Chemist discovers new information about elemental boron

January 29, 2015, Dalhousie University
Dr. Mary Anne White. Credit: Danny Abriel

Dalhousie chemistry researcher and Royal Society of Canada Fellow Dr. Mary Anne White led a team of researchers to new discoveries about boron (B), the fifth element in the periodic table.

White's research, recently published in the highly regarded German chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie, discovered which form of boron stable at room temperature. Before this work, it was unknown. Additionally, boron stands out among other elements because atoms in its stable form were found to be disorderly. Atomic positions in the stable structures of every other element are completely known and ordered in some way.

"Boron's stable structure has disorder, and that was surprising to learn. Nature likes things more orderly," explains White, a professor with Dalhousie's Faculty of Science. "It is especially surprising that the disordered form remains stable at very low temperatures, where matter tends to become more ordered."

Boron, while not found in its pure elemental form on Earth, is a main component of compounds such as and . These are the second and third hardest materials in the world, making the element one of the most useful in terms of strength and weight. Only diamond is harder but can withstand higher temperatures. Boron compounds are found in aerospace technology, bulletproof vests and cutting tools.

"With this research, we're providing an underpinning for better understanding of many materials and we're adding to the fundamental knowledge that's necessary for the advancement of many technologies and industries," says White. "All matter is made of elements and there are only about 90-some naturally occurring elements, with about 30 in high abundance. To find out something new about an important is amazing."

Explore further: New insights into boron's chemistry at room temperature

More information: White, M. A., Cerqueira, A. B., Whitman, C. A., Johnson, M. B. and Ogitsu, T. (2015), "Determination of Phase Stability of Elemental Boron." Angew. Chem. Int. Ed.. doi: 10.1002/anie.201409169

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Casual Observer
5 / 5 (1) Jan 29, 2015
The article didn't say a thing about what structure was found. Reporting science news should at least contain some information about the subject being reported. If I want some empty "breaking news", I'll tune in to CNN.
not rated yet Jan 29, 2015
I agree. I went to article and find that the structure is β-boron (R⁻3⁻m space group) which they characterize as having 4 icosahedra at corners/edges and three more icos. internal with one "interstitial" atom BUT that the actual occupancy is variable, making this structure pretty special. The Wikipedia article already identified betaboron as the stable morph, as well as refering to papers on its structure. I'm not sure what is novel that White, Cerqueira, et. al. actually published...You can read the 1st page on Ang Chem I.E. Oh, also hex-BN is so soft, its used as a (solid) lubricant. Major uses of B are 1. Silly Putty (at least, it is in MY universe) 2. Borosilicate glass 3. Borax (detergents, cosmetics) 4. biocide 5. Flux and dopant 6. Ceramics...including as armor

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