Boron: Making Modern Life Possible
When it comes to modern living, there are so many things we take for granted.
We sleep in warm and comfortable houses, while keeping our food fresh and refrigerated. We have screens in our pockets and throughout our homes that help us to connect with our friends and family – and we can drive across town in minutes to see them, if need be.
Oddly enough, many of these subtle aspects of modern living would not be possible without the existence of very specific minerals and the developments in technology that allow them to be used to their full potential.
Boron is an unlikely hero in this regard.
Today’s infographic comes from 20 Mule Team Borax, and it covers the properties, applications, market, and future trends surrounding boron. And even though you probably didn’t know much about this metalloid element before today, you’ll soon see that boron’s versatile applications make it an integral part of modern life in many ways:
In fact, boron has an incredible range of properties and uses that make it interesting to us humans:
- It’s an essential micronutrient for plants
- It improves the performance of cleaning products
- It captures neutrons, making nuclear reactors safer
- It absorbs infrared light, useful for energy efficiency
- Boron limits growth of bacteria and fungi on wood products
- It helps to balance acidity and alkalinity
- Boron makes glass resistant to heat or chemicals
- Boron prevents corrosion in many settings
- It be used to make advanced materials
- It can be used in materials and coatings to suppress flames
- Boron can be added to steel or aluminum, or used in super-magnets
- It can link alcohols and carbohydrates together in oil recovery
As a result of this vast array of applications, boron is used in everything from smartphone screens to fertilizer.
Small amounts of boron sit in the walls and ceiling of your home, your kitchen, your bathroom, and your driveway – and it’s even in a lot of food since it is an essential micronutrient for plants.
There are three megatrends that are driving future boron consumption: urbanization, energy, and agriculture.
By 2025, China will have 221 cities with over 1 million people. Boron is heavily used in cities and buildings, in applications such as glazed ceramics, LCD televisions and electronics, appliances, and textile fiberglass.
Because boron helps regulate the reproductive cycle of plants, it is needed to help maximize food production for a growing population. In India, the use of boron and other micronutrients is being supported by government projects and subsidies to ensure that farmers increase productivity.
Boron is also used in energy saving applications such as insulation, which will be key as green building practices are encouraged throughout the world. Borates are also used to create the high-powered magnets in applications like wind turbines, making them even more important for a green future.
Visualizing the Potential of Smart Mining
Smart mining technology is helping to enhance safety, increase production, and optimize resources by analyzing large swaths of real-time data.
Visualizing the Potential of Smart Mining
View the full-size version of the infographic by clicking here
Mining has traditionally been depicted with pack mules, pickaxes, and rugged prospectors.
However, it may surprise you to learn that today’s mining industry is precisely the opposite in almost every respect. It’s high-tech, efficient, and safe.
This is partially because modern mining companies are deploying the latest in sensor and cloud technology. These connected mines are improving the extraction process and workers’ safety while also boosting productivity.
Today’s infographic comes to us from Natural Resources Canada and discusses how this sensor and cloud technology can be integrated into the extractive process.
What is Smart Mining?
A connected mine uses data from sensor technology to effectively manage underground and pit mining operations.
“Any mining operation today will have in the thousands or hundreds of thousands of sensors capturing in real time a vast swath of data.”
– Mukani Moyo, McKinsey Senior Expert (Source)
From a single application on a mobile device, supervisors at mine sites can now receive alerts via SMS, email or in-app notifications. This helps them react to critical problems in real-time and maximize productivity.
In addition, advanced data analytics can be applied to the raw data to create insights, visualizations, and recommendations. This information is delivered to mine managers and employees in real-time on their mobile devices.
Case Study: Smart Solutions in Practice
Dundee Precious Metals was one of the first companies to bring wireless networks into an underground mine. The company used RFID and Wi-Fi to monitor the location of equipment and people. The networks also allowed personnel to stay connected to the surface.
Once the networks were installed, communication was reliable and instantaneous – even almost 2,000 feet underground at the bottom of the mine. Workers could bring laptops and smartphones into the mine to stay connected to personnel and software on the surface.
With an RFID chip on every vehicle, machine, and person, managers can see the location of everyone and everything in the mine. This helps prevent accidents and breakdowns, and streamlines operations in real-time.
There are also environmental and cost-saving benefits. Using location data, an automated ventilation system can respond and minimize energy consumption.
Fans turn on and off as miners enter or leave an area. In addition, fan speeds adjust when machines or vehicles are running nearby to ensure that emissions are properly vented. This could drastically reduce a mine’s energy requirements.
Changing the Nature of Work: Remote Working
These smart mining solutions are reducing the risks miners face and creating new opportunities for a tech-savvy generation.
Remote mine locations that revolve around shift work can place stress on workers and their families. With a connected infrastructure, mine employees and managers can monitor operations at a distant office.
There will always be a need for workers on site, but connected technology can create some town-based career opportunities and help stabilize families.
A Sustainable Future for Mining
This is just the beginning.
Over time, data from sensor technology and cloud software, will reveal insights that could help develop sustainable mining operations.
By minimizing their negative impacts, mining companies will be able to responsibly deliver the materials the modern world needs.
20 Common Metal Alloys and What They’re Made Of
You can’t find stainless steel, brass, sterling silver, or white gold on the periodic table. Learn about 20 common metal alloys, and what they are made from.
Every day, you’re likely to encounter metals that cannot be found anywhere on the periodic table.
You may play a brass instrument while wearing a white gold necklace – or maybe you cook with a cast iron skillet and store your leftovers in a stainless steel refrigerator.
It’s likely that you know these common metal alloys by name, and you can probably even imagine what they look and feel like. But do you know what base metals these alloys are made of, exactly?
Common Metal Alloys
Today’s infographic comes to us from Alan’s Factory Outlet, and it breaks down metal and non-metal components that go into popular metal alloys.
In total, 20 alloys are highlighted, and they range from household names (i.e. bronze, sterling silver) to lesser-known metals that are crucial for industrial purposes (i.e. solder, gunmetal, magnox).
Humans make metal alloys for various reasons.
Some alloys have long-standing historical significance. For example, electrum is a naturally-occurring alloy of gold and silver (with trace amounts of copper) that was used to make the very first metal coins in ancient history.
However, most of the common metal alloys on the above list are actually human inventions that are used to achieve practical purposes. Some were innovated by brilliant metallurgists, while others were discovered by fluke, but they’ve all had an ongoing impact on our species over time.
Alloys with an Impact
The Bronze Age (3,000 BC – 1,200 BC) is an important historical period that is rightfully named after one game-changing development: the ability to use bronze. This alloy, made from copper and tin, was extremely useful to our ancestors because it is much stronger and harder than its component metals.
Steel is another great example of an alloy that has changed the world. It is one of the most important and widely-used metals today. Without steel, modern civilization (skyscrapers, bridges, etc.) simply wouldn’t be possible.
While nobody knows exactly who invented steel, the alloy has a widely-known cousin that was likely invented in somewhat accidental circumstances.
In 1912, English metallurgist Harry Brearley had been tasked with finding a more erosion-resistant steel for a small arms manufacturer, trying many variations of alloys with none seeming to be suitable. However, in his scrap metal heap – where almost all of the metals he tried were rusting – there was one gun barrel that remained astonishingly untouched.
The metal alloy – now known to the world as stainless steel – was a step forward in creating a corrosion-resistant steel that is now used in many applications ranging from medical uses to heavy industry.
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