The most common mineral in the Earths continental crust is quartz, and most silica sand is made up of broken down quartz crystals. Silica is another name for silicon dioxide, SiO2, of which quartz is a specific latticed structure. So silica sand is quartz that over the years, through the work of water and wind, has been broken down into tiny granules. These granules can be used for many different purposes, and can be found in most non-tropical regions of the world.
Silica sand is used throughout the world, and in so many different ways it is hard to imagine a world without it. From water filtration, to glass manufacture, to industrial casting, to sand blasting, to producing concrete, to adding texture to slick roads, silica sand impacts every aspect of daily life. Many industrial suppliers carry silica sand in bulk quantities, while some smaller household stores sell it in smaller amounts for home or home construction use. One of the major uses of silica sand in the modern world is as an ingredient in industrial concrete. Silica sand produces the bulk of a great deal of concrete, although some concrete bypasses its use for safety and strength reasons.
Silica has a high melting point, 1610 degrees C. This enables castings to be produced by pouring molten metal into moulds made out of silica sand.
Silica that has been ground to fine size is an ingredient of most clay bodies and is a major constituent of ceramic glazes. Typical everyday products include tableware, sanitaryware, ornaments and wall and floor tiles.
Closely sized grades of silica sand is the principal filtration medium used by the water industry to extract solids from wastewater.
Specialist building applications
The construction industry is founded on silica and there are a host of specialist applications including silica and aerated concrete blocks, floor and roof tiles, flooring and rendering compounds, white line markings, roofing felt and cement and resin injection systems.
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