silica quartz sand

What is Silica Sand?

Silica sand, also known as quartz sand, white sand, or industrial sand, is made up of two main elements: silica and oxygen. Specifically, silica sand is made up of silicon dioxide (SiO2).

Silica sand deposits are most commonly surface-mined in open pit operations, but dredging and underground mining are also employed. Extracted ore undergoes considerable processing to increase the silica content by reducing impurities. It is then dried and sized to produce the optimum particle size distribution for the intended application.

Although quartz is often white or colourless, it can come in a wide range of shades. The colour of each sand deposit depends largely on the variety of minerals and rock detritus that make up the resource.

In order to be considered a silica sand the material must contain at least 95% SiO2 and less than 0.6% iron oxide. If the sand does not meet this criteria, it will qualify as what’s often called ‘regular’ sand.

What is the difference between silica sand and regular sand?

Silica sand is a type of sand that mostly consists of tiny granules of quartz. Quartz itself comes in many varieties, according to its color and microstructure. Silica sand also consists of other fine particles of rock and mineral. Granules of silica sand range in diameter from 1/16 mm to 2 mm, which is approximately 2/1000 of an inch to 8/100 of an inch.

Regular sand, also known as feldspathic sand, brown sand, or construction sand, will always contain some silica, but only in amounts less than 95%. For example, typical brown sand used for concrete applications can contain up to 80% SiO2, along with varying amounts of iron, carbonate, potassium, and other trace elements/minerals.

These ‘impurities’ make regular sand more chemically reactive and often darker in color when compared to silica sand. The color for non-silica sands (regular sands) can be various shades of white, pink, green, and black as well – depending on the geological makeup and geographic location of the sand deposit.

What is Silica Sand Used for?

Silica sand is used for many different things, such as sand blasting, glass manufacturing, water filtering, concrete and mortar mixing, landscaping and pool installation, as a spread on top of slick roads, as backfill for electrical lines and pipes, in septic tanks, as part of a loam mix, as well as many other applications.

1. Glassmaking

silica sand for glass making
Silica sand used for building glass

Silica sand is a major ingredient in the production of glassmaking—in fact, silica is the primary component in standard glass products ranging from windows to beer bottles. The purity of the silica sand used plays a role in determining the color, strength, and clarity of the final product. Industrial sand is used to produce flat glass for building and automotive use, container glass for foods and beverages, and tableware. In its pulverized form, ground it reinforces glass fibers and is required for the production of fiberglass insulation. Additionally, silica sand is applied in specialty glasses that include test tubes and other scientific tools, television, CRT monitors, and also in incandescent and fluorescent lamps.

2. Paints & Coatings

Silica sand is selected to improve the appearance and durability of architectural and industrial paint and coatings. In architectural paints, silica fillers improve paint’s tint retention durability, and resistance to dirt, mildew, cracking, and weathering. Because of silica sand’s oil-absorption properties, it makes a durable coating that’s rich in pigment and resistant to wear and tear.

As in other applications, silica is desirable for its chemical inertness which allows for good acid, chemical, and heat resistance. Along with its chemical inertness silica’s hardness improves abrasion resistance in paints.

colors of silica sand for coating

3. Construction Materials

Industrial sand is the main structural component in a number of building and construction products. Whole grain silica is put to use in flooring compounds, mortars, specialty cement, stucco, roofing shingles, skid-resistant surfaces, and asphalt mixtures to provide packing density and flexural strength without adversely affecting the chemical properties of the binding system. As silica is resistant to weather, wear, and corrosion, it is often used as a caulk or sealant.

4. Ceramics & Refractories

Ground silica is an essential component of the glaze and body formulations of all types of ceramic products, including tableware, sanitary ware, and floor and wall tile. In the ceramic body, silica is the skeletal structure upon which clays and flux components attach. The SiO2 contribution is used to modify thermal expansion, regulate drying and shrinkage, and improve structural integrity and appearance. Silica products are also used as the primary aggregate in both shape and monolithic type refractories to provide high-temperature resistance to acidic attack in industrial furnaces.

5. Water Filtration

Silica sand has for a long time been used to clean as well as purify the water. 4 grades of the silica sand are majorly used for water filtration all over the world. Natural silica sand has a sub-angular to the rounded shape, which does make them ideal filtration media to be able to capture the suspended solids in the water. As a result of the high silica content, sand is durable and hard-wearing, which allows it to graded precisely so as to facilitate efficient filtering.

6. Golf Courses & Sport Fields

Industrial sand even finds its way into sports and recreation. Silica sand is used for bunkers and greens on golf courses. golf course bunkers and greens as well as the construction of natural or synthetic athletic fields. In golf and sports turf applications, silica sand is the structural component of an inert, uncontaminated growing media. Silica sand is also used to repair greens and to facilitate everyday maintenance like root aeration and fertilization. The natural grain shape and controlled particle size distribution of silica provide the required permeability and compaction properties for drainage, healthy plant growth, and stability.

7. Industrial Abrasives

Silica sand is commonly used as a mineral abrasive for industrial blasting. Though blasting with silica sand can create dangerous dust, exposure is easily avoided by following recommended PPE (personal protective equipment) guidelines and/or by coating the sand with solutions designed to control dust.

Have I missed any uses of silica sand? What other usage do you use quartz in your everyday life? Please comment below. If you want to learn more, or if you’re interested in ordering silica sand, get in touch with MiningValleys today to request a quote.

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