Unlimiting Resources – Basalt for a High Tech Stone Age

The Malthusians have always been wrong, but they still love their “scare stories”. The Club Of Rome also loves to push the ‘running out’ scare, and has for at least 40 years that I know of (they facilitated “The Limits To Growth” by Meadows et. al. that was an exponential prediction of population growth and resource consumption compared with a linear or flat supply of “resources”. They also started the whole “it wasn’t a prediction it was a projection” stupid quibble. They treated it as a prediction, so it’s a prediction…)

The general notion was that we simply MUST run out of ‘scarce’ resources, and soon. The same organizations are also behind the Global Warming push with the same Malthusian mindset and the same goals / solutions. Largely enforced population control and things like Agenda 21 that wants to herd folks into high rise cities and forbid use of natural resources (since we will otherwise ‘use them up’).

We never do “use up” all the resources, simply because they never leave the planet. What is a resource changes over time, and we create new resources out of non-resources by way of our creativity. (Ever notice the scarcity of flint for arrow points? No? Gee… How about the shortage of whale Oil? Replaced by Jojoba oil that we grow in plantations… It’s a long list…) Resource substitution (think using aluminum for power lines instead of copper, or using glass for phone calls instead of copper), creating new resources, and finding new ways to use old resources, along with finding new ways to extract dilute resources / ores. All these things prevent “running out”…

I’ve been involved with this since about 1973 or so when I had an Econ class devoted to the subject. Largely it was an exploration of the book (‘Limits’) and the things wrong with it. So I’m not new to this. Also realize that Malthus was one of the very first Economists, and as an Econ major I had to study that history. (And how it has failed…) So this topic is right smack dab in my major area.

I’ve made some other postings (links at the bottom) that generally show how we are not subject to resource constraints. I won’t rehash them here. This posting, and others that are tagged with “unlimiting resources”, will look at particular resources or new technologies that remove limits on resources, or expand what is a resource. In this particular case, Basalt.

Basalt – a very common rock

You may know basalt as the rock making up huge expanses of India, Russia, ocean floors, Hawaii, and darned near any other place with flood lavas in their history. It’s a very common type of rock.


Basalt is usually grey to black in colour, but rapidly weathers to brown or rust-red due to oxidation of its mafic (iron-rich) minerals into rust. Although usually characterized as “dark”, basaltic rocks exhibit a wide range of shading due to regional geochemical processes.

First off, notice the word “rust”? Yup. You can get iron out of it. Yes, we mostly use other kinds of minerals (banded iron deposits) for iron ore. Nothing prevents using basalt if we ever needed to do that. It can be crushed, rusted, and the iron extracted. It’s just a little cheaper to use the other stuff. But simply put: the existence of a lot of iron in basalts, that make up much of the land of the planet and sea floor, mean we never run out of iron. Ever. There is way more iron on this planet than we could ever use.

But it gets better…

Relative to most common igneous rocks, basalt compositions are rich in MgO and CaO and low in SiO2 and the alkali oxides, i.e., Na2O + K2O, consistent with the TAS classification.

Basalt generally has a composition of 45–55 wt% SiO2, 2–6 wt% total alkalis, 0.5–2.0 wt% TiO2, 5–14 wt% FeO and 14 wt% or more Al2O3. Contents of CaO are commonly near 10 wt%, those of MgO commonly in the range 5 to 12 wt%.

High alumina basalts have aluminium contents of 17–19 wt% Al2O3; boninites have magnesium contents of up to 15% MgO. Rare feldspathoid-rich mafic rocks, akin to alkali basalts, may have Na2O + K2O contents of 12% or more.

The abundances of the Lanthanide or rare earth elements (REE) can be a useful diagnostic tool to help explain the history of mineral crystallisation as the melt cooled. In particular, the relative abundance of europium compared to the other REE is often markedly higher or lower, and called the europium anomaly. It arises because Eu2+ can substitute for Ca2+ in plagioclase feldspar, unlike any of the other Lanthanides, which tend to only form 3+ cations.

Notice that TiO2? Yup. Titanium. If we ever want to get more titanium than is in the easier to use resources, we can get it from basalt. Note, too, the Aluminum content. So lets say we started using iron from basalt; then the ‘tailings’ would be richer in Titanium and Aluminum. You can do darned near anything in the way of construction of machines with those three. Even electrical wiring, though copper works better so we prefer to use it.

But wait, there’s more!


Compared to other rocks found on Earth’s surface, basalts weather relatively fast. The typically iron-rich minerals oxidise rapidly in water and air, staining the rock a brown to red colour due to iron oxide (rust). Chemical weathering also releases readily water-soluble cations such as calcium, sodium and magnesium, which give basaltic areas a strong buffer capacity against acidification. Calcium released by basalts binds up CO2 from the atmosphere forming CaCO3 acting thus as a CO2 trap. To this it must be added that the eruption of basalt itself is often associated with the release of large quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere from volcanic gases.

