Pumice is a light-colored, extremely porous igneous rock that forms during explosive volcanic eruptions. It is used as aggregate in lightweight concrete, as landscaping aggregate, and as an abrasive in a variety of industrial and consumer products. Many specimens have a high enough porosity that they can float on water until they slowly become waterlogged.
In commerce, pumice is the term applied to larger pumice stones, while pumicite consists of fine grains or ash. Pozzolan is a fine-grained pumicious material (both natural and man-made), which combines with lime to make a smooth, plaster-like cement. These three similar materials may be found and mined together, but they have different characteristics and different uses.
The largest use of pumice in the United States is the production of lightweight concrete blocks and other lightweight concrete products. When this concrete is mixed, the vesicles remain partially filled with air. That reduces the weight of the block. Lighter blocks can reduce the structural steel requirements of a building or reduce the foundation requirements. The trapped air also gives the blocks a greater insulating value.
The second most common use of pumice is in landscaping and horticulture.
Pumice has many other uses. Together these account for less than a few percent of consumption in the United States, but these are the products that most people think of when they hear the word “pumice.”
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