Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Identifying Composition of Sand
Name: Diedre K. 
Status: Student
Age: 15
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: August 2, 2004


Question:
Hello, my name is Dierdre K., and I thank you for taking the time to read my query. I have a question about volcanic sand. Recently, I went to Hawaii and collected a film canister of each of the following sands: green (Ka Lae, Hawaii), black (Punalu'u, Hawaii), red (Hana, Maui), as well as white and grey sand samples from Kauai and Oahu. It would be easy to go onto the Internet and look up the composition of each, but I would like to find it myself, as well as the percentage of the different materials in the sand samples I have. I am only in tenth grade and do not have many tools readily available for use. Do you have any suggestions for me? Is this project way over my head?



Replies:
The chemical analysis of minerals (e.g. sand) is not an easy project and would require more equipment and laboratory know how than you are likely to have. There is certainly nothing demeaning about using what is already in the literature (on line or in books). In fact, scientists usually start with a literature search to find out what is already known about a subject, so you would only be following good scientific technique. You might be able to enhance your project if you can obtain use of a low power top-lighted microscope to enlarge the grain sizes for comparison. You could also use a "black light" to see if any of the sands fluoresce under ultraviolet irradiation. There is a lot you can do, but a chemical analysis would be out of reach of the resources you probably have available.

Vince Calder



Click here to return to the Environmental and Earth Science Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (help@newton.dep.anl.gov), or at Argonne's Educational Programs

NEWTON AND ASK A SCIENTIST
Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory