Borates by function
The versatility of borates lies in their distinct bonding and structural characteristics. In living systems, these characteristics make borates vital to metabolism - the fundamental way in which organisms translate food into energy. Borates abound in industrial systems as well, for two reasons.
First, they're safe. Used for centuries, borates pose no risk to people, animals or the environment under normal handling and use. Even those who handle borates every day have experienced no adverse health effects. Second, they're versatile. In some applications, there is simply no substitute for borates. In other products and processes, their natural functions impart a wide range of performance, cost, environmental and safety advantages.
Below are some of borates' most important functions:
Borates modify the structure of glass to make it resistant to heat or chemical attack. They facilitate the production of ultra-thin LCD screens, fiberglass and ceramic glazes.
In some organisms, borates can inhibit metabolic processes. This makes them useful in controlling insects, bacteria and fungi in everything from construction timbers to cosmetics.
Borates interact with surfaces containing iron to form a coating that protects the metal from corrosion. They are important additives in products as diverse as antifreeze and aerosol cans.
Borates bond with other particles to keep ingredients dispersed evenly and are used to control viscosity in paints, adhesives and cosmetics.
An important chemical effect of borates is seen in laundry detergents and other cleaning products, where borates are important components in bleaching and stain removal.
Borates help to balance acidity and alkalinity in many applications. Detergents, fireworks and film processing solutions all rely on borates for a stable pH.
Combined with zinc, borates are used to retard flames and suppress smoke in electrical cable coatings and insulation.
Borates absorb neutrons in a number of applications, ranging from nuclear containment shields to cancer treatments.