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Silica, 325 mesh - 1 lb.
SiO2 (100% SiO2) The term 'silica' can be misleading. It is important to understand the difference between 'silica mineral', 'silicates', and 'silica glass'. Quartz is the best example of a natural mineral that is almost pure silicon dioxide (it is the most abundant mineral on planet earth). Other ceramic minerals like feldspar and clay contain some 'free silica' (accessory quartz). However these also usually contain 'silicates', that is, SiO2 chemically combined with other oxides to form crystalline minerals. Other silica-containing rocks and minerals are andalusite, barite, beach sand, bentonite, calcite, diatomaceous earth, kaolin, limestone, mica, pyrophyllite, talc, tripoli, rutile, wollastonite, zeolite, zirconium sand, vermiculite, granite, and sandstone. Silica is also available as a silicate glass (in frits). Pure silica minerals (like quartz) have high melting points. In ceramic bodies and glazes other oxides are added to complement it, they form silicates with it or occupy the network between particles of quartz. In the latter case silica is considered a 'filler' (e.g. porcelain clay bodies). It is interesting that some special purpose (and expensive) clay bodies replace the silica filler with calcined alumina, this greatly increases body strength and reduces thermal expansion. Individual particles of quartz have a high thermal expansion (and associated contraction) and significantly change their volume as they pass up and down through 'inversion' temperature points during firing. This can cause a form of body cracking called 'dunting' where the silica does not get dissolved in the feldspar glass melt. The cracking occurs as microcracks radiate out from each microscopic particle of quartz and propagate into larger cracks. High quartz bodies are usually unsuitable for ovenware and ware that must tolerate sudden temperature changes. However this behavior is advantageous to glaze fit since it puts the 'squeeze' on the glaze to prevent crazing. At the same time silica in glazes tends to dissolve and form low expansion silicates that reduce glaze expansion and also prevent crazing. In both cases, silica powder of small grain size is advantageous. High temperature bodies tend to have up to 30% silica whereas low fire ones have much less or none (because of its refractory nature). High temperature glazes can have 40% or more silica at times, if enough flux is available to react and form silicates. Source: Digital Fire.
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