There is no chemical compound more omnipresent and commercially used in myriad of industries than boric acid, also known as hydrogen borate, boracic acid, orthoboric acid, acidum boricum or trihydroxyborane. It was first discovered in 1702 and synthetically made through a chemical reaction of borax — a naturally occurring mineral of a specific crystal structure — with a mineral acid known as hydrochloric acid by Wilhelm Homberg, a declared practitioner of natural philosophy now called natural science. Boric acid can be found in its free state as sassolite, its mineral form, in certain volcanic districts like Tuscany, the Lipari Islands, Australia, North Rhine-Westphalia, Japan, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Russia or Nevada & California in the USA. It is also found in seawater, and plants like fruits in small amounts.1
The compound takes its name after its molecular composition with a chemical formula of H3BO3, defined as a weak acid of boron. In general, boric acid occurs as a hygroscopic, white crystalline powder, shiny plates, or colorless crystals. Those odorless crystals are mined or synthesized by manufacturers and then distributed in different bulk packages (112g, 250g, 500g, 1 kg, 5kg, etc.). Our company provides boric acid in two unique textures of crystals: chunks and flakes commercially called magic fish scales or fish scales as the second ones actually resemble fish scales. The products are classified as reagents under administrative code issued by CAS Registry No.: 10043-35-3. Christalchem sells the chemical compound as Boric Acid Magic Fischscale Flake and Boric Acid Chunk of PURE quality– good quality chemical i.e. it may be applied for laboratory, exploratory or scientific purposes.
While scientific research being made over decades confirmed boron to be “ an essential nutrient for the growth of plants”2 or an omnipresent element in many inorganic substances in the world it can become toxic to many living creatures because of its excessive uptake. The unquestionably leading position of boric acid among many chemicals with universal applications results from its many chemical and physical properties. Boric acid is used as an antiseptic to clean open harm, simultaneously, being a perfect disinfectant preserving organic products or securing them against any infestation in form of roaches, fleas, or flies. Therefore, it is a famous herbicide, insecticide, algaecide, or fungicide component. Due to its medical features, the compound has been included in many consumer goods like baby powders, eyewashes, diaper rash ointments, or gargles.
Boric acid has also many qualities of industrial importance. Thanks to its preservative and fireproofing properties “it is used in the manufacture of glass, pottery, enamels, glazes, cosmetics, cement, porcelain, leather, carpets, hats, soaps, artificial gems, and in tanning, printing, dyeing, painting, and photography”3. There is a wide range of applications where the compound is used as a buffer solution in many laboratory experiments when keeping pH at a nearly constant value is a requirement. On a large scale, buffering agents may be applied in fermentation processes or while calibrating appropriate conditions for dyes used to color fabrics so that they are also used in chemical analysis4 and setting up pH meters.
Boric acid is sold in two commercially recognized crystal forms: chunks and flakes. Boric acid chunks are white or colorless, amorphous crystalline solid. On the other hand, boric acid flake interchangeably called magic fish scales resembles powder consisted of oily and gleaming smaller crystals similar to real fish scales. They are forged in a previously described chemical reaction between a mineral commonly called borax, more precisely speaking sodium tetraborate encountered naturally in few variants differing in their water of crystallization content like sodium tetraborate pentahydrate, sodium borate decahydrate or sodium tetraborate octahydrate, and sulfuric acid. Acidification may be executed also applying other acids like hydrochloric acid.
