Boron

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Introduction to Boron

A periodic table is one of the most important references in chemistry. All the known elements are arranged in an informative way within a periodic table. The elements are arranged in rows (top to bottom) and columns (left to right) in ascending order of their atomic numbers. Usually, the order coincides with their atomic masses as well. This article will learn about the family of boron element that forms the 13th group in the periodic table. You will find all boron information here, including the boron periodic table and chemical and physical properties of boron.


Group 13 Elements

There are 6 elements in group 13 of the periodic table and they are:

  1. Boron - B

  2. Aluminium- Al

  3. Gallium - Ga

  4. Indium - In

  5. Thallium - Tl

  6. Element 113 or Ununtrium  - Uut

All these 6 elements have 3 electrons in the outermost shell of their nuclear structure.


What is Boron? Is boron a metal?

Sir Humphry Davy and J.L Gay-Lussac discovered boron in the year 1808. The word Boron originated from the Arabic word Buraq (Persian Burah).

Considering that boron belongs to the 13th group, an obvious question would be whether boron is a metal or nonmetal? Surprisingly, boron is a semimetal, contrary to all other elements in this brilliant white metal group. Boron chemical name is B, and it is a crucial material that is required for plant growth. Boron has many other industry-wide applications. 


Boron Occurrence

Boron occurs in nature (not in elemental form) by forming compounds with other substances called Borates. Few common borates are boron acid, borate salts, and boron oxide. It is found in limited quantities and is mostly a product of the radioactivity of subatomic particles. Many companies in the United States extract boron by processing compounds of boron. The most common form of boron is amorphous boron which is a dark powder. This boron does not react with oxygen, acids, alkali, and water. 

Boron which is naturally born is 19.78% of boron-10 and 80.22% of boron-11. There are a total of 11 isotopes of boron which range from B-7 to B-17. Pure boron is difficult to prepare due to contamination by different elements.

Borates are mined in Tibet, Turkey, the US, and Chile and its world production are close to 2 million tonnes in a year.

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Boron Properties

We already know that the boron symbol is B and the boron atomic number is 5. It lies in period 2 of group 13. This metalloid is low-abundant, and it is a poor conductor of electricity at room temperature but a good conductor at higher temperatures. Due to being electron-deficient, Boron possesses a vacant p-orbital. We can find important boron information in the table below:

Group

13

Period

2

Block

p

Melting point

2077°C, 2350 K, 3771°F

Atomic number

5

Electron configuration

[He] 2s22p1 

Boiling Point

4000°C, 4273 K, 7232°F

Relative atomic mass

10.81

Density

2.34 g cm-3

Stable Isotopes

2

Key Isotopes

11B and 10B

Vanderwall’s radius

0.098 mm

The energy of the first ionization

800.5 kJ.mol -1

The energy of the second ionization

2426.5 kJ.mol -1

The energy of the third ionization

3658.7 kJ.mol -1

CAS

7440-42-8


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Boron exhibits interesting optical properties too; for example, boron mineral ulexite has natural fibre optic properties. The boron element transmits some portions of the infrared light. Boron can form stable molecular networks that are covalently bonded. The boron filaments are light in weight but high in strength. The energy band gap of elemental boron is higher than that of germanium or silicon, and its value lies between 1.5 to 1.56 eV.


Boron Uses

Boron has 3 economically essential compounds which are Borax or sodium tetraborate decahydrate (Na2B4O7 ·10H2O), boric acid, and boric oxide. Boron is used vastly in the following products and industries:

  • Boron compounds can produce borosilicate glasses or pyrex. The glass is rendered tough and heat resistant by Borons. 

  • Boron acts as a source of ignition in some rockets.

  • Boron is used to making glasses, enamels, fibreglass for isolation, and ceramics.

  • Its compounds are used in bleaches (sodium perborate), water softeners, detergents, and soaps.

  • Boric acid is an important constituent in the textile industry.

  • Boron is used for controlling pests and other agricultural chemicals.

  • It has uses in fire retardants and fireworks too.

  • People use Boron supplements as food. It helps in building solid bones and beneficial for people who suffer from osteoarthritis.

  • Boron boosts testosterone levels and is capable of building muscles.

  • Boron nitride acts as an electrical insulator owing to its hardness. It can still conduct electricity and also possesses lubricating properties like graphite.

  • In pyrotechnic devices, amorphous boron provides a distinct green colour.

  • Boron-10 can detect neutrons and is used for controlling nuclear reactors. It also provides a shield from nuclear radiation.

  • Boron is used as a medicine in eye drops and as a mild antiseptic.

  • Boron is being studied for possible treatment of brain tumours.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What are some of the health effects of Boron?

Human beings are exposed to borons through food (fruits and vegetables), air, water, and some consumer products. We intake boron close to 2 mg daily and 60 mg in a lifetime. If this amount increases to larger amounts, then it can pose health problems. Boron consumed in high quantities can cause damage to the liver, kidneys, stomach, and brain and eventually lead to death. About 5 grams of boric acid can cause illnesses like an irritation to the nose, eyes, or throat. If the amount goes up to 20 grams, then it can be life-threatening. If we eat fish or meat that will not cause boron concentrations in our bodies to go up since boron does not accumulate in animal tissues.

2. What is the biological role of Boron?

The cell walls of plants require boron. Along with calcium, boron is used in cell wall synthesis and is crucial for cell division (which creates new plant cells). For reproduction in plants, boron plays a major role in pollination and the development of seeds and fruits. Other functions of boron in plants include:

  • translocation of carbohydrates and sugars,

  •  forming certain proteins

  • nitrogen metabolism

  • transporting potassium to stomata (this is responsible for regulating internal water balance), and 

  • regulation of hormone levels. 

  • A deficiency of borons can cause a reduction in sugars and exudates in plant roots that can lead to reduced attraction and colonization of mycorrhizal fungi.