29 Nov 2017

Boron isn't boring: Boron utilization in Turkey

Aylin writes*

Boron (B; atomic number 5) does not exist in pure elemental form, but it can be found in borax, boric acid, kernite and many other natural compounds. Boron has many important benefits for human body such as enhancing testosterone levels, improving bone health and preventing heart failures. Also, most of the scientists argue that “Boron may have been the key to the evolution of life on Earth since the element stabilizes ribose, part of RNA, the self-assembling molecule that may have preceded DNA.” In addition to its health benefits, Amorphous Boron is also used as rocket ignitor and Boric oxide is commonly used in the manufacture of borosilicate glass (Pyrex). It makes the glass tough and heat resistant. Although most of the people may not be aware of it, we utilize boron in our everyday lives.

Turkey holds approximately a 72% share of the total boron deposits of the world at 803 million tonnes; the second boron producer is USA holding a 6% boron share of the world. Turkey is the second highest producer of boron after the USA which is surprising since the Turkey holds nearly 12 times as much boron than the USA has. This fact suggests that Turkey does not fully utilize its own boron resources. There are many theories trying to explain Turkey’s odd behavior of its boron utilization, some claim that the “western forces” are holding Turkey back in its boron production in order to prevent a possible politically strong Turkey in the future. As a Turkish girl, I was skeptical to this argument since our citizens try to blame the “western forces” to everything that is wrong with our country. So I decided to research little further to understand this phenomenon of “why Turks don’t use their own boron?”

Without any insufficient data or articles online I have come to a conclusion that, Turkey has the reserves for boron but it does not have the technology to efficiently utilize the boron that it mines. The only profit that Turkey gets from its own Boron is its exports of Boron as a raw material; when we apply a cost/profit analysis it is evident that boron as a raw material does not worth the intensive labor or technology costs for mining the boron. On the other hand, USA utilizes its own boron with high technology and manufacture the raw boron to an efficient type of spaceship fuel or utilize them waste removal facilities.

In recent years, many Western countries are working on renewable energy projects including using boron as an energy source. Boron is a both a cheap and safe energy source. It is also claimed that “If all of the world’s power was generated from boron, it would only use 10% of our current production.” The only set back about Boron energy production is that Boron is that it requires a temperature of about a billion degrees to fuse. Currently, there are many intensive research has been going on about how to reach to this degree but companies such as Goldman Sachs is investing huge amounts into this research.

As a Turkish girl, I have always heard the phrase "Boron in will save us if we manufacture it" After sufficient research it can be said that Boron, as a raw material form, will not make any economic impacts even if we mine all of the boron resources that we have. It is said that boron will be one of the most important sources of energy after we deplete all of the fossil fuels in the planet.

Bottom line: Instead of blaming other nations in its inability to utilize boron, Turkey should adapt policies on developing a Boron-focused technology and use it as its primary energy source for future.

* Please help my environmental economics students by commenting on unclear analysis, other perspectives, data sources, etc. (Or you can just say something nice :)

1 comment:

Daniellerem said...

Interesting topic, I have never heard about Boron outside of my high school chemistry class before!

You say that to use Boron for energy "requires a temperature of about a billion degrees to fuse". Do the benefits of the energy production exceed those costs?
Will there be enough Boron? You say Turkey has 803 million tonnes of Boron. How much is this worth? How many years till they deplete the source if they fully make use of Boron for energy production? Which could possibly happen in the case of an energy crisis (possibly when fossil fuels are nearly running out).

Currently Turkey does not have or is not using good technologies to process the Boron. Could it be a smart move, to wait till there will be (even) more efficient and cheaper methods to process the Boron?

Just some questions that came to my mind when reading.

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