Carbon sequestration in basalt has been studied as a means of removing carbon dioxide, produced by human industrialization, from the atmosphere. Underwater basalt deposits, scattered in seas around the globe, have the added benefit of the water serving as a barrier to the re-release of CO2 into the atmosphere.[11]

So we can easily get sodium (think sodium vapor lamps and more) and calcium (as in cement) and magnesium (very useful for light weight alloys along with bone health…)

Basalt also has a “strong buffer capacity against acidification” so just how can the ocean ever “acidify” if it is underlain with basalt, and has massive inflows of fresh water that has rained down on basalt globally? (Simply put, it can’t… that’s part of why the ocean is alkaline in the first place).

Oh, and not that it matters, but it can scrub CO2 to make carbonate rocks. (Useful for cement and much more). There’s a natural cycle of CO2 being driven out of rocks in the making of magma, and then being scrubbed from the air back into those rocks as they age. That matters far more than anything people do.

The wiki lists limited things you can do with it (other than extract metals in a relative expensive way):

Basalt is used in construction (e.g. as building blocks or in the groundwork), making cobblestones (from columnar basalt) and in making statues. Heating and extruding basalt yields stone wool, said to be an excellent thermal insulator.

Yup. That’s it. As stone, as statuary, and rock wool. OK, nice to know we won’t run out of insulation.

But is there more that can be done with it? Yup.


Basalt fiber is a material made from extremely fine fibers of basalt, which is composed of the minerals plagioclase, pyroxene, and olivine. It is similar to carbon fiber and fiberglass, having better physicomechanical properties than fiberglass, but being significantly cheaper than carbon fiber. It is used as a fireproof textile in the aerospace and automotive industries and can also be used as a composite to produce products such as camera tripods.

Yes, you can use it for something very much like carbon fiber or fiberglass. At a nice ‘sweet spot’ of performance and cost in between those two. Fireproof too. Now once you are in the realm of “composites” you can make just about anything mechanical. Car bodies, valve covers, seats, posts, robots, beams, tables; heck, even violins and cellos (there are folks making them from carbon fiber at present) but I don’t know how good they would sound.

That isn’t just a hypothetical, it is being done commercially:


Basalt Roving ( fiber )

Basalt Roving ( fiber )

Basalt roving is bundle of continuous monodirectional complex basalt fibers. Roving possesses high natural strength, resistance to aggressive environments, long service life and excellent electric insulating properties. By its technical characteristics, Basalt roving surpasses S-glass and E-glass by many parameters, and is almost as good as carbon. Basalt roving is extremely heat resistant: long-use temperature range is -200 +680 С. Temporarily it can work in up to 900 С. Roving is extremely hard: 8-9 on the Moh scale (for comparison diamond=10). Its specific strength is 2,5 times higher than alloy steel’s and 1,3 times higher than E-glass.

At that link, there are a couple of other uses listed. One is a “Basalt Rebar” for high strength in harsh environments (like sea walls where iron tends to rust out fairly fast) and another is more of a chopped fiber instead of roving. See the link for pictures, but here is the text:

Segments of complex basalt fiber of a predetermined length depending on application. Unlike metal grid, provides reinforcement in all directions, has high adhesion characteristics and creates a uniform mass with concrete.

Technical advantages

Provision of tree-dimensional reinforcement
Lightness, high mechanical strength, corrosion and chemical resistance to alkali and other aggressive environments
High friction, frost, heat, and moisture resistance
Sound absorption
Ability to filtrate aggressive substances
Dielectric character

Bearing bar with continuous spiral ribbing formed by means of winding by basalt strip oiled in highly durable polymeric compound.

Technical advantages

Low specific weight: 4 times lighter than steel rebars;
Resistance to corrosion, rotting, and warping;
Unique chemical resistance to aggressive environments;
Good insulating characteristics
Higher operational reliability and long life of constructions and products;
Dielectric character

So stronger concrete, and works well in harsh chemical environments. That rebar especially surprised me. An interesting idea. On the detail page for it, it says:

Basalt rebar
Basalt rebar is a bar with continuous spiral ribbing formed by means of winding by basalt strip oiled in highly durable polymeric compound.

Basalt rebar is a perspective composite material with a wide range of application in construction.

The rebars are resistant to corrosion and aggressive chemical compounds, is extremely light and durable.

Research results have shown that long life of constructions where basalt rebars were used considerably exceeds the life of similar constructions where other materials were used.

So they make a bar, then wind it with a strip bound with a polymer. Interesting approach. (And we can, of course, make all the polymers we want from plant sources, even garbage, so that’s not a limit either…)

In that link to the wiki on basalt fibers, there’s an interesting bit on the history:

The first attempts to produce basalt fiber were made in the United States in 1923. These were further developed after World War II by researchers in the USA, Europe and the Soviet Union especially for military and aerospace applications. Since declassification in 1995 basalt fibers have been used in a wider range of civilian applications.

So this was in the Military Secrets locker from about 1923 to 1995. One can only wonder how many other such “secrets” are in that locker waiting to be turned loose if we ever needed them in the rest of the economy… One also wonders what kind of “military and aerospace applications” kept it a secret for over 70 years and well into the modern age… I also think it would be really fun if Burt Rutan were to make an airplane out of it. Can you imagine a ‘rock airplane’?

Other uses?


Basalt mine-tailings as raw-materials for Portland clinker

Yes, both the rebar AND the cement… Now think what that does to all those Cement Engineering projects of the world ( C.E. or Civil Engineers are sometimes prone to joking C.E. stands for Cement Engineer…)

Think cement pipes, roads, buildings, damns, lamp posts, power poles, sidewalks, heck you can even make cement boats.


