Perlite is used as an extremely lightweight aggregate for insulating concrete in roof decking, floors, decorative stone products, bricks and tiles, tilt-up panels, pottery, cast sculpture, and more . By following specific procedures, typical ready-mix batching equipment and trucks can be used for perlite concrete. There are many uses for perlite which can be broken down into three general categories: construction applications, horticultural applications and industrial applications.
Perlite has outstanding insulating characteristics. As a lightweight insulator, perlite is incredibly versatile, meeting a variety of insulating needs—from the super-cooling demands of cryogenics to ambient and low temperature applications up through intense high temperature demands such as foundry cores, molds and even as a crucible topping. Perlite is non-combustible, with fusion point of 1260 degrees C (2300F) and is an ideal loose-fill or spray-on fire-proof insulation for safes, safe rooms, doors, pizza ovens, and chimney linings. It is widely used as a loose-fill insulation in masonry construction(» Masonry Loose Fill Insulation).
In addition to providing thermal insulation, perlite enhances fire ratings, reduces noise transmission and it is rot, vermin and termite resistant. Perlite is also ideal for insulating low temperature and cryogenic vessels.
When perlite is used as an aggregate in concrete, a lightweight, fire resistant, insulating concrete is produced that is ideal for roof decks.Perlite concrete roof decks are seamless, providing a smooth, even monolithic base for direct-adhered roofing membranes. Perlite concrete may be placed over slotted galvanized steel decking, precast or poured-in-place concrete, or even over sound existing roofing materials.Perlite concrete is an ideal base for built-up and single-ply roofing systems. It has superior wind and fire resistance, and, with the addition of polystyrene insulation sandwiched in the perlite concrete, high thermal resistance values are economically achieved. The result: an incredibly durable roof deck that will insulate and resist fire for the life of the building. Re-roofing is only a matter of replacing the membrane. Perlite concrete roof deck insulation systems have been tested and approved for wind and fire ratings by Underwriters Laboratories, Factory Mutual, and other code authorities.
Perlite can also be used as an aggregate in cement and gypsum plasters for exterior applications and for the fire protection of beams and columns.
Other construction applications include under-floor insulation, chimney linings, paint texturing, gypsum boards, ceiling tiles and roof insulation boards.
The use of perlite in horticulture is perhaps its most well known application. Expanded perlite is widely used in bagged potting soils and in commercial greenhouses to condition and lighten grow media and retain water and nutrients. It is also used alone as a sterile, soil-less grow media for hydroponics systems as well as rooting, propagation, and nuclear seed operations.
The long history of perlite use in horticulture is anchored in the following advantages:
1.Expanded Perlite is Lightweight. A blend of horticultural perlite and peat moss, fully watered, weighs in at 40 lbs per cubic foot. Fully-watered soil tips the scales at 100 to 125 lbs.
2. Long-Lasting Economy. Horticultural perlite is an expanded volcanic mineral. Unlike organic matter, like crop or forestry by-products, perlite will not deteriorate.
3. Retains Water and Nutrients. Perlite will retain three to four times its weight in water, but will not swell and become soggy. The same physical nature that makes perlite good at water and nutrient retention also structurally conditions the planting mix to facilitate healthy air-exchange in the root zone.
4. Chemically Inert. Horticultural perlite has an essentially neutral pH and will not noticeably change the alkalinity or acidity of a planting mix.
5. Completely Sterile. By virtue of the super-heating expansion process, (1700°F), horticultural perlite is sterile—free of insects, weed seed and other soil-borne pests or diseases. Hence, it needs no steam sterilization or purifying chemical treatments.
6. Safe and Easy to Use. Horticultural perlite is clean, odorless, easy to handle and free of anything toxic to plant growth.
Other horticultural applications for perlite are as a carrier for fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides and for pelletizing seed. Horticultural perlite is as useful to the home gardener as it is to the commercial grower. It is used with equal success in greenhouse growing, landscaping applications and in the home in house plants.
Using Perlite in Hydroponics
The fact that perlite doesn’t hold water is why it is so useful in a hydroponic system, as the air held within its pores helps keep the system oxygenated. Studies have shown that outstanding yields are achieved with perlite hydroponic systems. Perlite has a neutral pH, so it won’t affect or interact with the water or liquid nutrients used within the system. You will, however, need to occasionally replace the perlite used for hydroponics because the pores can become clogged with nutrients, algae, and plant roots, reducing its effectiveness. Because perlite doesn’t hold water, it’s important to use it within a hydroponic system in which the plant roots continually stay wet. If you’re planning to use perlite as the sole growing medium, drip systems and bucket systems will work better than ebb-and-flow systems. Never use perlite in aquaponics, though, as the fish can breathe in the small particles, leading to clogged gills.
Industrial applications for perlite are the most diverse, ranging from high performance fillers for plastics to cements for petroleum, water and geothermal wells. Other applications include its use as a filter media for pharmaceuticals, food products, chemicals and water for municipal systems and swimming pools.
Additional applications include its use as an abrasive in soaps, cleaners and polishes and a variety of foundry applications utilizing perlite’s insulating properties and high heat resistance. This same heat resistant property is taken advantage of when perlite is used in the manufacture of refractory bricks, mortars, and pipe insulation.
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