Expanded perlite.

Perlite 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. It is an industrial mineral, suitable "as ceramic flux to lower the sintering temperature", and a commercial product useful for its low density after processing.[1]


Perlite boulders with fireweed in foreground

Perlite softens when it reaches temperatures of 850–900 °C (1,560–1,650 °F). Water trapped in the structure of the material vaporises 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 has a bulk density around 1100 kg/m3 (1.1 g/cm3), while typical expanded perlite has a bulk density of about 30–150 kg/m3 (0.03–0.150 g/cm3).[2]

Typical analysis

Sources and production

Perlite mine in Owens Valley, California.

Perlite is a non-renewable resource. The world reserves of perlite are estimated at 700 million tonnes.[4]

The confirmed resources of perlite existing in Armenia amount to 150 million m3, whereas the total amount of projected resources reaches up to 3 billion m3.[5] Considering specific density of 1.1 ton/m3 confirmed reserves in Armenia amount to 165 million tons.

Other reported reserves are: Greece - 120 million tonnes, Turkey, USA and Hungary - about 49-57 million tonnes.[6][7]

Perlite world production, led by China, Turkey, Greece, USA, Armenia and Hungary, summed up to 4.6 million tonnes in 2018.[6][7]


Because of its low density and relatively low price (about US$150 per tonne of unexpanded perlite), many commercial applications for perlite have been developed.

Construction and manufacturing

In the construction and manufacturing fields, it is used in lightweight plasters, concrete and mortar, insulation and ceiling tiles.[8] It may also be used to build composite materials that are sandwich-structured[9] or to create syntactic foam.[10]

Perlite filters are fairly common in filtering beer before it is bottled.[citation needed]

Small quantities of perlite are also used in foundries, cryogenic insulation, and ceramics (as a clay additive).[citation needed] It is also used by the explosives industry.[11]

Aquatic filtration

Perlite is currently used in commercial pool filtration technology, as a replacement to diatomaceous earth filters. Perlite is an excellent filtration aid and is used extensively as an alternative to diatomaceous earth. The popularity of perlite usage as a filter medium is growing considerably worldwide.[citation needed] Several products exist in the market to provide perlite based filtration. Several perlite filters and perlite media have met NSF-50 approval (Aquify PMF Series and AquaPerl), which standardizes water quality and technology safety and performance. Perlite can be safely disposed of through existing sewage systems, although some pool operators choose to separate the perlite using settling tanks or screening systems to be disposed of separately.[citation needed]


Due to thermal and mechanical stability, non-toxicity, and high resistance against microbial attacks and organic solvents, perlite is widely used in biotechnological applications. Perlite was found to be an excellent support for immobilization of biocatalysts such as enzymes for bioremediation and sensing applications.[12]


In horticulture, perlite can be used as a soil amendment or alone as a medium for hydroponics or for starting cuttings. When used as an amendment, it has high permeability and low water retention and helps prevent soil compaction.[13]


Perlite is used in cosmetics as an absorbent and mechanical exfoliant.[14][15]


Perlite can be replaced for all of its uses. Substitutes include:[19]

Occupational safety

As perlite contains silicon dioxide, goggles and silica filtering masks are recommended when handling large quantities.

United States

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set the legal limit (permissible exposure limit) for perlite exposure in the workplace as 15 mg/m3 total exposure and 5 mg/m3 respiratory exposure over an 8-hour workday. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has set a recommended exposure limit (REL) of 10 mg/m3 total exposure and 5 mg/m3 respiratory exposure over an 8-hour workday.[20]

See also


  1. ^ Reka, Arianit A.; Pavlovski, Blagoj; Lisichkov, Kiril; Jashari, Ahmed; Boev, Blažo; Boev, Ivan; Lazarova, Maja; Eskizeybek, Volkan; Oral, Ayhan; Makreski, Petre (24 October 2019). "Chemical, mineralogical and structural features of native and expanded perlite from Macedonia". Geologia Croatica. 72 (3): 215–221–215–221. doi:10.4154/gc.2019.18. ISSN 1333-4875. Retrieved 4 January 2020.
  2. ^ Maxim, L. Daniel; Niebo, Ron; McConnell, Ernest E. (2014-04-01). "Perlite toxicology and epidemiology – a review". Inhalation Toxicology. 26 (5): 259–270. Bibcode:2014InhTx..26..259M. doi:10.3109/08958378.2014.881940. ISSN 0895-8378. PMC 4002636. PMID 24601903.
  3. ^ Md Arifuzzaman and H. S. Kim, "Prediction and evaluation of density and volume fractions for the novel perlite composite affected by internal structure formation", Construction and Building Materials, Vol 141, 2017, 201–215.
  4. ^ "Insulating castable refractories | Engineer Live". www.engineerlive.com. 2016-09-07. Retrieved 2024-03-21.
  5. ^ "General Information - Mining Resources - www.minenergy.am". www.minenergy.am. Retrieved 2019-06-10.
  6. ^ a b M. Bennett, Shawnna. "USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries - PERLITE" (PDF). U.S. Geological Survey, Mineral Commodity Summaries. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2019-12-24.
  7. ^ a b "Perlite Statistics and Information". www.usgs.gov. Retrieved 2019-06-10.
  8. ^ a b c Wallace P. Bolen Perlite USGS 2009 Minerals Yearbook
  9. ^ Md Arifuzzaman and H. S. Kim, Novel flexural behaviour of sandwich structures made of perlite foam/sodium silicate core and paper skin, Construction and Building Materials, Construction and Building Materials, Vol 148 2017, pp 321–333.
  10. ^ Dipendra Shastri and H. S. Kim, “A new consolidation process for expanded perlite particles”, Construction and Building Materials, Vol 60, June, 2014, pp.1–7.
  11. ^ Emulsion explosive composition containing expanded perlite United States Patent 4940497
  12. ^ Torabi, Seyed-Fakhreddin; Khajeh, Khosro; Ghasempur, Salehe; Ghaemi, Nasser; Siadat, Seyed-Omid Ranaei (2007-08-31). "Covalent attachment of cholesterol oxidase and horseradish peroxidase on perlite through silanization: Activity, stability and co-immobilization". Journal of Biotechnology. 131 (2): 111–120. doi:10.1016/j.jbiotec.2007.04.015. PMID 17658643.
  13. ^ "ISU Extension News Release". iastate.edu. Archived from the original on 2004-03-23.
  14. ^ "Perlite". L'Oréal. Retrieved 2020-10-04.
  15. ^ Winter, Ruth (2009-10-20). A Consumer's Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients, 7th Edition: Complete Information About the Harmful and Desirable Ingredients Found in Cosmetics and Cosmeceuticals. Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale. p. 402. ISBN 978-0-307-45986-2.
  16. ^ Perlite, USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries 2011
  17. ^ "PERLITE : (Data in thousand metric tons unless otherwise noted)" (PDF). Minerals.usgs.gov. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2008-05-14. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  18. ^ "Perlite" (PDF). U.S. Geological Survey Mineral Commodity Summaries: 122–123. January 2006.
  19. ^ USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries (PDF), 2013, archived (PDF) from the original on 2013-05-28
  20. ^ "CDC – NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards – Perlite". www.cdc.gov. Retrieved 2015-11-27.