Large volumes of waste materials are produced by crushing of basaltic rocks for aggregate production, which is widely used in regions that lack rocks of granitic or gneissic composition. Two types of waste materials are produced (a) quarry fines, which are in part used as fine aggregates in concrete and (b) vesicular basalt, a porous variety of basalt that is useless as aggregate. This paper presents a procedure to use basaltic mine-tailings as raw-mixtures for Portland cement by adjusting the proportion of the other raw-materials (limestone, clay, iron ore). It is demonstrated that there is no need for additional fluxes to the basalt-bearing raw-mixtures, since the setting of the chemical parameters is enough to guarantee clinker formation. Two series of experimental clinkers were synthesized with raw-mixtures containing residues from a basalt quarry that produces aggregates for concrete. Experimental clinkers were produced from raw-mixtures with similar lime saturation factors, silica and alumina modules, which were set by adjusting the proportions of limestone, clay and iron ore to the varying proportions of basaltic materials added to them. One series of clinkers was made with basalt quarry fines, which are in part used as fine aggregate, but also accumulate as mine-tailings. Other series was made using vesicular (porous) basalt, a variety not resistant enough to be used as aggregate. It is demonstrated that the basaltic composition is fully compatible with clinker production, and no addition of fluxes or other additions is required. Composition of the raw-mixtures was checked by chemical analysis. Quantitative phase analysis of the clinkers was made by optical microscopy point counting, together with qualitative X-ray diffraction. All mixtures produced clinkers with acceptable proportions of major and minor crystalline phases, inside the range of common industrial Portland clinkers.

Keywords: mine-tailings, basalt, Portland clinker.

So think about all that for a minute. While we presently have cheaper sources for some of those uses (like iron ore) there’s a whole lot of things we can do with one of the most common rocks on the planet (and in the rest of the solar system too…) should we ever want to or need to. This one rock is a giant “un-limiter” on our resources. The only real resource is our creativity with what we have; and we have a great deal of creativity and a massive amount of basalt. Perhaps returning to a New Stone Age would not be so bad after all ;-)

Some Prior Links on Unlimiting Resources







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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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35 Responses to Unlimiting Resources – Basalt for a High Tech Stone Age

  1. Larry Ledwick says:

    Note basalt is abundant on the moon (presumably mars) — output construction materials only need energy and water applied to manufacture high strength fiber reinforced concrete structures in space. Manufacture the raw product than extrude or precast panels — some assembly required.

    Like ferroconcrete ships, you can build almost anything out of concrete with a little imagination. All you need for input is energy and some water to facilitate the binding reactions. Poof instant structural elements then just provide a thin air tight membrane inside the structure for atmosphere containment. Even sprayed stucco style on the inside of an inflatable bubble form.

  2. alexjc38 says:

    Terrific article, which has cheered me up no end. I can’t find a “Like” button, but consider it liked!

  3. Ian W says:

    Nothing directly to do with basalt, this is just a comment on the Agenda21/Club of Rome etc., attempts to corporatize the countryside and move the population into large metroplexes. This is all about political control and nothing to do with scarce resources. A population of subsistence farmers is self sufficient and can largely do without any modern system support – for self sufficient read independent. Independence is not something politicians like in a population. A population in a metroplex is dependent on continual provision of food and water and removal or waste. 3 days without power in a metroplex would bring the population to its knees, 6 months without power for a subsistence farmer is not a problem. As with all things the politicians want control so a population in metroplexes can be easily controlled they need things and the politicians can promise them things; but the independent farmers with their own farm property cannot be easily controlled and usually have a low opinion of politicians. This is why there are so many attacks on property rights and attempts to impose EPA regulations on small holdings. This is a background battle for control that has not been remarked upon.

  4. Going further into that Basalt fibre, it’s actually made in Ukraine. Given the properties, it looks like it would be a cheap alternative to steel-reinforcing in concrete with far less energy and materials involved in making it. The resultant concrete could be thinner and stronger, too – looks like a win all round.

    For making musical instruments, the Carbon fibre is bound by a resin, and I suspect that the tonal qualities of the resin aren’t that good (too much damping). On the other hand, using cement as the binder should produce very good tonal qualities if the water is removed correctly (vacuum formed and under compression) so that there are no microvoids. I’ve seen data on cement springs made this way that can be extended as much as steel ones – it’s the microvoids that reduce the tensile strength. It’s possible therefore that with the correct design of the fill (getting the speed of sound anisotropic like wood is) and a small adjustment of the actual shapes a very good tone could be achieved. Possibly use directional long fibres together with chopped fibre fill in the cement binder. Mass-produced violins with the tonal properties of a Strad should be possible. It is said that Stradivari produced such a good tone because the wood he used was the result of 300 years of slow and even growth in generally poor growing conditions, so the wood was of very fine grain and reliable characteristics. Of course, the cement/basalt wouldn’t look as pretty as wood, though I suppose it could be painted.

    I’m more into making guitars than violins, and it’s noticeable how much the wood varies – why when you go through a number of mass-produced guitars you’ll find some sound better than others when they are supposed to be the same. Given a material of reliable and defined characteristics, the design could be tweaked until it’s right and then produced at low cost. Sad in some ways as that takes away the skill needed in making guitars, but then that’s where all mass-production goes. The material cost of such a guitar would be very low and the work needed would also be low (making a wooden one takes me about 200 hours).

