Boric acid is a weak acid that is made up of boron, hydrogen and oxygen. It is a solid white crystal substance at room temperature and can be dissolved in water. Boric acid can be found in nature in some areas of volcanic activity as well as in seawater, plants and fruits. It was first prepared by Dutch scientist Wilhelm Homberg from borax, but was known and used in Ancient Greece for a variety of purposes. Most boric acid made today is prepared by reacting borax with a mineral acid (usually hydrochloric acid). It is a relatively safe acid and it is used for a variety of applications.
Uses of boric acid
Boric acid has many uses in the medical industry. It is used as an antiseptic for minor cuts and burns and it is sometimes added to dressings. It can also be used to treat certain bacterial and fungal infections, such as acne and athlete’s foot. Overuse can cause a build up in the system and be toxic, especially for infants and small children.
Boric acid is a popular insecticide and can be used to kill a verity of household pests such as ants, termites, fleas, cockroaches, silverfish and many other small insects. It kills the insects by disturbing their metabolism and is abrasive to their exoskeletons.
Boric acid is used to treat wood to prevent termites and to prevent wet and dry rot. It is also combined with ethylene glycol to treat external wood against fungal infections or insects. Boric acid gel and paste can also be used to insert into rotting timber to treat it instead of replacing it. Boric acid based treatments can be used to prevent slime and algae growth.
Boric acid, together with common salt, is used in the curing process from sheepskins, calfskins and cattle hides. It helps to stop bacteria from growing on the hides and controls insects.
Boric acid, together with petroleum or vegetable oil, is a very suitable lubricant for metal or ceramic surfaces.
Boric acid is used as a neutron poison to slow down the rate of fission in nuclear power plants. Boric acid was dumped on the reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant after meltdown to prevent any further reactions!
Boric acid is used in the production of textile fiberglass and in the production of certain types of furnace linings and ceramics.
It is used in the jewelry industry to reduce unwanted marking from occurring on the metals during construction.
Boric acid can be used to make fire green, which is the method used by fire jugglers and spinners. It can also be used in fireworks to prevent a reaction between aluminum and nitrates.
It also has many other uses such as: in the production of LCD displays, in the manufacture of Silly Putty, neutralizing hydrofluoric acid, a fire retardant for wood, electroplating and many more.