Sand is a loose, fragmented, naturally-occurring material consisting of very small particles of decomposed rocks, corals, or shells. Sand is used to provide bulk, strength, and other properties to construction materials like asphalt and concrete. It is also used as a decorative material in landscaping. Specific types of sand are used in the manufacture of glass and as a molding material for metal casting. Other sand is used as an abrasive in sandblasting and to make sandpaper. Sand was used as early as 6000 B.C. to grind and polish stones to make sharpened tools and other objects. The stones were rubbed on a piece of wetted sandstone to hone the cutting edge. In some cases, loose

sand was scattered on a flat rock, and objects were rubbed against the sandy surface to smooth them. The first beads with a glass glaze appeared in Egypt in about 3,500-3,000 B.C. The glass was made by melting sand, although naturally-occurring glass formed by volcanic activity was probably known long before that time. In the United States, sand was used to produce glass as early as 1607 with the founding of the short-lived Jamestown colony in Virginia. The first sustained glass-making venture was formed in 1739 in Wistarburgh, New Jersey, by Caspar Wistar. The production of sand for construction purposes grew significantly with the push for paved roads during World War I and through the 1920s. The housing boom of the late 1940s and early 1950s, coupled with the increased use of concrete for building construction, provided another boost in production. Today, the processing of sand is a multi-billion dollar business with operations ranging from very small plants supplying sand and gravel to a few local building contractors to very large, highly automated plants supplying hundreds of truckloads of sand per day to a wide variety of customers over a large area.
Raw Materials

The most common sand is composed of particles of quartz and feldspar. Quartz sand particles are colorless or slightly pink, while feldspar sand has a pink or amber color. Black sands, such as those found in Hawaii, are composed of particles of obsidian formed by volcanic activity. Other black sands include materials such as magnetite and homblende. Coral sands are white or gray, and sands composed of broken shell fragments are usually light brown. The white sands on the Gulf of Mexico are made of smooth particles of limestone known as oolite, derived from the Greek word meaning egg stone. The white sands of White Sands, New Mexico, are made of gypsum crystals. Ordinarily, gypsum is dissolved by rain water, but the area around White Sands is so arid that the crystals survive to form undulating dunes. Quartz sands, which are high in silica content, are used to make glass. When quartz sands are crushed they produce particles with sharp, angular edges that are sometimes used to make sandpaper for smoothing wood. Some quartz sand is found in the form of sandstone. Sandstone is a sedimentary, rock-like material formed under pressure and composed of sand particles held together by a cementing material such as calcium carbonate. A few sandstones are composed of almost pure quartz particles and are the source of the silicon used to make semiconductor silicon chips for microprocessors.

Molding sands, or foundry sands, are used for metal casting. They are composed of about 80%-92% silica, up to 15% alumina, and2% iron oxide. The alumina content gives the molding sand the proper binding properties required to hold the shape of the mold cavity. Sand that is scooped up from the bank of a river and is not washed or sorted in any way is known as bank-run sand. It is used in general construction and landscaping. The definition of the size of sand particles varies, but in general sand contains particles measuring about 0.0025-0.08 in (0.063-2.0 mm) in diameter. Particles smaller than this are classified as silt. Larger particles are either granules or gravel, depending on their size. In the construction business, all aggregate materials with particles smaller than 0.25 in (6.4 mm) are classified as fine aggregates. This includes sand. Materials with particles from 0.25 in (6.4 mm) up to about 6.0 in (15.2 cm) are classified as coarse aggregates. Sand has a density of 2,600-3,100 lb per cubic yard (1,538-1,842 kg per cubic meter). The trapped water content between the sand particles can cause the density to vary substantially.
The Manufacturing Process

The preparation of sand consists of five basic processes: natural decomposition, extraction, sorting, washing, and in some cases crushing. The first process, natural decomposition, usually takes millions of years. The other processes take considerably less time. The processing plant is located in the immediate vicinity of the natural deposit of material to minimize the costs of transportation. If the plant is located next to a sand dune or beach, the plant may process only sand. If it is located next to a riverbed, it will usually process both sand and gravel because the two materials are often intermixed. Most plants are stationary and may operate in the same location for decades. Some plants are mobile and can be broken into separate components to be towed to the quarry site. Mobile plants are used for remote construction projects, where there are not any stationary plants nearby. The capacity of the processing plant is measured in tons per hour output of finished product. Stationary plants can produce several thousand tons per hour. Mobile plants are smaller and their output is usually in the range of 50-500 tons (50.8-508 metric tons) per hour.