    No shortage of materials, just maybe that the ones we’re used to have supply problems.

  5. A C Osborn says:

    Another fascinating article, thanks very much.
    This is where abundant Cheap energy really comes in to it’s own, because with it you can make almost anything that you can think of.
    Without energy it would not be so easy.

  6. E.M.Smith says:


    Someone made a DIY Carbon Fibre violin:

    Given you comments, I wonder if a ‘carbon-carbon’ one would sound better? (though burning out the non-carbon in the binder might make dimensional control a bit harder…)

    At any rate, FWIW, I see nothing to prevent sticking in basalt fiber instead and making a basalt violin the same way as the carbon with resin. On another link some folks were complaining that the CF violins were edgier or a touch harsh. I would speculate that the lower tensile strength of the basalt fibers might soften that.

    As to making one ‘cement all the way’: Fascinating idea, but I think it would be hard to get folks to even try playing it… It might be better to find a way to flash heat a basalt fiber mat and get it to bond at the fiber-fiber contact points. Laser welded basalt would have a more marketable emotional effect than ‘cement’… ;-)

    @Ian W:

    The Framers even knew that, one of them saying that, roughly, our form of government would not last if we became a highly urban society (that it was best suited to an independent farming world).


    I tend to not do “like” buttons. I figure “it is what it is” and folks will respond ‘as they are too’. Glad you liked it, and hopefully it helps to ward of Malthusians ;-)

    Happy to lighten your day!

    @Larry Ledwick:

    Yes, any rocky planet ought to have a lot. I likely ought to have pointed out that after taking out the metals, the remaining silicate can be used for making glass too. Lots of stuff made from various silicate glasses.

    Cement is a fascinating material. First started playing with it at about 9 years old. (Dad wanted to put a cement floor in the garage – that started life in the 1800’s as a place to park one buggy and one small horse! We took the whole thing apart ( I got to straighten the square nails for reuse…) poured a floor, reset it on that floor, and called it done. I got to play with some of the cement and aggregates in “my lab” …

    The basalt can substitute for the clay minerals and is usable as the aggregate. Not sure if you can process it in such a way as to replace some of the ‘iron ore’ parts, but suspect an iron rich fraction could be made. (Not that there’s any shortage of limestone and iron ore… just curious about how to do it…) Most banded iron comes from water deposition of iron that originated in basalts, so it can be done. Similarly the extraction of Ca and reaction to make CaCO3 can replace the limestone if needed.

    All in all you don’t need more than basalt to make some kind of cement / concrete. So C.E.s will find continued employment on the Moon ;-)

  7. Graeme No.3 says:

    Simon Derricutt:
    I was under the impression that part of the tone of Stradivarius came from the coating made from gum rosin (Dragon tree) and a filler such as pozzolanic earth (volcanic hollow glass spheres and fragments).

  8. E.M.Smith says:


    Thus the importance of that ULUM ship link and the unlimited nuclear power available to us.

    @Graeme No.3:

    I was once privileged to hear a Strad. There was a big name player (in about 1970) that was giving concerts at a nearby city. (something like $40 a seat or about $400 a seat in our present value of money). As a personal ‘giving’, he would do concerts at schools. He came to our High School.

    Watching him set up the room (the gym) was a wonder in itself. Carefully positioning the audience and other stuff so that the sound was right. (I was seated in front of the Chemistry / Physics teacher and the other Science teacher and he was commenting on the way the setup was going, including sound reflecting surfaces and all. Mr. McGuire – a retired chemist and retired air force Col.) At any rate…

    The sound was stunning. Never heard anything like it since. Looked back at one point and Mr. McGuire had tears in his eyes. This from a guy who looked like he could stare down a pissed off bulldog and scare bullets out of the air… Part was clearly the player, but the instrument had a song quality of its own…

    After the presentation, the violinist (damn I wish I knew the name…) said he would share the secret of the Stradivarius. He said that it was the varnish. That one needs to never refinish a Stradivarius as it will never sound the same again. Decades later I found a reference to ground up ‘precious stones’ being used in extra hard varnishes then and speculation that that was how it was done back then. So if you are making a violin, might try making some ruby powder or sapphire powder and blending that into a nice hard base resin. Probably not the whole ‘secret’ (that special wood maters too) but perhaps a missing bit today. With synthetic ‘precious stones’ now being cheap, what was once only usable on special instruments can now be common… if it matters.

  9. punmaster52 says:

    Fascinating. Always a pleasure to be able to point things like this out to the naysayers. Thank you, E. M.

  10. Pouncer says:

    Just a heads up… Phosphorous!


    Kind of like how climate disaster reverted from the advance of glaciers in a new ice age (1970s) to polar melting / rising sea levels in the 1990s, the environmentalists view of phosphorous is undergoing a revision from a pollutant that must be removed from streams and the oceans (where it causes algae blooms, “eutrophication” and other unwanted plant growth) to a new view of an element as a “limited resource” that must be globally managed, governed, hoarded and allocated in order to ensure “sustainability”.

