By Simon Cook, PhD
Market Development Director – Minerals
At U.S. Borax, it has always been our approach to work on behalf of borate users. To accomplish this, we invest a lot of time researching new applications for this important substance and comparing them to others in the market, keeping regulatory issues and sustainability top of mind. Staying true to our heritage, we also communicate the results of these efforts to our customers and peers.
Unfortunately, that level of transparency is not shared across the industry. Over the past year, my colleagues and I have attended conferences at which research was presented on borate use in flat and container glass. The research was incorrectly presented as new and failed to cover two major usage concerns: cost and furnace emissions.
Since the 1950s, U.S. Borax has had its hand in determining new applications for borates in glass. In the early 1990s, the company’s robust research and development team conducted a substantial amount of work in this area, with a particular emphasis on containers and flat glass.
The benefits found for borate use in these products included reductions in melting temperatures, increased chemical and mechanical durability, and a lowered coefficient of thermal expansion to reduce glass expansion and contraction during temperature changes.
During this work we identified cost and furnace admissions as two considerable drawbacks which are still under evaluation. First, the extra cost of adding borates to container and flat glass is quite high compared to the current cost of their other raw materials. Second is the issue of boron emissions from furnaces used to produce the glass.
These emissions not only have the potential to corrode the furnace, reducing the life of its refractories, but also require a suitable abatement system to prevent release into the environment. At U.S. Borax, we are actively working to address this issue.
Our company does not claim to be expert in glass making — that is our customers’ forte — but we are world leaders in borate technology, research and development, and deeply committed to the borate community. We look forward to continuing the conversation about borate use in all glass applications.
Applications: Glass and Textile Fiberglass