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Boric acid, also called hydrogen borate, boracic acid, orthoboric acid and
acidum boricum, is a weak, monobasic Lewis acid of boron, which is often
used as an antiseptic, insecticide, flame retardant, neutron absorber, or
precursor to other chemical compounds. It has the chemical formula H3BO3
(sometimes written B(OH)3), and exists in the form of colorless crystals or a
white powder that dissolves in water. When occurring as a mineral, it is called
|Properties||Colorless crystal or white powder|
Boric acid, or sassolite, is found mainly in its free state in some volcanic
districts, for example, in the Italian region of Tuscany, the Lipari Islands and
the US state of Nevada. In these volcanic settings it issues, mixed with steam,
from fissures in the ground. It is also found as a constituent of many
naturally occurring minerals – borax, boracite, ulexite (boronatrocalcite) and
colemanite. Boric acid and its salts are found in seawater. It is also found in
plants, including almost all fruits.Boric acid was first prepared by Wilhelm
Homberg (1652–1715) from borax, by the action of mineral acids, and was
given the name sal sedativum Hombergi ("sedative salt of Homberg").
However borates, including boric acid, have been used since the time of the
ancient Greeks for cleaning, preserving food, and other activities.
Boric acid may be prepared by reacting borax (sodium tetraborate
decahydrate) with a mineral acid, such as hydrochloric acid:
Na2B4O7·10H2O + 2 HCl → 4 B(OH)3 [or H3BO3] + 2 NaCl + 5 H2O
It is also formed as a by product of hydrolysis of boron trihalides and
B2H6 + 6 H2O → 2 B(OH)3 + 6 H2
BX3 + 3 H2O → B(OH)3 + 3 HX (X = Cl, Br, I)
Boric acid was first registered in the US as an insecticide in 1948 for control of
cockroaches, termites, fire ants, fleas, silverfish, and many other insects. The
product is generally considered to be safe to use in household kitchens to control
cockroaches and ants.It acts as a stomach poison affecting the insects'
metabolism, and the dry powder is abrasive to the insects' exoskeletons. Boric acid
also has the reputation as "the gift that keeps on killing" in that roaches that cross
over lightly dusted areas do not die immediately, but that the effect is like shards of
glass cutting them apart. This often allows a roach to go back to the nest where it
soon dies. Cockroaches, being cannibalistic, eat others killed by contact or
consumption of boric acid, consuming the powder trapped in the dead roach and
killing them, too.
In combination with its use as an insecticide, boric acid also prevents and
destroys existing wet and dry rot in timbers. It can be used in combination with an
ethylene glycol carrier to treat external wood against fungal and insect attack. It is
possible to buy borate-impregnated rods for insertion into wood via drill holes
where dampness and moisture is known to collect and sit. It is available in a gel
form and injectable paste form for treating rot affected wood without the need to
replace the timber. Concentrates of borate-based treatments can be used to
prevent slime, mycelium, and algae growth, even in marine environments.
Boric acid is added to salt in the curing of cattle hides, calfskins, and sheepskins.
This helps to control bacterial development, and helps to control insects.
Boric acid is used to treat or prevent boron deficiencies in plants. It is also used
in preservation of grains such as rice and wheat.
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