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| — Sedimentary Rock —|
|Prepared sample of sandstone|
|Typically quartz and/or feldspar (on earth); lithic fragments are also common. Other minerals may be found in particularly immature sandstone.|
This article is about the geological rock type. For other uses, see Sandstone (disambiguation).
Sandstone (sometimes known as arenite) is a sedimentary rock composed mainly of sand-sized minerals or rock grains. Most sandstone is composed of quartz and/or feldspar because these are the most common minerals in the Earth's crust. Like sand, sandstone may be any color, but the most common colors are tan, brown, yellow, red, gray and white. Since sandstone beds often form highly visible cliffs and other topographic features, certain colors of sandstone have been strongly identified with certain regions.
Some sandstones are resistant to weathering, yet are easy to work. This makes sandstone a common building and paving material. However, some that have been used in the past, such as the Collyhurst sandstone used in North West England, have been found less resistant, necessitating repair and replacement in older buildings. Because of the hardness of the individual grains, uniformity of grain size and friability of their structure, some types of sandstone are excellent materials from which to make grindstones, for sharpening blades and other implements. Non-friable sandstone can be used to make grindstones for grinding grain, e.g., gritstone.
Rock formations that are primarily composed of sandstone usually allow percolation of water and other fluids and are porous enough to store large quantities, making them valuable aquifers and petroleum reservoirs. Fine-grained aquifers, such as sandstones, are more apt to filter out pollutants from the surface than are rocks with cracks and crevices, such as limestone or other rocks fractured by seismic activity.
Sand from Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
. These are grains of quartz
with a hematite
coating providing the orange color. Scale bar is 1.0 mm.
Millet-Seed sandstone macro (size: ~4 cm or ~1.6 in).
Sandstones are clastic in origin (as opposed to either organic, like chalk and coal, or chemical, like gypsum and jasper). They are formed from cemented grains that may either be fragments of a pre-existing rock or be mono-minerallic crystals. The cements binding these grains together are typically calcite, clays and silica. Grain sizes in sands are defined (in geology) within the range of 0.0625 mm to 2 mm (0.002-0.079 inches). Clays and sediments with smaller grain sizes not visible with the naked eye, including siltstones and shales, are typically called argillaceous sediments; rocks with larger grain sizes, including breccias and conglomerates are termed rudaceous sediments.
Red sandstone interior of Lower Antelope Canyon
, worn smooth by erosion from flash flooding
over millions of years.
The formation of sandstone involves two principal stages. First, a layer or layers of sand accumulates as the result of sedimentation, either from water (as in a river, lake, or sea) or from air (as in a desert). Typically, sedimentation occurs by the sand settling out from suspension; i.e., ceasing to be rolled or bounced along the bottom of a body of water (e.g., seas or rivers) or ground surface (e.g., in a desert or erg). Finally, once it has accumulated, the sand becomes sandstone when it is compacted by pressure of overlying deposits and cemented by the precipitation of minerals within the pore spaces between sand grains.
The most common cementing materials are silica and calcium carbonate, which are often derived either from dissolution or from alteration of the sand after it was buried. Colors will usually be tan or yellow (from a blend of the clear quartz with the dark amber feldspar content of the sand). A predominant additional colorant in the southwestern United States is iron oxide, which imparts reddish tints ranging from pink to dark red (terracotta), with additional manganese imparting a purplish hue. Red sandstones are also seen in the Southwest and West of England and Wales, as well as central Europe and Mongolia. The regularity of the latter favors use as a source for masonry, either as a primary building material or as a facing stone, over other construction.
The environment where it is deposited is crucial in determining the characteristics of the resulting sandstone, which, in finer detail, include its grain size, sorting and composition and, in more general detail, include the rock geometry and sedimentary structures. Principal environments of deposition may be split between terrestrial and marine, as illustrated by the following broad groupings:
Sandstone near Stadtroda
- Rivers (levees, point bars, channel sands)
- Alluvial fans
- Glacial outwash
- Deserts (sand dunes and ergs)
- Beach and shoreface sands
- Tidal flats
- Offshore bars and sand waves
- Storm deposits (tempestites)
- Turbidites (submarine channels and fans)
Sandstone composed mainly of quartz grains
Photomicrograph of a volcanic sand grain
; upper picture is plane-polarized light, bottom picture is cross-polarized light, scale box at left-center is 0.25 millimeter
. This type of grain would be a main component of a lithic sandstone.
Sandstones fall into several major groups based on their mineralogy and texture. Below is a partial list of common sandstone types.
