Difference between Clay and Sand

Key difference: Clay and Sand differ in their particle size. The clay is a stiff, sticky fine-grained earth, whereas sand is a loose granular substance.

In simple terms, clay is a special kind of earth which is made by the decomposition of rocks through the action of weathering. It is found everywhere and has numerous uses and applications. It is a combination of clay minerals, which consists of the traces of metal-oxides and organic matters. It is formed by many natural activities, which includes gradual chemical weathering of rocks, hydrothermal activities, and the secondary sedimentary deposition process, caused due to the erosion and transportation from the original location of formation.

Clay is also known as primary clay (also known as kaolin), which are located at the site of formation, and secondary clay, which are the deposits moved by erosion and water from the primary location. It includes many solvents, which are generally acidic, and migrate due to the weathering of rocks, after leaching off the weathered upper layers.

They exhibit plasticity when mixed with water and becomes firm and hard on drying, due to these properties, clay are used in many applications. In modern era, it has gained importance in the field of construction, industries, crockery and pot making, medicinal cosmetics, etc. The changes and reactions occurred in the clay causes them to get converted into ceramic materials.

Sand mainly composes of silica. In terms of particle size according to the geologists, sand particles range in diameter from 0.0625 mm (or 1⁄16 mm) to 2 mm. An individual particle in this range size is termed as a sand grain.

It is a naturally occurring granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles. The other main composition of sand consists of the calcium carbonate, which is formed by corals and shellfish around billions of years ago. It is dead fossils which have been compressed for many years.

The formation of sand depends on the type of the rock texture, and local area specification, hence it varies differently everywhere. There are numerous varieties of sand available on the earth. It is simply, made of tiny particles of worn-down rock, which are picked up by the wind, water or the ice in glaciers and left as sediment in the ocean or as sand dunes on land. Unlike clay, even sand is used for construction, industries, filtration and coloring purposes.

Comparison between Clay and Sand:

 

Clay

Sand

What do the contain?

Clay contains fine particles.

Sand contains large particles.

Chemical terms

Clay is basically aluminium silicate, which is mud.

Sand is basically silicon oxide, which is a giant molecular structure just like graphite and diamond, along with iron impurities giving the color.

Particle size

Clay has the smallest particles.

Sand has the largest, and is coarse.

Air holding capacity

It does not hold air.

It has large spaces in between the particles hence air passes through them.

Water holding capacity

It holds water.

It retains water.

Draining property

It does not drain easily.

It drains much better than clay.

Other properties

It has plasticity property.

It has porosity and permeability property.

Weight

It is very heavy in weight.

It is very light in weight.

Nature

Clay is moist in nature.

It is little hard and dry in nature.

Types

Types of clay are: Kaolin, Ball Clay, Stoneware, Fireclays, Earthenware, Slip Clay, and Bentonite.

 

Some types of sand are: Coral sand, Volcanic ash, Glass sand, Immature sand, Gypsum sand, Ooid sand, Black sand, Silica sand, etc.

Image Courtesy: therapy-clays.com, wisconsingeologicalsurvey.org

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