Sand - A Limited Commodity

Sand has been making the news. Why? Because we are running out. 

Sand is predominantly consumed by the construction industry. Its uses vary from layering in construction areas, landscaping and largely concrete manufacturing. The construction industry alone consumes roughly 40-50 Billion tonnes of sand annually. Whilst earth has various sandy deserts with a seemingly endless supply of sand. This type of sand is ultimately useless. 

The science of sand 

Sand mining is dictated by grain structure, size and mineral composition. The key factor is the interlocking grains that provide unmatched structural support and consistency. To sweeten the deal sand is un-reactive and forms a perfect structural material. The erosion process that produces high-grade sand is heavy mechanical erosion. Predominantly marine environments. Waves, pressure and moving rocks cause the sand grains to crack and grind resulting in rough sand grains.

So why is Desert sand useless? It’s all about erosion processes. The sand needed for construction needs to have sharp edges whereby grains can interlock and spread weight loads through interlocking surfaces. Due to wind erosion in a desert environment, these sand grains are essentially round. These spherical sand grains slide past each other and give no form of structural matrix. 

Environmental Impact of Sand Mining 

The marine processes needed to produce functionally useful sand mean that sand mining takes place in areas that are environmentally sensitive. Sand mining has seen entire islands wiped from existence in Indonesia and entire shorelines mined to cliff edges. Whilst worldwide development continues. Sand will run out, at an unimaginable environmental cost. We need to shift from a non-renewable resource such as sand and revolutionise the construction industry. Watch this space.

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