Illustrated Volcano Glossary
- GeologiePerlite is an amorphous volcanic glass that has a relatively high water content, typically formed by the hydration of obsidian. It occurs naturally and has the unusual property of greatly expanding when heated sufficiently.
The Greek island of Milos is the world´s most important mining area for perlite.
Properties and uses
When it reaches temperatures of 850–900 °C, perlite softens (since it is a glass). Water trapped in the structure of the material vapourises and escapes and this causes the expansion of the material to 7–16 times its original volume. The expanded material is a brilliant white, due to the reflectivity of the trapped bubbles.
Unexpanded ("raw") perlite bulk density: around 1100 kg/m³ (1.1 g/cm³).
Typical expanded perlite bulk density: 30–150 kg/m³
Due to its low density and relatively low price, many commercial applications for perlite have developed. In the construction and manufacturing fields, it is used in lightweight plasters and mortars, insulation, ceiling tiles and filter aids. In horticulture it makes composts more open to air, while still having good water-retention properties; it makes a good medium for hydroponics. Perlite is also used in foundries, cryogenic insulations, as a lightweight aggregate in mortar (firestop) and in ceramics as a clay additive. Due to its ability to absorb liquid it is also used in the vacuum deodorizer market.