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What Is Boron Oxide?

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  • Written By: Karize Uy
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 28 August 2016
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Boron oxide is a form of chemical compound that primarily has the elements of boron and oxygen in it. This compound usually comes in three forms: boron monoxide, boron trioxide, and boron suboxide. These forms of boron oxide are usually colorless or whitish, exhibiting almost no smell. They are especially useful in glass and enamel manufacturing.

In a nutshell, a form of boron oxide is distinguished by how many atoms of boron and atoms of oxygen are present in the compound. Boron monoxide, for example, has two boron atoms connected to a single atom of oxygen (B2O). Of all the forms, this oxide is probably the most unstable and, therefore, least used in manufacturing and industries. It is sometimes combined with water to convert the compound to boric acid. Boron monoxide itself is not flammable, but combining it with other compounds such as calcium oxide and bromine pentaflouride can result in combustion and fires.

Probably the most common and most used of all types of boron oxide is the boron trioxide, which has two atoms of boron connecting the three atoms of oxygen (B2O3). It usually comes in the form of a fine, white powder than can undergo crystallization to make the compound stronger and sturdier. Boron trioxide may be odorless and colorless, but it has a bitter flavor to it. The compound can be created when borax, used as a household cleaner and detergent, undergoes sulfuric acid treatment.

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In glass manufacturing, boron trioxide often functions as a flux, or a cleaning instrument, for panes of glass and enamel, probably to remove some impurities the panes have obtained from the fire. The compound is also used to produce optical fibers and borosilicate glass that is often used for test tubes and beakers. Combining the compound with a small percentage of boron nitride will also make for a good bonding agent for ceramics. Boron trioxide can also be used as an insecticide.

The third type of boron oxide is the boron suboxide, having the most number of boron atoms in its formula: six atoms of boron with just one atom of hydrogen. Among the three boron oxides, the boron suboxide is probably the most superior, having superb resistance and hardness, which is said to nearly reach a diamond’s hardness. This is probably due to the six boron atoms that create a very compact bond among them, having just one oxygen atom inserted in small notches. It is also a very good heat conductor and has excellent chemical stability, making it an ideal material for industrial purposes.

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