    It seems to me a good thing that some of your basaltic rocks also tend to include some enriched layers of basalt…

  11. E.M.Smith says:


    Oh yeah, that old phosphorus is rare thing again. Even the wiki knows there’s a lot of it….

    I’ve bolded a few bits:

    Occurrence and mining
    Phosphates are the naturally occurring form of the element phosphorus, found in many phosphate minerals. In mineralogy and geology, phosphate refers to a rock or ore containing phosphate ions. Inorganic phosphates are mined to obtain phosphorus for use in agriculture and industry.

    The largest phosphorite or rock phosphate deposits in North America lie in the Bone Valley region of central Florida, the Soda Springs region of Idaho, and the coast of North Carolina. Smaller deposits are located in Montana, Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina near Charleston along Ashley Phosphate road. The small island nation of Nauru and its neighbor Banaba Island, which used to have massive phosphate deposits of the best quality, have been mined excessively. Rock phosphate can also be found in Egypt, Israel, Morocco, Navassa Island, Tunisia, Togo and Jordan, countries that have large phosphate mining industries.

    Phosphorite mines are primarily found in:

    North America: United States, especially Florida, with lesser deposits in North Carolina, Idaho and Tennessee.
    Africa: Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, mainly near Khouribga and Youssoufia; Niger, Senegal, Togo, Tunisia and Western Sahara, at the town of Bu Craa.
    Middle East: Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Iraq, at the town of Akashat, near the Jordanian border.
    Oceania: Australia, Makatea, Nauru, and Banaba Island.

    In 2007, at the current rate of consumption, the supply of phosphorus was estimated to run out in 345 years.
    However, some scientists believed that a “peak phosphorus” will occur in 30 years and Dana Cordell from Institute for Sustainable Futures said in Times that at “current rates, reserves will be depleted in the next 50 to 100 years.” Reserves refer to the amount assumed recoverable at current market prices, and, in 2012, the USGS estimated 71 billion tons of world reserves, while 0.19 billion tons were mined globally in 2011. Phosphorus comprises 0.1% by mass of the average rock (while, for perspective, its typical concentration in vegetation is 0.03% to 0.2%), and consequently there are quadrillions of tons of phosphorus in Earth’s 3 * 1019 ton crust, albeit at predominantly lower concentration than the deposits counted as reserves from being inventoried and cheaper to extract.

    Some phosphate rock deposits are notable for their inclusion of significant quantities of radioactive uranium isotopes. This syndrome is noteworthy because radioactivity can be released into surface waters in the process of application of the resultant phosphate fertilizer (e.g. in many tobacco farming operations in the southeast US).

    In December 2012 Cominco Resources announced an updated JORC compliant resource of their Hinda project in Congo-Brazzaville of 531Mt making it the largest measured and indicated phosphate deposit in the world.

    Since you can farm phosphorus simply by harvesting seaweed then burning it, I’m not worried.

    But notice things like 71 / 0.19 = 371 years. And that if for the present “reserves”. Raise the price a little, or improve the tech, and that rapidly balloons out to thousands of years as more ‘resource’ moves to that economically recoverable ‘reserve’ column.

    I think I’ll start to worry about it in, oh, 2300 A.D.

  12. Amazing! Gobsmacking!

  13. Possibly when Peak Phosphorus occurs we’ll start mining graveyards.

    The CF violin looks interesting, but possibly wouldn’t sound so good – the ribs (sides) on a violin are around 1mm thick not 5mm and they resonate too. Getting the tone you want is pretty much a black art, but there are guidelines. I haven’t made a violin (can’t play one well) so I’ve not any experience apart from repairing a couple.

    The varnish used on a musical instrument has quite an effect on the tone. It needs to reflect the sound well – possibly why the Pozzolan glass spheres could be a good filler, though I’d have though this would make the varnish a bit milky. It’s also important to leave the dust inside a violin – I’ve heard of people cleaning the inside to get rid of that pesky dust and noting some new harshness in the tone. Standard French polish doesn’t have the tensile strength over time and cracks, so I ended up using a two-part varnish but it’s still not really perfect. Maybe worthwhile checking on varnish-fillers to reduce the hysteresis losses in the varnish. Seems like Alumina crystals might be good to try if we could get the right shapes (long rather than round). Last coat would need to be unfilled though – hard stuff to rub down and that might in any case need to be done with diamond paste not sandpaper.

    Since the sound depends on the mass per square unit, it’s possible that the cement-filled Basalt fibre could still be close to ideal if some honeycomb structure is used between two outer skins. Surprisingly, this structure has been tried using outer skins of tonewood (Sitka spruce or similar) with a Nomex honeycomb glued in the middle, but for guitars not violins. Said to be of excellent tone. It’s thus worth experimenting with as a material for musical instruments. I won’t be doing this for a while since I’ve got other projects on the go at the moment, but it would be a very interesting experiment.

    I’ve never heard a Strad in the flesh, and the other end of a radio link is maybe nothing like the same.

