What is Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous earth, also known as diatomite and DE, is the naturally occurring fossilized remains of diatoms—single-celled aquatic algae. It is a near-pure sedimentary deposit consisting almost entirely of silica.
Diatoms will grow in almost any environment that combines water and sunlight, allowing them to be found in both fresh and saltwater. Biologists consider them one of the most important groups of basic organisms; all other aquatic life to some degree depends on them.
Small, Complex Framework
A diatom is small, but its framework is very complex.
Diatomite consists of billions of minute silica frameworks. The frustules are strong and support intricate internal frameworks with maximum void space. The small size of the open pores gives diatomite excellent particulate holding and removal properties for filtration. In addition, it has an extremely high surface area per unit of volume.
Additional properties that make diatomite valuable include:
- Low density
- High porosity
- High surface area
- Insulating properties
- Chemically inert
- Absorptive capacity
- High brightness
- Natural silica content
Good for the Environment
Diatoms aren’t just good for us—they’re good for the environment.
Diatoms have a positive effect on our environment, both in our oxygen and food supplies. Diatoms use carbon dioxide and water in photosynthesis to convert the carbon and hydrogen to carbohydrates with energy absorbed from the sun. Oxygen is produced as a by-product and is released to the atmosphere.
It is estimated that as much as 60 percent of the oxygen in our atmosphere is derived from the oceans; this oxygen is largely due to the activity of diatoms.
Diatomaceous earth is sustainable, constantly regenerating, and “removes” as much carbon dioxide as all the rainforests in the world combined.
The Mining and Processing of Diatomite is Sustainable and Environmentally Sensitive
There are many diatomite deposits throughout the world, but those of high-purity which are commercially viable are rare.
Following approved mining plans from regulatory agencies, Dicalite selectively surface mines the diatomite (called “crude”) from our deposits. Care is taken to minimize the amount of surface exposed during this process.
In surface mining, a variable thickness of earth, known as overburden, may have to be removed; this material may be reused later for reclamation. Once the overburden is removed, the purest of the diatomite strata is exposed and removed from the bed with mining equipment, and then stockpiled.
Diatomaceous earth is then transported to a processing plant for crushing, drying, milling and often calcining. Before going into the crusher, the pieces may be as large as a small boulder, but coming out, they will be the size of a pea. At this point, the ore will still contain moisture.
The ore is then dried and then milled gently to preserve the diatom structure.
For most applications, the now dried ore is then either calcined or flux-calcined in large rotary kilns to agglomerate the diatoms and produce the physical properties and Dicalite grade. The ore is heated to temperatures in excess of 1800F, ensuring the removal of organic contaminants and the purity of the final product.
All of our mining processes culminate with the reclamation of the disturbed areas of our mines. The diatomaceous earth makes an excellent growing medium, and we replant native vegetation with the approval of environmental regulators to generate new (sometimes forested) ecosystems—sometimes within less than 10 years.
How Is Diatomaceous Earth Used?
There are a variety of diatomaceous earth uses that cover many industries and needs. It is so widely used, many consumers are only a few feet away from products created with diatomaceous earth, whether or not they know it. Diatomaceous earth applications and uses include:
Diatomite has a very small particle size, a high porosity, and crystalline structure, making it an excellent filtration medium. It is used as a filter and processing aid in the production of many liquids you may consume on a daily basis, like sugar syrups, beer, fruit juices, antibiotics, and wine. It is also widely used for pool filters and industrial chemicals.
With over 80% silica, diatomaceous earth is added to the cement-making process to increase the silica content and create a lighter-weight product.
Diatomaceous earth is used as a lightweight, inert filler in some manufactured products. It’s added to paint as a whitening agent and extender and to plastics as a lightweight filler. It’s also used as a filler and anti-stick agent in asphalt shingles and improves adhesion resistance in many rubber products.
Holding up to the equivalent of its weight in fluid, diatomaceous earth facilitates the containment, cleanup, and removal of liquids. It is used to absorb a variety of things, from chemical spills to kitty litter.
Diatomaceous earth is used as a growing medium in hydroponic gardens. It is inert, holds water, and has a porosity that allows the soil to breathe.
Diatomaceous earth can be used as a natural insecticide. Its abrasive qualities cut the pests’ bodies, causing them to die of dehydration. It can be used in the home, garden, and around animals.
Diatomaceous earth’s silica particles are small, friable, have a high surface area, and are angular in shape, giving it mild abrasive properties. It is used as an abrasive in some products many people use every day, like toothpastes, facial scrubs, and metal polishes.
Anti-caking: A dusting of diatomaceous earth improves the flowability and mixability of all types of animal feed.
Seed coating: Seeds can be coated with diatomaceous earth to wick moisture and prevent them from clumping together.
Desiccant: It can be used around the chicken coop and mixed in an animal bath to keep pests away.
Diatomaceous earth’s abrasive properties make it useful as a natural polisher. With food-grade quality products, it is safe to use on dinnerware and utensils.
Dicalite’s diatomaceous earth is used across many industries as an exceptional filter media, absorbent, lightweight filler, abrasive, and more.
There are a variety of diatomaceous earth uses that cover many industries and needs. At Dicalite, we mine, process, and produce diatomaceous earth for specific uses and have a product to meet every need.