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Diatomaceous earth

Soft, siliceous sedimentary rock / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Diatomaceous earth (/ˌd.ətəˈmʃəs/ DY-ə-tə-MAY-shəs), diatomite (/dˈætəmt/ dy-AT-ə-myte), celite or kieselgur/kieselguhr is a naturally occurring, soft, siliceous sedimentary rock that can be crumbled into a fine white to off-white powder. It has a particle size ranging from more than 3 mm to less than 1 μm, but typically 10 to 200 μm[1]. Depending on the granularity, this powder can have an abrasive feel, similar to pumice powder, and has a low density as a result of its high porosity. The typical chemical composition of oven-dried diatomaceous earth is 80–90% silica, with 2–4% alumina (attributed mostly to clay minerals), and 0.5–2% iron oxide.[2]

A sample of food-grade diatomaceous earth
Scanning electron micrograph of diatomaceous earth

Diatomaceous earth consists of the fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled microalgae.[3] It is used as a filtration aid, mild abrasive in products including metal polishes and toothpaste, mechanical insecticide, absorbent for liquids, matting agent for coatings, reinforcing filler in plastics and rubber, anti-block in plastic films, porous support for chemical catalysts, cat litter, activator in coagulation studies, a stabilizing component of dynamite, a thermal insulator, and a soil for potted plants and trees as in the art of bonsai.[4][5] It is also used in gas chromatography packed columns made with glass or metal as stationary phase.

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