Diatomaceous earth is made from diatomaceous rock which is a silica rich sedimentary rock. These rocks are naturally formed by the sedimentation of diatoms. Diatoms are a form of unique algae. This species of alga has a single cell and it bears a hard shell. The entire rocky formation is made of these microscopic cell walls (hard shells). As it is made from fossilized diatoms it is also commonly referred as diatomite. The rock is highly porous and easily breaks down into a fine powder. Diatomaceous earth is originally white or off-white in coloration. And it is also known as Celite, which has become a kind of proprietary eponym.
Diatomaceous Earth has countless uses in several industrial sectors. Its innumerable application has made it quite popular in the present industrial era. The unique properties of earth make it an inevitable compound in many industrial processes. One of its main characteristic is that it is soft and porous. Its particle size is measured to be between 10 and 200 microns. It is quite abrasive in its consistency. Due to its porous nature and suitable chemical composition, diatomaceous earth is found to be highly useful in various filtration processes. It has become one of the most common medium of filters and has innumerable applications in filtration industry.
Diatomaceous earth powder is made of microscopic hollow particles. This makes it soft and all the more porous. The reason why earth is so popular in filtration is that it filters out highly fine particles. It even filters particles that penetrate through a filter paper. Consequently, diatomaceous filters are also used in chemical laboratories for advanced filtration. Earth filters are most commonly used for purification of drinking water. Certain beverages like wine and beer are also treated using such filters. Further they find use in cleaning swimming pools and fish tanks.
Yet another important commercial application of diatomaceous earth is in its role as a natural mineral insecticide and pesticide. The Earth or diatomite used for making insecticide is different from the one used in filtration, which contains around 70 percent of silica. This is because the diatomite powder undergoes a heating procedure before used for filtration. Earth is a strong liquid absorbent. The exoskeletons of insects and pests have a waxy exterior layer which is composed of lipids. And diatomite absorbs the lipids out of this layer. The lipid layer in insects does the vital function of retaining the water content in their bodies. With the lipids gone, these insects die of dehydration. Diatomite insecticides are highly effective against carpet beetles, fleas, flies, bedbugs and also fly larva. However, while using this product one has to maintain certain caution because the fine dust of diatomite powder acts as an irritant.
Further diatomite is used in making insulated safes, cryogenics and vacuum insulation. It has also found use in the process of DNA purification. It is also used in growing bonsai farm as an important soil additive.