Material Monday: Basalt

Material Monday: Basalt

Posted 13 March 2017 by Nirvana CPH

This week our regular contributor Seetal Solanki of Ma-tt-er will be exploring basalt as a material and its many variations.

Basalt is a geological igneous rock that is now being used as a textile which has a very high thermal stability which could be applied into fireproof clothing or fabrics, tiles or crockery. Basalt is a material that gets stronger each time it is recycled, a very unique quality to the material which can be overlooked on occasions.

Basalt is one of the most common rock types found in the world with the largest occurrences coming from the ocean bed. Above sea level basalt is most commonly found around volcanic areas. The metamorphic qualities that basalt carries enables the igneous rock to be transformed into a number of applications.

The most traditional use would be a a very simple domestic product, the humble pestle and mortar. This age old handcrafted technique is now being translated into pieces of crockery by designer Max Lamb whereby he used basalt by using a casting method from a hand-carved mould. Leaving a texture that can only be achieved by hand and working with the surface texture of the rock formation.

Now the natural stone is being applied into a mass manufactured textile by Vulkan Europe. First the basalt is melted at a temperature of 1,400 °C (2550 °F), then extruded through small nozzles producing filaments of basalt fibres. The elasticity of the product results in a high performing tensile strength, which is more than twice the tensile strength of steel. Quite a remarkable characteristic from a stone that isn’t so widely used in comparison to steel.

Basalt fibre technology could potentially be the future of oil-spill recovery. According to Engineering and Technology ‘Basalt fibre technology originally developed for use in the Soviet space programme is now being touted as an ecologically friendly method of cleaning up oil spills.’

On average there are 500 oil spills across the world on a daily basis, an annual total of around 200,000. ‘The basalt fibre sorbent could potentially be used by oil drilling rigs, pipelines, marine salvage companies, and fisheries, for example, mopping up small spills. And who knows, should another large scale spill occur perhaps basalt fibre could limit its impact.’

Making this quite a remarkable fibre as the properties don’t allow it to sink as it’s lighter than water as is oil and doesn’t absorb an ounce of water. Now basalt is being considered for floating devices for aircrafts if they were to crash.

Basalt has such a huge strength in character and has enabled this material to be used across a multitude of applications with such purpose. The possibilities are endless.