- quartz arenites are made up almost entirely of quartz grains, usually well sorted and rounded. These pure quartz sands result from extensive weathering that occurred before and during transport and removed everything but quartz, the most stable mineral. They are common in beach environments.
- arkoses are more than 25 percent feldspar. The grains tend to be poorly rounded and less well sorted than those of pure quartz sandstones. These feldspar-rich sandstones come from rapidly eroding granitic and metamorphic terrains where chemical weathering is subordinate to physical weathering.
- lithic sandstones contain many lithic fragments derived from fine-grained rocks, mostly shales, volcanic rocks, and fine-grained metamorphic rocks.
- graywacke is a heterogeneous mixture of lithic fragments and angular grains of quartz and feldspar, and/or grains surrounded by a fine-grained clay matrix. Much of this matrix is formed by relatively soft fragments, such as shale and some volcanic rocks, that are chemically altered and physically compacted after deep burial of the sandstone formation.
- Eolianite is a term used for a rock which is composed of sand grains that show signs of significant transportation by wind. These have usually been deposited in desert environments. They are commonly extremely well sorted and rich in quartz.
- Oolite is more a limestone than a sandstone, but is made sand-sized carbonate ooids, and is common in saline beaches with gentle wave action.
Sandstone composition is (generally) based on the make up of the framework, or sand-sized grains in the sandstone. This is typically done by point-counting a thin section of the sandstone using a method like the Gazzi-Dickinson Method. The composition of a sandstone can have important information regarding the genesis of the sediment when used with QFL diagrams.
According to the USGS, U.S. sandstone production in 2005 was 192,000 metric tons worth $24.3 million, the largest component of which was the 121,000 metric tons worth $9.75 million of flagstone or dimension stone.
Sandstone with iron oxide bands
A sandstone quarry at Jodhpur, India
A natural sandstone formation composed of cemented quartz sand
Sandstone patterns on a chamber wall in Petra
Arbroath Abbey, showing distinctive sandstone coloring
Arches National Park Sandstone landscape
Sandstone formation, Eilat Massif, Israel
A modern residence with sandstone external veneer
Fossil shells in sandstone
Sandstone-based building architecture, Hawa Mahal in Jaipur, India
A sandstone building (with granite columns) in Sydney, Australia
Richmond Bridge, Sandstone, Australia
Berea sandstone Auglaize County courthouse in Wapakoneta, Ohio
St Ann's Church, Manchester: Originally built in 1712 with Collyhurst sandstone, much of which has required repair or replacement.
Bibi Ka Maqbara: Known as the Poor Man's Taj Mahal, this tomb is made of sandstone except for the marble dome.
Outcrop of the Silurian Tuscarora Formation, Centre County, Pennsylvania, a ridge-forming sandstone in the Appalachian Mountains.
Sandstone pavers with iron oxide patterns mined from the Kimberley cover the large area of Federation Square in Melbourne.
Humayun's Tomb made with red sandstone, in 1571, Delhi, India
Bete Giyorgis, among many monolithic churches carved from red sandstone during the 12th and 13th centuries in Lalibela, Ethiopia.
- ^ Edensor, T. & Drew, I. Building stone in the City of Manchester: St Ann's Church
- ^ a b "A Basic Sedimentary Rock Classification", L.S. Fichter, Department of Geology/Environmental Science, James Madison University (JMU), Harrisonburg, Virginia, October 2000, webpage: JMU-sed-classif (accessed: March 2009): separates clastic, chemical & biochemical (organic).
- ^ USGS 2005 Minerals Yearbook (see below: References).
- Boggs, J.R., 2000, Principles of sedimentology and stratigraphy, 3rd ed. Toronto: Merril Publishing Company. ISBN 0-13-099696-3.
- Folk, R.L., 1965, Petrology of sedimentary rocks PDF version. Austin: Hemphill’s Bookstore. 2nd ed. 1981, ISBN 0-914696-14-9.
- Pettijohn, F.J., P.E. Potter and R. Siever, 1987, Sand and sandstone, 2nd ed. Springer-Verlag. ISBN 0-387-96350-2.
- Scholle, P.A., 1978, A Color illustrated guide to constituents, textures, cements, and porosities of sandstones and associated rocks, American Association of Petroleum Geologists Memoir no. 28. ISBN 0-89181-304-7.
- Scholle, P.A., and D. Spearing, 1982, Sandstone depositional environments: clastic terrigenous sediments , American Association of Petroleum Geologists Memoir no. 31. ISBN 0-89181-307-1.
- USGS Minerals Yearbook: Stone, Dimension, Thomas P. Dolley, U.S. Dept. of the Interior, 2005 (format: PDF).