In many locations, an asphalt production plant or a ready mixed concrete plant operates on the same site as the sand and gravel plant. In those cases, much of the sand and gravel output is conveyed directly into stockpiles for the asphalt and concrete plants. The following steps are commonly used to process sand and gravel for construction purposes.
Natural decomposition

Solid rock is broken down into chunks by natural mechanical forces such as the movement of glaciers, the expansion of water in cracks during freezing, and the impacts of rocks falling on each other. The chunks of rock are further broken down into grains by the chemical action of vegetation and rain combined with mechanical impacts as the progressively smaller particles are carried and worn by wind and water. As the grains of rock are carried into waterways, some are deposited along the bank, while others eventually reach the sea, where they may join with fragments of coral or shells to form beaches. Wind-borne sand may form dunes.


Extraction of sand can be as simple as scooping it up from the riverbank with a rubber-tired vehicle called a front loader. Some sand is excavated from under water using floating dredges. These dredges have a long boom with a rotating cutter head to loosen the sand deposits and a suction pipe to suck up the sand. If the sand is extracted with a front loader, it is then dumped into a truck or train, or placed onto a conveyor belt for transportation to the nearby processing plant. If the sand is extracted from underwater with a dredge, the slurry of sand and water is pumped through a pipeline to the plant.


In the processing plant, the incoming material is first mixed with water, if it is not already mixed as part of a slurry, and is discharged through a large perforated screen in the feeder to separate out rocks, lumps of clay, sticks, and other foreign material. If the material is heavily bound together with clay or soil, it may then pass through a blade mill which breaks it up into smaller chunks.

The material then pass through several / perforated screens or plates with different hole diameters or openings to separate the particles according to size. The screens or plates measure up to 10 ft (3.1 m) wide by up to 28 ft (8.5 m) long and are tilted at an angle of about 20-45 degrees from the horizontal. They are vibrated to allow the trapped material on each level to work its way off the end of the screen and onto separate conveyor belts. The coarsest screen, with the largest holes, is on top, and the screens underneath have progressively smaller holes.


The material that comes off the coarsest screen is washed in a log washer before it is further screened. The name for this piece of equipment comes from the early practice of putting short lengths of wood logs inside a rotating drum filled with sand and gravel to add to the scrubbing action. A modern log washer consists of a slightly inclined horizontal trough with slowly rotating blades attached to a shaft that runs down the axis of the trough. The blades churn through the material as it passes through the trough to strip away any remaining clay or soft soil. The larger gravel particles are separated out and screened into different sizes, while any smaller sand particles that had been attached to the gravel may be carried back and added to the flow of incoming material. The material that comes off the intermediate screen(s) may be stored and blended with either the coarser gravel or the finer sand to make various aggregate mixes. The water and material that pass through the finest screen is pumped into a horizontal sand classifying tank. As the mixture flows from one end of the tank to the other, the sand sinks to the bottom where it is trapped in a series of bins. The larger, heavier sand particles drop out first, followed by the progressively smaller sand particles, while the lighter silt particles are carried off in the flow of water. The water and silt are then pumped out of the classifying tank and through a clarifier where the silt settles to the bottom and is removed. The clear water is recirculated to the feeder to be used again. The sand is removed from the bins in the bottom of the classifying tank with rotating dewatering screws that slowly move the sand up the inside of an inclined cylinder. The differently sized sands are then washed again to remove any remaining silt and are transported by conveyor belts to stockpiles for storage.


Some sand is crushed to produce a specific size or shape that is not available naturally. The crusher may be a rotating cone type in which the sand falls between an upper rotating cone and a lower fixed cone that are separated by a very small distance. Any particles larger than this separation distance are crushed between the heavy metal cones, and the resulting particles fall out the bottom.

Quality Control

Most large aggregate processing plants use a computer to control the flow of materials. The feed rate of incoming material, the vibration rate of the sorting screens, and the flow rate of the water through the sand classifying tank all determine the proportions of the finished products and must be monitored and controlled. Many specifications for asphalt and concrete mixes require a certain distribution of aggregate sizes and shapes, and the aggregate producer must ensure that the sand and gravel meets those specifications.
The Future

