Boron is a non-metallic element obtained most commonly from naturally occurring minerals known as borates. The borates contain oxygen, hydrogen, sodium, and other elements in addition to boron. Probably the most familiar boron-containing mineral is borax, mined extensively in salt lakes and alkaline soils.
Borax was known in the ancient world and used to make glazes and hard glass. Today, it is still an important ingredient of glassy products that include heat-resistant glass (Pyrex), glass wool and glass fiber, enamels, and other kinds of ceramic materials. Elementary boron also has a number of interesting uses. For example, it is used in nuclear reactors to absorb excess neutrons, in the manufacture of special-purpose alloys, in the production of semiconductors, and as a component or rocket propellants.
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