  14. jeremyp99 says:

    Mother Earth is truly bountiful :-)

  15. E.M.Smith says:

    Looks like a Czech company is making pipes, tiles and abrasion resistant pipes for coal slurry transport out of basalt as well…


    In cooperation with specialist company, special binders for gluing of basalt products were developed. This product range is named EUFIX and it was developed with regard to specific characteristics of basalt products. The adhesives are used mainly for gluing of tiles and sewerage elements.
    History of melting of basalt in EUTIT company dates back to 1951, when – in old plant – casting of tubes intended for mining industry was started (piping transport of coal). The very first product was basalt tube of diameter 180 mm and length 330 mm. First tile was cast in 1953. Then production capacity was approx. 1 thousand tonnes of basalt annually.

    The production range was gradually expanded through casts moulded in sand (bends, tiles) up to tiles cast into metal iron-moulds. Length of tubes increased to 500 mm, which is standard dimension even today.

    In 1957 the raw material source was changed; we started using of basalt from Slapany mine. Chemical and mineralogical composition of basic raw material significantly affects the quality of casts. Basalt from new mine was more suitable from this view as compared to previously used raw material.

    It enabled further development of production and construction of new plant with higher production capacity to enable meeting of growing demand for basalt products. Production in new plant started in 1969.

    This new plant is used for production of EUTIT company up to now. Production technology was subject to many significant improvements and it is improved almost continually. Today production range of EUTIT covers almost 20 thousand of various types of products and annual production of the basalt achieves 15 to 17 thousand tonnes.

    At the start of ninetieth of previous century additional two significant innovations were made. Firstly, the fabrication production program was implemented, i.e. own production of complete abrasive resistant pipes, and secondly, casting of zircon-silicate with trade name EUCOR was launched.

    I’d sometimes wondered how abrasive materials could be shipped via pipe and not sand a hole in it… looks like basalt tile / pipe is one way.

    They also make a load of pavement tiles.

    An interesting paper on using basalt fibers in composites shows it’s about the same as glass, but with a few differences:


    A lot of pages of technical detail. Even a bit of history:

    Basalt is the most common rock found in the earth crust. Russia has unlimited basalt reserves, and only the 30 active quarries have roughly 197 million m3. In the United States, Washington, Oregon and Idaho have thousands of square miles covered with basalt lava. The Columbia Basalt Plateau, located in this region, has about 100,000 square miles covered with basalt. Basalt color is from brown to dull green depending on the ferrous content. Basalt fibers are made from basalt rock by melting the rock at 1300-1700 °C and spinning it. Due to fiber production problems of gradual crystallization of some parts and nonhomogeneous melting, continuous basalt fiber was rarely used until the technology of continuous spinning recently overcame these problems. The first basalt plants were built in USSR in late 1980’s in Sudogda, Ukraine and Georgia. A patent about the basalt fiber production was registered in 1991.

    I like that “most common rock” part ;-)

    And any resource measured in millions of cubic meters or thousands of square miles kind of has that “quantity has a quality all its own” aspect…

    Google Scholar finds a load of similar technical papers:


  16. Larry Ledwick says:

    Nice little product summary sheet in pdf. Reading between the lines on some of the references and uses mentioned, I would not be surprised if the reason it was classified was because of uses in high temperature insulation applications and ballistic protection or non-metallic, non-conductive (can you say stealth) composites.

    Light weight high strength reinforcement for concrete and asphalt would also be useful in rapid construction of military facilities.


  17. p.g.sharrow says:

    The only limiting factors are energy and freedom. The very things that the Elites want to limit the general populations use of! For some reason they believe that if they make the general population poor they will be richer. Fools! The more wealth the general population has the more the rich can accumulate. If allowed, the general population will always create more wealth then they consume. Only the Elites consume wealth without creation. We don’t need them! They need us. The Malthusians greatly fear running out of stuff for their use, they have no idea of how wealth is created. They are parasites that will kill the host to save themselves. Every civilization has been destroyed when the Elites gain total control to enrich and aggrandize themselves at the expense of the general population that they “manage”. Real controlling limits on the Elite grasping for power is the solution to preserving civilization. Central control is not the answer it is the problem. Bureaucrats, Politicians or Oligarchs, they are all part of the same class. Ruling Elites that we don’t really need. How to limit them, is the question? pg

  18. M Simon says:

    I’m looking forward to the “too much entropy” scare.

  19. M Simon says:

    p.g.sharrow says:
    21 December 2014 at 7:59 pm

    How to limit them? Well it will not be done all at once. But we can take a big bite at the edges by ending Prohibition. They have used it to expand the police and it was explicitly used by the Reagan Administration to begin the shredding of the 4th Amendment. And they did this by making the shredding of the 4th (and other Amendments) a “moral” issue.

    So we are now in a state very much like the one described in the Declaration of Independence.

    Just one example from the Declaration:

    For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

    Read the whole thing: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html

  20. M Simon says:

    Another favorite of mine: He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

  21. Jason Calley says:

    The people at Monolithic Domes (out in Texas) have been selling basalt reinforcement for a few years now. Good prices, too!
    http://www.monolithic.org/search?q=basalt and
    Note that basalt is quite a bit lighter than iron so jobs that used to take several people to lay the reinforcement can often be done with one now. They sell bundles (ie, rebar), as well as mesh and loose short fibers.

    There is an old bridge, reinforced concrete, in central Alabama that I have driven past numerous times. It was built shortly after WW1, (it was in fact, the first reinforced concrete bridge in the state) but is closed now.