The production of sand and gravel in many areas has come under increasingly stringent restrictions. The United States Army Corps of Engineers, operating under the Federal Clean Water Act, has required permits for sand extraction from rivers, streams, and other waterways. The cost of the special studies required to obtain these permits is often too expensive to allow smaller companies to continue operation. In other cases, residential development in the vicinity of existing aggregate processing plants has led to restrictions regarding noise, dust, and truck traffic. The overall result of these restrictions in certain areas is that sand and gravel used for construction will have to be transported from outside the area at a significantly increased cost in the future. Unconsolidated granular material consisting of mineral, rock, or biological fragments between 63 micrometers and 2 mm in diameter. Finer material is referred to as silt and clay; coarser material is known as gravel. Sand is usually produced primarily by the chemical or mechanical breakdown of older source rocks, but may also be formed by the direct chemical precipitation of mineral grains or by biological processes. Accumulations of sand result from hydrodynamic sorting of sediment during transport and deposition. See also Clay minerals; Depositional systems and environments; Gravel; Mineral; Rock; Sedimentary rocks. Most sand originates from the chemical and mechanical breakdown, or weathering, of bedrock. Since chemical weathering is most efficient in soils, most sand grains originate within soils. Rocks may also be broken

into sand-size fragments by mechanical processes, including diurnal temperature changes, freeze-thaw cycles, wedging by salt crystals or plant roots, and ice gouging beneath glaciers. See also Weathering processes. Because sand is largely a residual product left behind by incomplete chemical and mechanical weathering, it is usually enriched in minerals that are resistant to these processes. Quartz not only is extremely resistant to chemical and mechanical weathering but is also one of the most abundant minerals in the Earth's crust. Many sands dominantly consist of quartz. Other common constituents include feldspar, and fragments of igneous or metamorphic rock. Direct chemical precipitation or hydrodynamic processes can result in sand that consists almost entirely of calcite, glauconite, or dense dark-colored minerals such as magnetite and ilmenite.

sand, rock material occurring in the form of loose, rounded or angular grains, varying in size from .06 mm to 2 mm in diameter, the particles being smaller than those of gravel and larger than those of silt or clay. Sand is formed as a result of the weathering and decomposition of igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic rocks. Its most abundant mineral constituent is silica, usually in the form of quartz, and many deposits are composed almost exclusively of quartz grains. Many other minerals, however, are often present in small quantities, e.g., the amphiboles, the pyroxenes, olivine, glauconite, clay, the feldspars, the micas, iron compounds, zircon, garnet, tourmaline, titanite, corundum, and topaz. Some sands—e.g., coral sands, shell sands, and foraminiferal sands—are organic in origin. Sand grains may be rounded or more or less angular, and differences in shape and size account chiefly for differences in such important properties as porosity (proportion of interstices to the total mass), permeability to gases and liquids, and viscosity, or resistance to flow. Permeability and viscosity are also affected by the proportion of clayey matter present. The chief agents in accumulating sands into deposits are winds, rivers, waves, and glaciers; sand deposits are classified according to origin as fluviatile, lacustrine, glacial, marine, and eolian. The most extensive superficial deposits are seen in the desert and on beaches. The surface of a sand deposit may be level or very gently sloping, or the sand may be gathered by wind action into ridges called dunes. Sandstone and quartzite rocks are indurated masses of sand, and sand deposits are sometimes formed by the weathering of sandstone and quartzite formations. Sand is used extensively in the manufacture of bricks, mortar, cement, concrete, plasters, paving materials, and refractory materials. It is also used in the metallurgical industry, in the filtration of

water, in pottery making, in glassmaking, in the manufacture of explosives, and as an abrasive. Other industrial uses are numerous. Although soils entirely composed of sand are too dry and too lacking in nourishment for the growth of plants, a soil that is to some extent sandy (a “light” soil) is favorable to certain types of agriculture and horticulture, as it permits the free movement of air in the soil, offers less resistance than a clay soil to growing roots, improves drainage, and increases ease of cultivation. Sand to which nutrient solutions have been added is often used in soilless gardening. Sand is a naturally occurring granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles. As the term is used by geologists, sand particles range in diameter from 0.0625 (or 1⁄16 mm, or 62.5 micrometers) to 2 millimeters. An individual particle in this range size is termed a sand grain. The next smaller size class in geology is silt: particles smaller than 0.0625 mm down to 0.004 mm in diameter. The next larger size class above sand is gravel, with particles ranging from 2 mm up to 64 mm (see particle size for standards in use). Sand feels gritty when rubbed between the fingers (silt, by comparison, feels like flour). ISO 14688 grades sands as fine, medium and coarse with ranges 0.063 mm to 0.2 mm to 0.63 mm to 2.0 mm. In USA, sand is commonly divided into five sub-categories based on size: very fine sand (1/16 1/8 mm diameter), fine sand (1/8 mm - 1/4 mm), medium sand (1/4 mm - 1/2 mm), coarse sand (1/2 mm - 1 mm), and very coarse sand (1 mm - 2 mm). These sizes are based on the Φ sediment size scale, where size in Φ = -log base 2 of size in mm. On this scale, for sand the value of Φ varies from -1 to +4, with the divisions bThe most common constituent of sand, in inland continental settings and non-tropical coastal settings, is silica (silicon dioxide, or SiO2), usually in the form of quartz, which, because of its chemical inertness and considerable hardness, is resistant to weathering. The composition of sand is highly variable, depending on the local rock sources and conditions. The bright white sands found in tropical and subtropical coastal settings are eroded limestone and may contain coral and shell fragments in addition to other organic or organically derived fragmental material.[1] The gypsum sand dunes of the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico are famous for their bright, white color. Arkose is a sand or sandstone with considerable feldspar content, derived from the weathering and erosion of a (usually nearby) granite. Some sands contain magnetite, chlorite, glauconite or gypsum. Sands rich in magnetite are dark to black in color, as are sands derived from volcanic basalts and obsidian. Chlorite-glauconite bearing sands are typically green in color, as are sands derived from

