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Boron in its combined form of borax (Na2B4O7. 10H2O) has been used since early times. Early uses were as a mild antiseptic and cleaner because of its detergent and water-softening properties. Later it was used as a soldering flux and ceramic flux because of its ability to dissolve metal oxides. Borax is used to produce a heat-resistant borosilicate glass for the home and laboratory, familiar to many by the trade mark "Pyrex", and is the starting material for the preparation of other boron compounds.
Boric acid, is mildly antiseptic, is used widely as an eye washer and as a neutron absorver in the swimming-pool type nuclear reactors and in electroplating baths, such as those used for nickel deposition. Its anhydride is used as a source of boron in the fused salt electrolysis method for the preparation of elemental boron.
The boron trifluoride is a gas produced in large quantities for gas tube neutron radiation detectors for monitoring radiation levels in the earth's atmosphere and in space. Some organizations use these devices to ascertain the best underground level at which to blast to produce oil wells of high yield. Boron triflouride is an important industrial catalyst for many organic reactions, such as polymerization reactions. It has also a major role in the electroplating of nickel, lead and tin.
Aluminum boride (AlB12), has been used as a substitute for diamond dust for grinding and polishing. Boron carbide is also used with this purpose and it has found extensive use as a polishing agent, for sandblast nozzles, etc.
Elemental boron is hard and brittle like glass, having similar uses. Boron can be added to pure metals, alloys or to other solids to improve its strength.