Borates Power Up Energy Efficiency Efforts

:: Monday, April 22, 2019 :: Posted By Frank Wawrzos
Energy efficiency is a significant concern for consumers and businesses alike. From construction to industrial manufacturing to energy production, borates help reduce energy consumption, and lower energy-related costs.
Ready to learn how borates can help your company—and family—save money and reduce energy use?

Energy-efficient building materials

Construction suppliers, businesses, and consumers who care about energy efficiency can benefit greatly from the use of borates. In residential and commercial settings, borates improve energy-efficient building materials and make sustainable building easier than ever. Used in insulating materials including cellulose insulation, ceramic tiles, and glass wool insulation, borates improve energy efficiency—and cost—throughout the lifecycle of the materials, enabling the use of environmentally friendly and sustainable building products.
Insulation is the most cost-effective way to save energy and reduce global CO2 emissions in buildings. Cellulosic materials are used for thermal and acoustic insulations that improve energy efficiency. By protecting treated timber, borates also enable wood construction, even in areas with high humidity. Wooden buildings have been shown to produce a roughly 40% reduction in CO2, compared to concrete and steel construction. Plus, borates provide flame retardancy and biocide protection in cellulosic materials.
Glass wool insulation also saves energy by preventing heat loss. Here, too, borates play an important role. First, they reduce energy consumption in the manufacture of glass wool. Borates act as a powerful flux, lowering glass batch-melting temperatures and controlling the relationship between temperature, melt viscosity, and surface tension. The result is optimal glass fiberization: short, strong fibers that are resistant to water and chemicals. Plus, the fibers are biosoluble—they dissolve in the lungs if inhaled—making the installation process not just better for the environment but safer for construction employees as well.
Finally, because borates absorb infrared radiation, their incorporation into building products such as polymers, plastics, and coatings helps to prevent heat loss through infrared transmission, improving energy efficiency.

Greater energy efficiency in industry

Borates also contribute to improved recycling and reduction of waste products in various manufacturing industries.
In the wood industry, the biocidal and flame retardancy roles of borates enable the economical use of waste wood fibers. As a result, fibers that would otherwise be considered low value or waste can now be used as economical, efficient, and environmentally sustainable building materials that meet the high standards of today's manufacturing and construction industries. Borates also enable the use of wood fibers that would otherwise be rejected because of vulnerability to insect infestation, rot, or flammability.
In glass manufacturing, as in glass wool production, borates reduce melt temperature into a more energy-efficient range. In borosilicate glass production, the use of refined borates such as Dehybor® anhydrous borax increases productivity and help reduce energy consumption.

Sustainable energy technologies

20 Mule Team® Borax products aid the environment by enabling clean and sustainable energy production.

Solar and wind

Borates are used in the borosilicate glass that helps to capture energy in solar thermal heating applications. Borates are also used to produce the textile fiberglass and high-power magnets used in wind turbines and turbine generator systems.


In nuclear power plants, borates are essential for the safety and control of pressurized water reactors (PWRs) and boiling water reactors. Borates aid in the capture of thermal neutrons, contributing to the shielding, control, and safety of nuclear reactors.


More and more often, global efforts are being focused on reducing emissions. And of course, companies are always looking for ways to improve energy storage, particularly for mobile applications. Borates are an important part of these efforts, thanks to their benefits for lithium-ion batteries. Borates contribute to improvements in battery applications, including:
  • Surface treatment of graphite anodes
  • Catalyzing synthesis of graphite
  • Electrolyte additives
In lithium-ion batteries, borate compounds improve performance and safety by decreasing the decomposition reactions of the anode and cathode. Borates also seem to improve both anodes and electrolytes in high-power applications like hybrid electric vehicles. When applied to the anode or used in electrolytes, borates likely improve the surface interface. When used to modify the surface of graphite in certain conditions, borates can help to increase rate capability, life cycle, and capacity. Borates are also used in formulations and manufacturing of certain electrical capacitors and supercapacitors.

Learn more about Rio Tinto's lithium projects >

Our commitment to the environment—and you

Aside from providing materials used in sustainable energy production, we make environmental protection and safety key aspects of our own operations. Our sustainable development program is a sign of this commitment.
At our Boron, California operations, we strive to minimize our use of water and energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Our efforts include:
  • Water recycling and management, reducing water use by millions of gallons
  • Plant design and maintenance, enabling us to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by more than 5% per ton of product
  • In-pit dumping, reducing diesel use by an average of 4 million liters per year over the life of the mine
Our work toward sustainability has earned U.S. Borax multiple Solid Waste Reduction Awards from the California Integrated Waste Management Board.



U.S. Borax, part of Rio Tinto, is a global leader in the supply and science of borates—naturally-occurring minerals containing boron and other elements. We are 1,000 people serving 650 customers with more than 1,800 delivery locations globally. We supply around 30% of the world’s need for refined borates from our world-class mine in Boron, California, about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles.  Learn more about Rio Tinto.

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