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Boric acid, known by various names such as hydrogen borate, boracic acid, orthoboric acid, or acidum boricum, serves as a mild boron acid and is commonly utilized as an antiseptic, insecticide, flame retardant, neutron absorber, or a precursor to other chemical compounds. With the chemical formula B(OH)3, it presents itself in the form of colorless crystals or a white powder that readily dissolves in water. In its natural state as a mineral, it is referred to as sassolite.
Boric acid can be produced through the reaction of borax (sodium tetraborate decahydrate) with a mineral acid, such as hydrochloric acid:
Na2B4O7·10H2O + 2 HCl → 4 B(OH)3 + 2 NaCl + 5 H2O
It is additionally generated as a by-product during the hydrolysis of boron trihalides and diborane:
B2H6 + 6 H2O → 2 B(OH)3 + 6 H2
BX3 + 3 H2O → B(OH)3 + 3 HX (X = Cl, Br, I)
Borates play a crucial role in the production of technical glasses, serving the purpose of reducing or regulating thermal expansion and achieving chemical durability and neutrality. These glasses are crafted to meet specific requirements for various applications, including insulation fiberglass, glass ceramics, manufacturing composites (fiberglass reinforced plastics), woven fabrics for electrical and fire/heat-resistant applications, cooking and tableware, laboratory and process plants, lighting, sealing, pharmaceuticals, optics, fire-resistant glazing, borosilicate glass (requiring high B2O3 content), lighting glass, sealing glasses, neutral glasses (ampoules, vials, cosmetic containers, and vacuum flasks), and numerous other glass types.
Boric acid has applications in the production of laundry care products and industrial cleaners. It is frequently incorporated as a supplement in detergents and soaps, contributing to improved stain removal, bleaching, enzyme stabilization, and acting as an emulsifier for waxes and oils.
In leather production, boric acid finds utility in neutralizing lime prior to the tanning process.
Boric acid serves various purposes in cosmetics and personal care items, being incorporated into the formulation of products like creams, lotions, bath products, and hair and skin care items. Its functions include inhibiting or slowing bacterial growth, thereby preserving these products. Additionally, boric acid is employed to regulate pH levels and minimize fluctuations when acidic or alkaline substances are introduced. It aids in maintaining the stability of emulsions, preventing the separation of oil and liquid components. Moreover, it plays a role in adjusting the viscosity of liquid cosmetics and personal care products.
The main industrial application of boric acid lies in the production of monofilament fiberglass commonly known as textile fiberglass. This material is utilized for reinforcing plastics across various applications, including boats, industrial piping, and computer circuit boards.
Boric acid serves as an antiseptic for minor cuts or burns and is occasionally incorporated into dressings or salves. In the form of a highly diluted solution, boric acid is employed as an eye wash. Its antibacterial properties extend its use as a treatment for acne. Additionally, it is utilized for preventing athlete's foot by applying powder inside socks or stockings.
Disinfectant and cleansing agents
Alongside its insecticidal properties, boric acid serves to prevent and eliminate both wet and dry rot in timber. When combined with an ethylene glycol carrier, it becomes effective in treating external wood to safeguard against fungal and insect infestation. Additionally, boric acid is incorporated into salt during the curing process of cattle hides, calfskins, and sheepskins. This not only assists in managing bacterial growth but also plays a role in insect control.