What is Diatomaceous Earth?
This analysis is taken directly from Wikipedia, verbatim including the pictures.
What is Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous earth ( /ˌdaɪ.ətəˌmeɪʃəs ˈɜrθ/) also known as D.E., diatomite, or kieselgur/kieselguhr, is a naturally occurring, soft, siliceous sedimentary rock that is easily crumbled into a fine white to off-white powder. It has a particle size ranging from less than 3 micrometre to more than 1 millimeter, but typically 10 to 200 micrometres. This powder has an abrasive feel, similar to pumice powder, and is very light as a result of its high porosity. The typical chemical composition of oven-dried diatomaceous earth is 80 to 90% silica, with 2 to 4% alumina (attributed mostly to clay minerals) and 0.5 to 2% iron oxide.
Diatomaceous earth consists of fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. It is used as a filtration aid, mild abrasive in products including 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 blood clotting studies, and a stabilizing component of dynamite. As it is heat-resistant, it can also be used as a thermal insulator.
Geology and occurrence.
Diatomaceous Earth as viewed under bright field illumination on a light microscope. Diatomaceous Earth is made up of the cell walls/shells of single cell diatoms and readily crumbles to a fine powder. Diatom cell walls are made up of biogenic silica; silica synthesised in the diatom cell by the polymerisation of silicic acid. This image of Diatomaceous Earth particles in water is at a scale of 6.236 pixels/μm, the entire image covers a region of approximately 1.13 by 0.69 mm.
Diatomite forms by the accumulation of the amorphous silica (opal, SiO2•nH2O) remains of dead diatoms (microscopic single-celled algae) in lacustrine or marine sediments. The fossil remains consist of a pair of symmetrical shells or frustules.
In 1836 or 1837, the peasant and goods waggoner, Peter Kasten, discovered Diatomaceous Earth (German: kieselgur) when sinking a well on the northern slopes of the Haußelberg hill, in the Lüneburg Heath in north Germany. Initially, it was thought that limestone had been found, which could be used as fertilizer. Alfred Nobel used the properties of diatomaceous earth in the manufacture of dynamite. The Celle engineer, Wilhelm Berkefeld, recognized its ability to filter, and developed ‘filter candles’ fired from diatomaceous earth. During the cholera epidemic in Hamburg in 1892, these Berkefeld filters were used successfully.”
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