|Diatomaceous earth (diatomite, or D.E.) is an industrial mineral composed primarily of the skeletal remains of microscopic aquatic plants, called diatoms, which have the unique ability to extract silica from water to form their own skeletal structures. Under certain conditions, deposits accumulate over millennia, the water recedes, and the deposits become accessible to mining of the soft, powdery material.
D.E. is selectively mined, usually from open pits, and stockpiled for initial drying in open air. After crushing and further drying, D.E. may be heated in a kiln through a process called calcinations, in order to achieve certain useful performance characteristics. Following are few notable properties of DE :
- A naturally occurring mineral derived from microscopic in size fossilized remains of marine diatoms. It has high Absorption, low Bulk Density and high brightness.
- Deposits have been mined for centuries and have been used in hundreds of industrial and agricultural applications. There are two primary types of diatomaceous earth deposits - saltwater and freshwater.
- Saltwater DE is primarily used as a filter aid. Beer, wine, fruit juices, and vegetable oils are filtered through the diatoms' multitude of pores, acting as microscopic sieves. Swimming pool and fish tank filters also utilize this material. Because saltwater DE has a high crystalline silica content from a process called calcining (being exposed to high degrees of heat), it is not appropriate, and in fact dangerous to use in ingestible applications such as grain storage and as an animal feed additive.
- Freshwater DE is ideal for agricultural uses because it typically has low crystalline silica content (amorphous), and is highly absorptive. Because of its ability to kill insects, DE has been used in grain storage for generations. As awareness of and concern about chemical pesticides grow, non-toxic natural diatomaceous earth is having a major advantage. As well, many farmers and ranchers tout DE as a neutral anthelmentic (de-wormer), and are finding great success by adding it to their livestock feed to keep their goats, sheep, cattle, horses, pigs, and fowl healthy and clean without the use of chemical drugs.