Group of minerals that are compounds of one or more metallic elements combined with the borate radical (B2O3). The borates group contains two sub-groups, the hydrous borates and the anhydrous borates.
Many borate minerals, such as borax, colemanite, and ulexite, are salts: soft, readily soluble, and found in evaporite contexts. However, some, such as boracite, are hard and resistant to weathering, more similar to the silicates.
Borax, also known as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate, is an important boron compound, a mineral, and a salt of boric acid. Powdered borax is white, consisting of soft colorless crystals that dissolve easily in water.
Borax has a wide variety of uses. It is a component of many detergents, cosmetics, and enamel glazes. It is also used to make buffer solutions in biochemistry, as a fire retardant, as an anti-fungal compound for fiberglass, as a flux in metallurgy, neutron-capture shields for radioactive sources, a texturing agent in cooking, and as a precursor for other boron compounds.
It is one of the more stable of borate minerals. Colemanite is pyroelectric and develops an electrical charge during a change of temperature. The crystal symmetry of prismatic monoclinic minerals would scientifically disqualify them from being pyroelectric, since pyroelectricity is directly related to crystal symmetry. This mineral is therefore regarded as a scientific oddity, and as of yet no explanation has been given to how Colemanite is pyroelectric.
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