basalt (lava) with a high olivine content. Many sands, especially those found extensively in Southern Europe, have iron impurities within the quartz crystals of the sand, giving a deep yellow colour. Sand deposits in some areas contain garnets and other resistant minerals, including some small gemstones. Sand is transported by wind and water and deposited in the form of beaches, dunes, sand spits, sand bars and related features.
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Sand is often a principal component of concrete. Molding sand, also known as foundry sand, is moistened or oiled and then shaped into molds for sand casting. This type of sand must be able to withstand high temperatures and pressure, allow gases to escape, have a uniform, small grain size and be nonreactive with metals. It is the principal component in glass production. Graded sand is used as an abrasive in sandblasting and is also used in media filters for filtering water. Brick manufacturing plants use sand as an additive with a mixture of clay and other materials for manufacturing bricks. Sand is sometimes mixed with paint to create a textured finish for walls and ceilings or a non-slip floor surface. Sandy soils are ideal for certain crops such as watermelons, peaches, and peanuts and are often preferred for intensive dairy farming because of their excellent drainage characteristics. Sand is used in landscaping, it is added to make small hills and slopes (for example, constructing golf courses). Beach nourishment - transportation to popular beaches where seasonal tides or artificial changes to the shoreline cause the original sand to flow out to sea.[2] Sandbags are used for protection against floods and gun fire. They can be easily transported when empty, then filled with local sand. Sand castle building is a popular activity. There are competitive sand castle building competitions (See sand art and play). Sand animation is a type of performance art and a technique for creating animated films. Aquaria are often lined with sand instead of gravel. This is a low cost alternative which some believe is better than gravel. Railroads use sand to improve the traction of wheels on the rails.

Weights can use sand in pulley and gear systems as weights. To expand somewhat on the definition of rock, the term may be said to describe an aggregate of minerals or organic material, which may or may not appear in consolidated form. Consolidation, which we will explore further within the context of sedimentary rock, is a process

whereby materials become compacted, or experience an increase in density. It is likely that the image that comes to mind when the word rock is mentioned is that of a consolidated one, but it is important to remember that the term also can apply to loose particles. The role of organic material in forming rocks also belongs primarily within the context of sedimentary, as opposed to igneous or metamorphic, rocks. There are, indeed, a handful of rocks that include organic material, an example being coal, but the vast majority are purely inorganic in origin. The inorganic materials that make up rocks are minerals, discussed in the next section. Rocks and minerals of economic value are called ores, which are examined in greater depth elsewhere, within the context of Economic Geology.
Minerals Defined

The definition of a mineral includes four components: it must appear in nature and therefore not be artificial, it must be inorganic in origin, it must have a definite chemical composition, and it must have a crystalline internal structure. The first of these stipulations clearly indicates that there is no such thing as a man-made mineral; as for the other three parts of the definition, they deserve a bit of clarification. At one time, the term organic, even within the realm of chemistry, referred to all living or formerly living things, their parts, and substances that come from them. Today, however, chemists use the word to describe any compound that contains carbon and hydrogen, thus excluding carbonates (which are a type of mineral) and oxides such as carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide.
Nonvarying Composition

