Energy: The energy industry is a major end-user of boron, specifically in the form of boron carbide used as a control rod in nuclear reactors. The increasing demand for clean energy is expected to drive the growth of the boron market.
- Agriculture: The agriculture industry is a major end-user of boron-based fertilizers, used to improve crop yields. The increasing global population and the need for food security is expected to drive the growth of the boron market.
- Automotive: The automotive industry is also a growing end-user of boron, specifically in the form of boron nitride, used as a lubricant and as a thermal insulation material in electric vehicles.
The growth of the boron market is also expected to be influenced by the availability and cost of raw materials, government regulations, and technological advancements.
The market is also expected to be impacted by environmental concerns, as the extraction and production of boron can have negative environmental impacts. Companies and governments are investing in sustainable production processes to minimize these impacts, and to ensure the long-term growth of the market.
The swelling demand for electronic products is also expected to drive the market growth. Key applications of boron, viz. detergents, agriculture, ceramics, glass, and others. Among these, glass and ceramic are expected to generate robust demand for boron. However, glass is foreseen to take the lead in the global market in terms of demand. In 2017, it accounted for a substantial consumption share of the global market.
From touchscreens to wind turbines, boron is used as a vital component in their manufacture. It is anticipated to gain from the increasing application of fiberglass in turbine blades used for generating wind power.
Players are foretold to take advantage of new opportunities created as a result of the high fiberglass demand in the construction of public structures such as roads and bridges. Thus, increased construction spending is expected to push the demand in the global boron market
Boron is a chemical element that is used in a wide range of industrial and strategic applications.
There are several companies and countries that are major suppliers of boron and its derivatives.
- Rio Tinto: A global mining company based in Australia, Rio Tinto is one of the world’s largest producers of boron, with mines in California and Turkey.
- Eti Maden: A Turkish state-owned mining company, Eti Maden is the largest boron producer in the world, with mines in Turkey.
- Sibelco: A Belgian company that specializes in the production and distribution of industrial minerals, Sibelco is a major supplier of boron-based chemicals such as boric acid and borates.
- Boron Specialties: A global specialty chemical company, Boron Specialties is a major supplier of boron-based chemicals and boron-based products.
- ICL: A global specialty fertilizers and specialty chemicals company, ICL is a major supplier of boron-based fertilizers and boron-based chemicals.
- American Pacific Borates: A mining company based in California, American Pacific Borates is a major supplier of boron-based chemicals and boron-based minerals.
- China Minmetals: A Chinese state-owned mining company, China Minmetals is a major supplier of boron and its derivatives, specifically in the form of boron carbide and boron nitride.
These are just a few examples of companies and countries that are major suppliers of boron and its derivatives. The boron market is constantly evolving and new suppliers may emerge in the future.
Global main Boron players cover Eti Maden, Rio Tinto, Searles Valley Minerals, and Minera Santa Rita, etc. In terms of revenue, the global largest two companies occupy a share nearly Percent in 2021. Some of the manufacturers are Quiborax, Borax Argentina, Minera Santa Rita, Searles Valley Minerals, Rio Tinto, and Eti Maden.
New boron carbide facility to boost Turkey’s defense industry, energy minister says
Turkey aims to boost its defense industry and transform its boron mining sector into technologically advanced products, according to Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Dönmez. At the groundbreaking ceremony for ETI Maden’s Boron Carbide Facilities, Dönmez highlighted that Turkey holds 73% of the world’s boron reserves and aims to increase its share of the boron market through effective refining processes. The establishment of TRBOR Boron Technologies A.Ş. will enable the production of approximately 1,000 tons of boron carbide annually. Boron’s diverse applications in the defense industry, glass and ceramics sectors, farming, and cleaning products will contribute to Turkey’s leadership in these areas, with boron carbide playing a vital role in the production of helicopters, aircraft, military equipment, and more.
Boron’s journey from electronics to defense exemplifies its versatile nature and strategic significance. Its unique properties have made it indispensable in multiple industries, driving innovation, enhancing performance, and ensuring national security. As we continue to explore the vast potential of boron, further advancements in electronics, energy storage, aerospace, defense, agriculture, and chemical processes are on the horizon.
The ongoing research and development efforts surrounding boron pave the way for exciting breakthroughs and transformative applications. With its wide-ranging contributions, boron stands as a testament to the power of strategic materials in shaping our technological landscape and addressing key challenges across industries. As we embrace the full potential of boron, we can look forward to a future where innovation and progress are fueled by the remarkable properties of this