    It is literally falling apart, with large patches of exposed iron. Not everyone realizes that iron rebar will eventually destroy most concrete structures. The slow, decades long migration of water through the cement will eventually rust the iron, which expands and flakes off the cement which originally covered it. Much US infrastructure, built of reinforced concrete during the 50s, 60s, and 70s is approaching or has already passed designed lifespan. I am optimistic that basalt reinforcement will not only be cheaper and easier to use than iron, but the structures ought to have much longer lifespans.

  22. M Simon says:


    Ferroconcrete boats seem to have very long lifespans. The secret I believe is keeping the iron totally sealed. This requires more cement and makes construction more expensive.

  23. Graeme No.3 says:

    Epoxy sealed rebars are another possibility.
    Note that they are usually coarsely threaded or spiral shape to prevent slippage.

  24. Jason Calley says:

    @ M Simon You make a good point about ferroconcrete, or ferrocement, whichever terminology is used. It usually has a much richer proportion of cement and is also usually painted after construction. Perhaps those two things make for a slower migration of water and slower rusting. Additionally (and this part is a little more speculative) the much finer dispersion of reinforcing wire throughout the cement makes the hulls a bit flexible. (In fact, one fellow made a ferrocement diving board!) Maybe the slight flex slows development of micro-cracks and thus slows the rusting.

    I like ferrocement — but more for land use than water. If the introduction of basalt fiber reinforcing becomes more common. the use of preformed or molded thin shells would become much cheaper and simpler. Currently, some of the cement contractors here in Florida (and I assume elsewhere) use a glass fiber reinforcement for parking slabs and sidewalks. They call the fibers “dog hair”, as in “Yeah, I laid some dog hair cement this morning…” The glass fibers tend to degrade and dissolve in the alkaline environment of the cement, so some contractors have gone to a plastic fiber — I think it is polyethylene.

    @ E.M. You know more about geopolymers than I do… Did the Egyptians maybe dissolve basalt in hot sodium hydroxide to make sodium silicate?

    Oh! Merry Christmas to all!

  25. Larry Ledwick says:

    Marine applications and bridges where they use road salt are also shifting to stainless rebar to avoid spalling from rusting of conventional rebar.

  26. Wayne Job says:

    Hi EM a local company here in my home town makes plaster products used in the mining industry.
    They have developed plaster walls much like concrete slab buildings using fibre glass as reo. they now have many plants in many countries. The plaster can be manufactured from the slag heaps of coal fired power plants. China is setting them up to get rid of their slag heaps that are becoming a problem. There would seem no end to our inventiveness. They can assemble a three story complex in one day with their panels.

  27. Climate Researcher says:

    A review of the new book “CLIMATE CHANGE THE FACTS 2014” by about 24 authors – available here.

    The best and most relevant chapter in this new book is that by William Soon, namely Chapter 4 “Sun Shunned” in which he discusses things such as the eccentricity of the Sun’s orbit that I have also pointed out as the principal regulator of glacial periods.

    The rest of the chapters on the “science” do not discuss the valid physics which is really what does determine Earth’s surface temperatures. Instead the “lukes” all reiterate the false claim that carbon dioxide causes significant warming of the surface by radiative forcing. Nowhere is the assumed process of forcing actually discussed. We just get the usual false paradigm that carbon dioxide traps outward radiation and thus supposedly makes the surface warmer.

    Carbon dioxide does not trap thermal energy. It disposes of what it absorbs either by subsequent radiation or by sensible heat transfer (via molecular collisions) to other air molecules which outnumber it by 2,500 to 1. It also helps nitrogen and oxygen cool through such collisions, and may subsequently radiate the energy thus acquired out of the atmosphere.

    All radiation between regions at different temperatures can only transfer thermal energy from the warmer region (or surface) to a cooler region. This means all heat transfer in the troposphere is generally upwards to cooler regions, with a proportion always getting through to space. There is no thermal energy transferred to a warmer surface. The energy transfer is the other way. The Sun’s radiation is not helped by radiation from the atmosphere which is only sending back some of its own energy now with much lower energy photons. Radiating gases reduce the insulating effect by helping energy to escape faster, and that is why moist air in double glazed windows also reduces the insulating effect, just as does water vapor in the troposphere.

    Nowhere in the book do we see the surface temperature explained correctly using Stefan Boltzmann calculations. No one ever does this, because it is an absolute stumbling block for climatologists. The mean solar flux entering the surface is only about 163W/m^2 after 52% of the solar radiation has been either absorbed or reflected by the surface, clouds or atmosphere. But such a low level of radiation would only produce a very cold -41°C. That’s even colder than what the IPCC claims would be the case, namely -18°C without greenhouse gases. They deduce that by assuming that the whole troposphere would be isothermal due to convective heat transfer, including sensible heat transfers by molecular collision.

    Hence all the “luke” authors fall for the trap of not actually explaining the existing surface temperature, let alone what carbon dioxide might or might not do. How could you work out the latter if you don’t know your starting point? The truth is that you cannot calculate the surface temperature of any planet that has a significant atmosphere by using radiation calculations. Hence all the considerations pertaining to radiation and absorption by carbon dioxide are totally within a wrong paradigm.