Manufacturers of magic fish scales are usually situated in areas where deposits of mineral borax are abundant. Kernite and tincal have become the main minerals of borax industrially used. There are many more. Besides aforementioned locations in the Southwest U.S. “some worldwide occurrences include Kirka and Sarikaya, Turkey; Lardarello, Tuscany, Italy; the Atacma Desert of Chile; and Loma Blanca and Salta, Argentina”5
There are many methods of manufacturing boric acid. Taking into account different chemical reactions we can distinguish a dehydration process of boron-containing minerals through the reatment of mineral acids, “pyrolysis of metal borates including colemanite and ulexite”6, and hydrolysis of boron trihalides or diborane. Many metal borates occur naturally and, therefore, pyrolysis, a procedure inflicting heating alkali metal borate ores like rasorite (Na2 B4 O7. 4H2 O), ezcurrite (2NaO. 5B2 O3. 7H2 O), nasinite or Auger’s sodium borate (2Na2 O. 5B2 O3. 5H2 O), sodium tetraborate (Na2 B2 O7), sodium metaborate tetrahydrate (Na2 O. B2 O3. 8H2 O), sodium metaborate dihydrate (Na2 N2 O4. 4H2 O), and sodium pentaborate (Na2 O. 5B2 O3. 10H2 O) is also commonly applied. Considering characteristics of industrial processes involved we know at least three or even more main phases of production. At first, a preliminary process of purification must be carried out to get rid of many chemical impurities featured in raw mineral ore. The next step implies the treatment of easily available reagents like sulfuric acid and charging it into a special reactor on the ore. A moistened solid mass obtained in this way should be then condensed and finally crystallized to a required form of boric acid chunks or magic fish scales. Depending on the number of chemical impurities still present in the final solution the manufacturing process may need more phases. There is a significant difference in prices for both sorts of boric acid in our offer. If you are interested in buying lump blocks of chunks for manufacturing processes they will be much more recommended. In case of laboratory purposes, magic fish scales may be more practical.
The European Chemical Agency specifies multiple practical applications of boric acid. “This substance is used by consumers, in articles, by professional workers (widespread uses), in formulation or re-packing, at industrial sites and in manufacturing”7. It is almost impossible to specify all of them. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on its industrial uses. Magic fish scales or chunks of boric acid are the basic compound in many fields of the chemical industry: the organic synthetic industry, the inorganic chemical industry, the petrochemical industry, the dye industry, the rubber industry, the industry of synthetic materials, the paint industry. Boric acid or its derivatives can be used as catalysts in organic reactions like boron trifluoride “in the reaction process of lipidation, alkylation, polymerization, isomerization, sulfonation, nitration”8 It is a basic raw material for inorganic borides. The composition of boron phosphate or boron aluminum catalyst occurs as complexing or separating agents for olefin. The compound is also used as a color developing agent or an oxidizing agent in the dye industry. Due to its fireproof properties, boric acid has become a flame retardant, filler, and synthesis catalyst in the rubber industry. At last, not least the substance is applied as a “plasticizer for polyvinyl chloride (calcium metaborate), a foaming agent for plastics (sodium borohydride), a neutralizer for the production of urea-formaldehyde resin (ammonium borate) and synthetic resins, the curing catalyst (cobalt tetraborate)”9 It may finally be included in anti-rust pigments instead of red lead, to say the least.
The list of possible uses could not be complete if we do not mention the agriculture sector where boric acid chunks are the main component of many fertilizers. Boric acid and its sodium borate salts are active ingredients in pesticide products used as insecticides, acaricides, algaecides, herbicides, fungicides, and wood preservatives.10 Consequently the boric acid magic fish scales may be found in many household cleaners, laundry detergents, or personal care products.
The biggest industrial potential market for boric acid is placed in the ceramic industry to manufacture glass, fiberglass, porcelain enamel, ceramic glazes. It is also an inherent ingredient of physic & chemical processes in metallurgy to produce metal alloys like in copper smelters.
Boric acid can be found in many medical products too. Despite many casual applications of boric acid-related products in any household as a pesticide, we recommend very careful use of them, especially for oral use. Our company is willing to become a linking bridge between all potential partners dealing with this substance individually or commercially.
- Allen, A. H.; Tankard, A. R. (1904). “The Determination of Boric Acid in Cider, Fruits, etc.”. Analyst. 29 (October): 301–304.
- P. Lank, M. Wahl, in Encyclopedia of Toxicology (Third Edition), 2014
- Michael Wahl, in Encyclopedia of Toxicology (Second Edition), 2005
- Hulanicki, A. (1987). Reactions of acids and bases in analytical chemistry. Translated by Masson, Mary R. Horwood. ISBN 978-0-85312-330-9
10. Boric Acid/Sodium Borate Salts: HED Chapter of the Tolerance Reassessment Eligibility Decision Document
(TRED); U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances, Health
Effects Division, U.S Government Printing Offices: Washington, DC, 2006.