Sciencemadness Discussion Board

Extracting useful compounds from dirt

SeaDonkey - 21-6-2010 at 08:15

I know this probably sounds ridiculous but I have a bit of a survivalist mentality and I am constantly thinking about what I would do in a survival situation where the comforts of the modern world are no longer available. Obviously earth is an abundant substance which if I'm not mistaken is composed mainly of silicon dioxide. Depending on the type of soil there may be all sorts of different substances present. I'm going to research this but if anyone has any useful information to share regarding this it'd be greatly appreciated.

Contrabasso - 21-6-2010 at 08:37

EVERYTHING we want comes from the earth with nitrogen and oxygen coming from the atmosphere.

If it's a known element it is natural or made from a natural element. Plants make a huge variety of compounds from food to narcotics to poisons.

gardenvariety - 21-6-2010 at 09:42

"If it's a known element it is natural or made from a natural element. Plants make a huge variety of compounds from food to narcotics to poisons."

That. If you want precursors, plant a garden.

unionised - 21-6-2010 at 10:24

You can get lots of things from dirt; the trick is to find the right sort of dirt. For example if you find the dirt normally referred to as "gold ore"...

Wizzard - 21-6-2010 at 12:23

Don't forget pitchblende and raw unobtaininite :)

kclo4 - 21-6-2010 at 12:36

You ought to look up nitre beds -- I believe there are a few German pamphlets around that explain how to make them, and extract potassium nitrate. This would especially be useful in a survivalist situation I would think - at least more so than say, something like calcium carbonate, which would be easily obtainable.

Don't forget that potassium carbonate, as well as a lot of other basic (as in, > & pH) compounds can be obtained from ashes.

The real problem is probably finding a container in nature that can be heated high enough to be useful for anything, though, I've seen decent amounts of clay around in my area but i don't know if it can be heated after it is dried.

lester - 7-7-2010 at 23:39

Im looking at making my own Alumina from kaolin as well as looking for local pipe clay and fire clay sources. That's dirt essentially. I want to use it for various furnace and kiln projects.
Anyway the Alumina can be extracted from the Alumosilicate try checking patents for extraction methods.
Its only because a 25 kilo bag costs me AUD$125 from a pottery supplier plus freight charges that im considering this and i have a number of projects im going to do (my nickname should be gunna). I have calcium Aluminate /cement fondue . Add some hydrogen peroxide and manganese oxide and you can make a lightweight aerated refractory product with high Alumina content. If you use dead burnt kaolin or Alumina the shrinkage rates are minimal and the refractory temperature tolerance can be improved. And the Alumina can be added to other clays to make it more refractory. Not my ideas of course just ideas from US4342729 US3944425 US3365273
Ideally id like a process that will use local pipeclay i have in the area instead of local kaolin from a farm store.
And of course Id like the process to not create a lot of waste to dispose of but ideally it creates a item of value like potash or a product with fertiliser or soil improvement properties.

Refractory materials are a basic requirement for many further technologies. You then have the ability to make kilns and furnaces, molds and apparatus . Early manufacture of things like sulphuric acid used heavy earthenware retorts as well as reactors, alembics and distillation apparatus made from clays.
Of course its easier to buy sulfuric acid in a 25litre container today
I still like to possess the knowledge of how it was done and is done today.
The techniques still translate in to the ability to build scientific apparatus like if you were making a large porcelain vacuum rectifier or large vacuum tubes or electron guns and modern electromechanical devices.

quicksilver - 8-7-2010 at 14:06

The soil in some areas is a significant bio-repository for anthrax. In fact, for simple cultures in many undergraduate-level universities, using a clean
Petri- dish and agar, projects have often turned up nightmarish materiel in soil samples.

Surface mining & those associated with moving surface water have found as much gold in soil and moving fresh water soil accumulations as underground.

The same is often reported for diamonds, emerald, & rubies in African mining concerns. Soil is simply an accumulation of the local sand (& it's associated products) and the biological material that results from a variety of conditions & processes. So one could say with a degree of confidence that soil has many of the traits of subsurface materiel with the added biological dimension.

[Edited on 8-7-2010 by quicksilver]

Sedit - 8-7-2010 at 19:28

Good place to check out

Gives a rough idea.

I wul be more interested in a survival stand point in what can be extracted from ones excretements or those of dead plants then directly from the earth. Sounds nasty but they are both factorys at concentating various substances you would have a hard time getting otherwise.

All in all those if it be directly from the ground itself I would have to say Iron and Clay are far and wide the most useful substances you will get out of the ground because with them you will have the ability to make tools for better survival. One should focus on Fe extraction more then anything.

grndpndr - 11-7-2010 at 14:46

I would expect there would be more than adequate scrap iron intially available the ability to work it would be key.Depending on surviving populations and need iron mining might be redundant for some hundreds of years. The ability to smith that scrap into useable post (whatever)items is the problem.Darn few good blacksmiths hereabouts or even farmers in the grainbelts able to farm w/o commercial fertilizers,fuel and seed.Unfortunately that hybrid seeds not much good w/o pesticides,fert, etc.Hey it may seem of track but doesnt it all boil down to chem?FWIW?

Back to the beginning of basic specialization.Depending on the level of expected SHTF scenarios.Blacksmith forging the single blade horse (etc) drawn plough,barnyard fertilizer,and hopefully seed that hasnt been genetically altered to depend on modern fert,pesticides.Gotta eat.:cool:

[Edited on 11-7-2010 by grndpndr]

[Edited on 11-7-2010 by grndpndr]

hissingnoise - 3-3-2011 at 05:54

Consider the soil scientist --- he is like the cow in the verdant field; in every direction he looks, he sees huge quantities of the very stuff that sustains him!

Bot0nist - 3-3-2011 at 07:21

KNO<sub>3</sub> can be extracted from manurial soil using wood ash(for potassium carbonate I think). A useful purity can be obtained by recrystallization using ethanol to precipitate out the less soluble salts. Make sure the soil has been protected from direct rainfall.

hissingnoise - 3-3-2011 at 07:43

The inner walls of old housing for livestock will generally have an efflorescence of fairly pure KNO<sub>3</sub> glistening there.

Bot0nist - 3-3-2011 at 08:32

I once found an old collapsed barn in an overgrown pine grove. The barn had collapsed in such a way that the roof (Tin I guess) was suspended about 1/1/2 to 2 feet off the ground. It looked to be at least 50-70 years old, at least. Underneath the roofing was a bunch of dusty soil and decomposed hay and it all had a fine layer of visible salts on the surface. I used the 55 gal drum method and got a good bit of nitrate salts when I was finished. I assume the barn had housed horses or livestock, which must have contributed to the large deposits of nitrates.

The finished product worked great in ball milled black powder after a few recrystallizations. I had to increase the proportion of it to obtain suitable burn speeds though. I attributed this to impurities that I couldn't (with my current know how;)) purify it any further.

[Edited on 3-3-2011 by Bot0nist]

hissingnoise - 3-3-2011 at 09:06

In olden times, before Indian saltpeter, farmers were required to build extensive banks of manure interspersed with soil for the production of KNO<sub>3</sub>.
It was then, as was the cultivation of hemp, strictly compulsory!

Bot0nist - 3-3-2011 at 13:15

Yeah, It was a good business for governments to be in back then. Shit, that is.

hissingnoise - 3-3-2011 at 13:24

Aye, lad! Where there's muck, there's brass!
Where there's guano deposits there's gold . . .