    That assumption by the IPCC (and thus by the “lukes” who have written this book) that the troposphere would be isothermal was rubbished in the 19th century by some physicists who understood the process described in statements of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. It is still being rubbished to this day, and even more so, now that physicists realise that the Second Law is all about entropy increasing to the point where there are no unbalanced energy potentials. In a gravitational field this state of thermodynamic equilibrium is attained when all the energy potentials involving gravitational potential energy, kinetic energy and radiative energy balance out. That is when the environmental temperature gradient is attained, and the very fact that it exists enables us to explain all planetary surface temperatures (and the required energy flows) without the slightest reference to back radiation, let alone trace gases like carbon dioxide. Only water vapor has a significant effect in lowering that gradient because of its radiating properties. It thus cools the surface, and that puts a big spanner in the works for the IPCC et al.

  28. iloveag says:

    Fantastic post! I look forward to reading more.

    I give speeches in which I talk about the “ultimate resource” being man’s ingenuity and inventiveness. You will be a wonderful resource yourself!! ;-)

    — Janet Thompson

  29. iloveag says:

    And now I’ve read all the comments, I’m even more excited! What a group if minds gathered here!!

  30. Pingback: Unlimiting Resources – Basalt for a High Tech Stone Age « iloveag

  31. cdquarles says:

    @ Jason,

    That bridge looks familiar, but I can’t place it now. I’m getting old.

    About the Egyptians making sodium silicate from sodium hydroxide, I suspect they used ‘potash’ which is mostly potassium carbonate. Heating that gives you potassium oxide. That would pull water out of the air and yield potassium hydroxide. Hmm. Now you have me thinking about mixing wood ash, ground bone, and sand and putting that into a kiln.

  32. cdquarles says:

    Update: If that is the old US 231 bridge in Ozark, I have seen that bridge (there used to be a fair number of similar bridges throughout the state; but most have been replaced now). I want to say that there was a bridge like that in downtown Birmingham, which was replaced some 10 to 20 years ago. A lot of the old concrete and steel truss river bridges likewise have been replaced (the one over the Coosa at Childersburg was replaced carrying auto traffic but the one carrying rail freight is still there).

    PS: I would not consider Ozark as Central, AL. I’d call that LA (local joke for South Alabama), but I guess you could call it south-central. US 280/US 231 is a major ‘Spring Break’ beach route to FL, in this case, to Destin and Panama City. Pensacola is further west and would be on the US 31 route. There is also US 331, but I’m far less familiar with that one. US 431 would work for the folk traveling near the AL/GA border.

  33. Jason Calley says:

    @ cdquarles “If that is the old US 231 bridge in Ozark, I have seen that bridge”.

    Yes, that is it — and you are correct, it is more south Alabama than central. Iron and portland cement make a good match, but not perfect. Roughly a human lifespan unless special precautions are taken. The basalt reinforcing might be a really good substitute. If you did basalt reinforcing with a geopolymer binder, I would think that lifespan would be at least in the multiple hundreds of years, maybe even multiple thousands.

  34. E.M.Smith says:

    @Larry Ledwick:

    I’d wondered about use in ballistic protection products. The idea of a very light and aggressive chemical resistant construction also has value ( less weight, more stuff per unit of logistics…).

    Maybe it’s part of the Chobham magic dust…

    Stainless rebar would be much more expensive than Basalt… Would be a heck of a product, though ;-)


    IMHO it isn’t about creating wealth, it is about assuring control of power.

    To the extent that anyone else gets more wealth or self control, those presently in charge have less control over them, so don’t like it. Individual freedom is a direct risk and detractor from the power of those at the top… that’s why they don’t like a free and independent middle class.

    @M. Simon:

    That’s the game. Not changed much in hundreds (or thousands?) of years…

    @Jason Calley:

    Perhaps we can enter an era where 100+ year concrete structures are possible. WITH rebar. (Note that many old Roman concrete structures are already older than that, but lacked iron. They used pots to create a kind of light weight reinforcing…)

    Basalt has other metals in it that would make it poor for making sodium silicate. Using simple sand and lye would be easier and better.

    @Wayne Job:

    Hmmm…. Slag makes a very nice cement / concrete ingredient. That “plaster” might just be a light cement… Interesting idea. Coal plant slag, or ‘cinders’, have been used in cement slabs for a long time. Some LEED buildings use it as a part of their recycle. Then there are ‘cinder blocks’… the universal wall making material…

    @Climate Researcher:

    Oh boy, more to read! ;-)

    Nice comment, though likely to be lost on this thread as it is not related to materials…


    There’s a couple of older posts you will likely enjoy too. Wander through the list at the bottom of the article. Unlimited energy, materials, food, housing, etc. …


    Interesting formula. I’ve thought that the Egyptians likely discovered “liquid stone” as a byproduct of their use of Natron in embalming and the production of Faience and similar heated mineral products. Maybe with some slag from metal refining added in and some wood ash heaps where all the slag and trash were tossed.

    So some ashes, clay dust, natron or burned lime… then that leads to alkali catalyzed liquid stone. I am playing with that, but very slowly, as there is already a recreation of liquid stone techniques, so I’m not going to have a giant discovery, at most a “here’s the old way” moment.


    I’d love to make a building with high cement content and lots of fine basalt and rebar. Then see if it was still around in a few hundred years… Of course, that would require finding a way for me to be around in a few hundred years … ;-)

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