diatomite, industrial minerals
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What is Diatomite?
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Diatomite, also known as diatomaceous earth, is the naturally occurring fossilized remains of diatoms.  Diatoms are single-celled aquatic algae.  They belong to the class of golden brown algae known as Bacillariophyceae.  Diatomite is a near pure sedimentary deposit consisting almost entirely of silica.  The Greeks first used diatomite over 2,000 years ago in pottery and brick.

There are many diatomite deposits throughout the world, but those of high-purity which are commercially viable are rare. 

The properties which make diatomite valuable include low density, high porosity, high surface area, abrasiveness, insulating properties, inertness, absorptive capacity, brightness, and high silica content.   Diatomite has a wide variety of uses, and is a component in hundreds of products, or vital to the manufacturing process of thousands more.

Filter Aids:  The most important use relative of high-quality diatomite is as a filtering media.  The naturally occurring fossilized remains of diatoms have innate filtering characteristics due to their unique honeycomb structure.  Their filtering qualities are used in beer and wine making, pharmaceutical manufacturing, motor oil processing, and to filter swimming pool water.  For almost 100 years diatomite has been the workhorse of food and beverage processing.  Almost every shelf in the grocery store contains a product which has been filtered by diatomite. 

Functional Additives:  In paints, diatomite alters glass and sheen, extends primary pigments, adds bulk and strength, controls permeability and enhances coating adhesion.  In plastics, diatomite serves as an antiblocking agent which helps in the separation of plastic parts in manufacturing, and in the separation of plastic bags by the consumer.

Absorbents:  Due to such characteristics as porosity and high surface area, diatomite is highly absorbent and is very useful in the clean-up of spills in the automotive, industrial, janitorial and waste remediation industries. 

Soil Amendments:  When diatomite is incorporated into soil, it serves to reduce compaction, and increase water and air permeation.  It also increases plant available water, firms soggy soils, loosens hard to work soils, provides better drainage, aids in nutrient transfer, and improves root growth. In such applications as golf courses, and other landscaped areas it helps absorb and hold water, reducing the amount of water used.

Natural Insecticide:  When insects come in contact with diatomaceous earth, it absorbs their protective wax coating and their shells are damaged by the glassy diatoms.  This combination causes them to die by dehydration.  There is no survival and no built-up immunity as there is with chemical insecticides.  Also, it does not break down as chemicals do. 

Other examples of the universe of products and uses which benefit from diatomite include dental fillings, seed coatings, roofing compounds, adhesives, sealants, matches, oil drilling compounds, specialty concretes, and paper.