The third stipulation, that a mineral must be of nonvarying composition, limits minerals almost exclusively to elements and compounds—that is, either to substances that cannot be chemically broken down to yield simpler substances or to substances formed by the chemical bonding of elements. The chemical bonding of elements is a process quite different from mixing, and a compound is not to be confused with a mixture, whose composition is highly variable. Another way of putting this is to say that all minerals must have a definite chemical formula, which is not possible with a mixture such as dirt or glass. The Minerals essay, which the reader is encouraged to consult for further information, makes reference to certain alloys, or mixtures of metals, that are classified as minerals. These alloys, however, are exceptional and fit certain specific characteristics of

interest to mineralogists. The vast majority of the more than 3,700 known varieties of mineral constitute either a single element or a single compound.
Crystalline Structure

The fact that a mineral must have a crystalline structure implies that it must be a solid, since all crystalline substances are solids. A solid, of course, is a type of matter whose particles, in contrast to those of a gas or liquid, maintain an orderly and definite arrangement and resist attempts at compression. Thus, petroleum cannot be a mineral, nor is "mineral spirits," a liquid paint thinner made from petroleum (and further disqualified by the fact that it is artificial in origin). Crystalline solids are those in which the constituent parts are arranged in a simple, definite geometric pattern that is repeated in all directions. These solids are contrasted with amorphous solids, such as clay. Metals are crystalline in structure; indeed, several metallic elements that appear on Earth in pure form (for example, gold, copper, and silver) also are classified as minerals.
Identifying Minerals

The type of crystal that appears in a mineral is one of several characteristics that make it possible for a mineralogist to identify an unidentified mineral. Although, as noted earlier, there are nearly 4,000 known varieties of mineral, there are just six crystal systems, or geometric shapes formed by crystals. Crystallographers, or mineralogists concerned with the study of crystal structures, are able to identify the crystal system by studying a good, well-formed specimen of a mineral, observing the faces of the crystal and the angles at which they meet. Other characteristics by which minerals can be studied and identified visually are color, streak, and luster. The first of these features is not particularly reliable, because impurities in the mineral may greatly affect its hue. Therefore, mineralogists are much more likely to rely on streak, or the color of the powder produced when one mineral is scratched by a harder one. Luster, the appearance of a mineral when light reflects off its surface, is described by such terms as vitreous (glassy), dull, or metallic.

Minerals also can be identified according to what might be called tactile properties, or characteristics best discerned through the sense

of touch. One of the most important among such properties is hardness, defined as the ability of one mineral to scratch another. Hardness is measured by the Mohs scale, introduced in 1812 by the German mineralogist Friedrich Mohs (1773-1839). The scale rates minerals from 1 to 10, with 1 being equivalent to the hardness of talc, a mineral so soft that it is used for making talcum powder. A 2 on the Mohs scale is the hardness of gypsum, which is still so soft that it can be scratched by a human fingernail. Above a 5 on the scale, roughly equal to the hardness of a pocketknife or glass, are potassium feldspar (6), quartz (7), topaz (8), corundum (9), and diamond (10).
Rocks and Human Existence

Rocks are all around us, especially in our building materials but also in everything from jewelry to chalk. Then, of course, there are the rocks that exist in nature, whether in our backyards or in some more dramatic setting, such as a national park or along a rugged coastline. Indeed, humans have a long history of involvement with rocks—a history that goes far back to the aptly named Stone Age. The latter term refers to a period in which the most sophisticated human tools were those made of rock—that is, before the development of the first important alloy used in making tools, bronze. The Bronze Age began in the Near East in about 3300 B.C. and lasted until about 1200 B.C., when the development of iron-making technology introduced still more advanced varieties of tools. These dates apply to the Near East, specifically to such areas as Mesopotamia and Egypt, which took the lead in ancient technology, followed much later by China and the Indus Valley civilization of what is now Pakistan. The rest of the world was even slower in adopting the use of metal: for instance, the civilizations of the Americas did not enter the Bronze Age for almost 4,000 years, in about A.D. 1100. Nor did they ever develop iron tools before the arrival of the Europeans in about 1500.

While sand is generally harmless, one must take care with some activities involving sand such as sandblasting. Bags of silica sand used for sandblasting now carry labels warning the user to wear respiratory protection and avoid breathing the fine silica dust. There have been a number of lawsuits in recent years where workers have developed silicosis, a lung disease caused by inhalation of fine silica particles over long periods of time. Material safety data sheets (MSDS) for silica sand state that "excessive inhalation of crystalline silica is a serious health concern".[1] In areas of high pore water pressure sand can partially liquefy to form quicksand. Quicksand, once dried, produces a considerable barrier to escape for creatures caught within, who often die from exposure as a result.

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