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Boron: Making Modern Life Possible

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Boron: Making Modern Life Possible

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.

Enter Boron

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.

Future Megatrends

There are three megatrends that are driving future boron consumption: urbanization, energy, and agriculture.

Urbanization
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.

Agriculture
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.

Energy
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.

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How Much Gold is a Bitcoin Worth?

Bitcoin has long been dubbed “digital gold”, but how much gold is a bitcoin worth and how do market caps of the two assets compare?

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bitcoin visualized as gold

Visualizing a Bitcoin’s Dollar Value in Gold

Gold has been a store of value in recessions and financial crises, but over the last decade, bitcoin has started to steal its thunder. Sometimes even being dubbed “digital gold”, the cryptocurrency has echoed gold’s epic booms and busts except with much more volatility.

While most people have held gold in the form of jewelry or in various electronic devices, bitcoin remains a physically intangible asset that is stored on digital ledgers and secured with cryptographic keys.

Using price data from TradingView, this graphic compares the two assets by showing how much gold is equivalent to one bitcoin, while also visualizing bitcoin’s market capitalization and 2021 gold production in the form of gold cubes.

What is a Bitcoin’s Weight in Gold?

With a single bitcoin worth around $22,600 at the time of the visualization, this is equivalent to a small cube of gold just over 20 cm3, with each side measuring around 2.7 centimeters, or just over one inch.

This tiny gold cube that fits in the palm of a hand is not only worth $22,600, but also weighs an impressive 12.6 troy ounces (just under 0.8 lbs or around 357 grams) thanks to gold’s extremely high density of 19.32 g/cm3.

When converting the value of bitcoin’s entire market capitalization of $432.7 billion to physical gold, the gold cube would be 7.3 m (23.9 ft), taller than four people stacked on top of each other. To put this in perspective, we also visualized the amount of gold mined in 2021, which was around $204.9 billion worth, weighing in at 3,560.7 tonnes.

Comparing Bitcoin’s Digital Gold to Physical Gold

In its short 13-year lifespan bitcoin has grown tremendously to reach nearly half a trillion in market capitalization currently, but compared to gold it’s still small.

Just 2021’s gold production was worth nearly half of bitcoin’s entire market cap, and with gold’s market cap estimated to be around $11.7 trillion, it’s more than 20 times larger than that of the cryptocurrency’s.

While at first this might seem like a drawback for bitcoin, its small market cap has partially enabled its stratospheric price increases in bull runs.

Due to bitcoin’s smaller market cap, money flowing into bitcoin results in a larger percentage increase than if the same amount of money flowed into gold, giving the cryptocurrency more potential upside but also much more volatility as money moves in and out.

A Tale of Two Stores of Value

While gold has long been a safe haven asset or store of value for investors, in 2021 bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies got all the attention as the orange coin’s price surged by 59% and reached an all-time high of $69,000. However, since the start of 2022, bitcoin’s price has fallen by 49%, and is more than 65% from its all-time high of last year.

As a result of all this volatility, bitcoin is now below any price traded in 2021, meaning anyone who bought bitcoin in 2021 and held on is now down on their investment.

Meanwhile, gold fell by 4% in 2021, and is down another 2% in 2022, so while gold buyers of 2021 are also down on their investment, they’ve had a much smoother ride with smaller losses along the way.

Whatever lies ahead for these two unique assets, in terms of market cap size, returns, and volatility, the digital gold that is bitcoin has a long way to go before it catches up to the real thing.

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3 Reasons for the Fertilizer and Food Shortage

Bad weather, the war in Ukraine, and a shortage of fertilizer have led to fears of a global food crisis. Here are three factors you should know.

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3 Reasons for the Fertilizer and Food Shortage

Bad weather, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and a shortage of fertilizer have led to fears of a global food crisis.

This infographic will help you understand the problem by highlighting three key factors behind the mounting food crisis.

#1: The Fertilizer Shortage

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the war has disrupted shipments of fertilizer, an essential source of nutrients for crops.

Russia is the world’s top exporter of nitrogen fertilizer and ranks second in phosphorus and potassium fertilizer exports. Belarus, a Russian ally also contending with Western sanctions, is another major fertilizer producer. In addition, both countries collectively account for over 40% of global exports of the crop nutrient potash.

Here are the top 20 fertilizer exporters globally:

RankCountryExports Value (Billions in USD)
#1🇷🇺 Russia$12.5
#2🇨🇳 China $10.9
#3🇨🇦 Canada$6.6
#4🇲🇦 Morocco$5.7
#5🇺🇸 United States$4.1
#6🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia $3.6
#7🇳🇱 Netherlands$2.9
#8🇧🇪 Belgium$2.6
#9🇴🇲 Oman$2.6
#10🇶🇦 Qatar$2.2
#11🇩🇪 Germany$1.5
#12🇮🇱I srael$1.5
#13🇪🇬 Egypt$1.5
#14🇱🇹 Lithuania$1.4
#15🇩🇿 Algeria$1.4
#16🇪🇸 Spain$1.3
#17🇯🇴 Jordan$1.3
#18🇵🇱 Poland$1.2
#19🇲🇾 Malaysia$1.0
#20🇳🇬 Nigeria$1.0

The main destination of fertilizer exports from Russia are large economies like India, Brazil, China, and the United States.

However, many developing countries—including Mongolia, Honduras, Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal, and Guatemala—rely on Russia for at least one-fifth of their fertilizer imports.

Furthermore, the war intensified trends that were already disrupting supply, such as increased hoarding by major producing nations like China and sharp jumps in the price of natural gas, a key feedstock for fertilizer production.

#2: Global Grain Exports

The blockade of Ukrainian ports by Russia’s Black Sea fleet, along with Western sanctions against Russia, has worsened global supply chain bottlenecks, causing inflation in food and energy prices around the world.

This is largely because Russia and Ukraine together account for nearly one-third of the global wheat supply. Wheat is one of the most-used crops in the world annually, used to make a variety of food products like bread and pasta. Additionally, Ukraine is also a major exporter of corn, barley, sunflower oil, and rapeseed oil.

ProducerGrain Exports in Million Tons (MT)
🇺🇸 United States93MT
🇷🇺 Russia & 🇺🇦 Ukraine87MT
🇦🇷 Argentina 56MT
🇪🇺 EU50MT
🇧🇷 Brazil44MT
Other87MT

As a result of the blockade, Ukraine’s exports of cereals and oilseed dropped from six million tonnes to two million tonnes per month. After two months of negotiations, the two countries signed a deal to reopen Ukrainian Black Sea ports for grain exports, raising hopes that the international food crisis can be eased.

#3: Recent Food Shortages

Besides the war in Ukraine, factors including the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change resulted in nearly one billion people going hungry last year, according to United Nations.

France’s wine industry saw its smallest harvest since 1957 in 2021, with an estimated loss of $2 billion in sales due to increasingly higher temperatures and extreme weather conditions.

Heat, drought, and floods also decimated crops in Latin America, North America, and India in recent months. Between April 2020 and December 2021, coffee prices increased 70% after droughts and frost destroyed crops in Brazil.

In the face of multiple crises, the World Bank recently announced financial support of up to $30 billion to existing and new projects in areas such as agriculture, nutrition, social protection, water, and irrigation.

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