How is Boric acid used?


There are many things about which we hear or see or even use regularly. Now, for example citrus fruits like lime and orange have citric acid

which speeds up digestion and also fermentation process.

But how many of us know about such regular chemical miracles and wonders? Very few of us! And those who wonder try to find out the reason. Ultimately, this inquisitiveness leads to invention or discovery. Boric acid which is also known as orthoboric or boracic acid occurs naturally is a compound  consisting of Boron, oxygen and hydrogen (H3BO3). It never occurs singly in nature and can be found as compounds with sodium and oxygen to form salts like borax and boric acid respectively. It is an important micronutrients for plants and to some extent for humans. Boron is present in naturally occurring grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts. It also occurs in natural form in water and soil.

What is the history of Boric Acid?

Use of Boric acid or Borate can be traced back to thousand of years back and mostly it was used by Chinese and the Middle Eastern countries as food preservatives, cleaning agents and antiseptic. During 900 A.D, the glaze of ceramic containers was increased by using borax. Around the same time, the Arabs too used it for retaining the polish and finish during fabrication of silver and gold.


What is Homberg Salt?

Boric acid was first made by Wilhelm Homberg in 1702 by mixing mineral acids and borax with water. After evaporation crystals of boric acid were formed which were termed as Homberg salt. With the discovery of borax deposits in Nevada and Death Valley of California during the 1870’s, large amount of borates were carried on mules through the deserts of America. Boric acid is produced by plants in refined form and is used throughout the world.


What is Boric Acid?

Boric acid is a weak acid and water soluble compound. It is a white crystalline powder and a mild antiseptic. It is mostly used as an insecticide in controlling roaches. It acts by dehydrating the bodies and attacking the nervous system. Though harmless in minute quantities, Borax should not be consumed as it is toxic if ingested or inhaled in large quantities. It it is not  categorized as a carcinogenic, but studies have shown that long term exposure to Boric acid can cause kidney damage. Teratogenecity  in rabbits, mouse and rats fetuses if exposed to high dose of boric acid has been recorded. It's also used  in detergents, water softeners and pesticides.


What are the applications of Boric acid?

Boric acid is widely used in commercial and industrial applications. Some of the common examples are:

  • Boric acid is mild antiseptic as well as acid and stops the growth of micronutrients on the surface of any body. It is hence used in contact lens solutions, vaginal remedies, baby powder, eye disinfectants, anti aging chemicals and other external applications.
  • Boron is known to promote the health of bones and joints and hence is being widely used in nutritional supplements in the form of boric acid and borates.
  • Boric acid is a very important flame retardant and hence is commonly used in futons, mattresses, upholstery, gypsum board and insulation. It controls the release of combustible gases and hence stops cellulosic items like cotton, wood, wool from catching fire. Plastics, specialty coatings and other industrial products also make use of Boric acid for its flame retardant quality.
  • Borosilicate  specialty glasses and in other heat resistant applications, Boric acid is used to enhance the heat and temperature resistance capacity.
  • It’s also used in ovenware, microware, halogen light bulbs, fiberization of fiber glass, laboratory glass ware, and wood preservatives and for pest control. Modern hi-tech glasses used in computers, LED’s and plasma screens consist of Boric acid.


How is Boric acid being used in energy saving fuel options?

The National Center for Environmental Assessment (NCEA) which is responsible for assessing the impact of various chemicals on the human body and a division of U.S. Environmental Protection Division (EPA) has increased the daily allowed consumption dose of boron in diet from 6.3 mg - 14 mg.


It is also being widely used in development of clean fuel technologies. Recent research by government scientists has revealed that nano particles  of boric acid helps  in reducing friction between engine parts which leads to lower fuel  consumption. The boric acid suspensions in motor oil seemed to reduce two thirds of energy lost as heat which boils down to the percentage of fuel saved by 4-5% which is a big number when compared to the millions of barrels of oil consumed everyday. More studies in this can lead to developing  a cost effective and energy saving options.


External References


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