Sand is most often thought of as something you bask on at the beach (or have stuck in your shoes and your bathing suit afterward). It may inspire visions of vast deserts or something for kids to shovel at the playground. Ask a silicon wafer manufacturer or a glassblower or a landscaper about sand, though, and they may have very different ideas of what those tiny grains are good for.
Sandcastles for Real
You don’t need a bucket and a stretch of ocean-kissed shore to build a structure out of sand. Skyscraper materials like glass and concrete have sand among their components. Both bricks and the mortar that holds them together contain sand. Even a wooden structure needs some sandpaper to get it ready for construction purposes.
Though it seems simple, sand has all sorts of intricate industrial uses. It’s also a component of those silicon chips that run all our computers and consumer electronics. Many things we use every day have been polished or purified by super-sanitized sand.
Besides pottery and ceramics, which may have sand as part of their makeup, decorative uses of sand can include blown glass, colored sand in a bowl, a zen garden on a table, or a decorative stretch of sand in a backyard. Kids may rather stare at the moving art of ants on sand pathways in an ant farm. Even the grout that holds your pretty backsplash or shower tile together (and the tile itself, come to think of it) has some sand going for it.
Next time you’re shaking sand out of your beach towels and blankets, say a little thank you to those abrasive little granules of quartz for the many useful things they could do, if you weren’t having to sweep them out or vacuum them up right this minute.