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 Post subject: hydroton
PostPosted: Dec 15th, '09, 06:00 
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I am just curious, anybody have a clue as to how this stuff is made?


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 Post subject: Re: hydroton
PostPosted: Dec 15th, '09, 07:34 
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Only vaguely;

The clay goes through a granulation process, though I'm unsure as to what that involves. Possibly pushed through a grate/sieve and then rolled or tumbled.

It is then dried.

Then it is microwaved which is where the expansion occurs.

Cooled, packaged and ultimately sold to us and much of the building and construction industry.

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 Post subject: Re: hydroton
PostPosted: Dec 15th, '09, 08:55 
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Seriously, this cant be healthy.
Seriously, this cant be healthy.
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Fired in a rotating kiln at about 1200 degrees C....

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 Post subject: Re: hydroton
PostPosted: Dec 15th, '09, 09:04 
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I read somewhere that it is the "popcorn" of the clay world, small pieces get super heated and "pop" to the round balls, just like popcorn.

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 Post subject: Re: hydroton
PostPosted: Dec 15th, '09, 09:13 
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RupertofOZ wrote:
Fired in a rotating kiln at about 1200 degrees C....


Yep, probably multiple ways.

I came across a patent some months back for somebody doing it in successfully in industrial microwave ovens.

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 Post subject: Re: hydroton
PostPosted: Dec 16th, '09, 16:25 
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The hydroton starts out as a dry mix of material and is metered into a machine called a pan granulator.
A fine spray of liquid sometimes with a binding agent is sprayed onto the material on the rotating pan.
The pan is 1.5metre but can be up to 3 metres in diameter and 200 mm deep and set at an angle.
The material rolls into small granules as it is sprayed and the angle determines the size at which they leave the pan.
They are then fed into a fluidised bed dryer or sometimes a rotating drum which is gas fired to dry them.
I manufactured several of these machines for a chemical company that made granulated chemical approx 1 mm in diameter during the 90's.
They can also be made in a pin agglomerator but pan granulation is the most cost effective for large granules.
Gavin @ eagle rota moulding


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 Post subject: Re: hydroton
PostPosted: Jan 14th, '10, 01:36 
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I'm using an expanded clay in my GBS. But it is not hydroton. The stuff I have is fired clay pebbles that are normally used in the building of concrete floors and ceilings in high rises for lightness.

Generally, I like it because it is light, I imagine that it is better for bacteria to reside (although, that is not so terribly critical for me). What seems a mixed blessing is that it wicks water to the point in the summer that I loose about 5% of my water a day, but it significantly cools the water too. In the winter, it does the same thing but the moisture condenses on the greenhouse and blocks the light (I'm putting styro sheets on the gravel beds to stop this flow of moisture and stabilize temps better).

What are the benefits of hydroton over river gravel?

m

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 Post subject: Re: hydroton
PostPosted: Jan 14th, '10, 07:05 
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I do know that even without water running over them in the hot summer sun I put the temp probe outside under shade 36deg, the clay was in full sun just under the clay surface 30deg, at bottom of clay 24deg..
So that is a 12degree difference between outside under shade to bottom of growbed(270mm).... I will check today with water running the temp difference


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 Post subject: Re: hydroton
PostPosted: Jan 14th, '10, 08:24 
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mornings wrote:
Generally, I like it because it is light, I imagine that it is better for bacteria to reside (although, that is not so terribly critical for me). What seems a mixed blessing is that it wicks water to the point in the summer that I loose about 5% of my water a day, but it significantly cools the water too. In the winter, it does the same thing but the moisture condenses on the greenhouse and blocks the light (I'm putting styro sheets on the gravel beds to stop this flow of moisture and stabilize temps better).

I would be curious to know how much of the "evaporation" is actually evaporation from the clay balls, I expect much of it is actually being transpired by the plants.

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What are the benefits of hydroton over river gravel?

m


Benefits
lighter weight
good surface area
easy to plant in

drawbacks
costs more
less support for top heavy plants

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 Post subject: Re: hydroton
PostPosted: Jan 14th, '10, 09:02 
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mornings wrote:
What seems a mixed blessing is that it wicks water to the point in the summer that I loose about 5% of my water a day, but it significantly cools the water too. In the winter, it does the same thing but the moisture condenses on the greenhouse ...

Might need some more qualification Mornings...like TCL, I'd suspect that the losses are due to transpiration from plant leaf surface... rather than evaporation...

And this would seem to be indicated by your reference to condensation in winter...

But I'm a little confused as to the "wicking" effect that you postulate... are you semi-filling your beds.... and observing a "wicking effect"... or flood & draining...

Are the beds unplanted... and flooded to near surface level.... in which case, evaporation could be a factor... although I'd suspect an eventual algael growth to occur....

And if above, I'm at a complete loss to understand how any significant "cooling" could occur...

Even a planted growbed, in a flood & drain configuration... attract an ambient heat gain... while in unplanted growbeds, that ambient heat gain can be significant.... as it is in most NFT hydroponic situations...

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 Post subject: Re: hydroton
PostPosted: Jan 14th, '10, 22:52 
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TC, Rup,

I have to admit, I'm working with incomplete data -- or worse, the data can be rationalized many ways. But here's what I know, sorta.

1) I have minimal leaks
2) I loose water about 5% a day, which, from every one I've talked to is very high. I've been told to expect 1 - 2%.
3) I have a friend not too far south of me (north to you, Rup, I guess) who has a similar system with regular gravel who has a much lower evap rate and water temps 5 to 8 degree F higher than mine.

Obviously, if these last are wrong, so are all my conclusions.

But if that much evaporation takes place, summer or winter, heat is leaving. In the winter it is the same only differnt. With the water being relative warm, as greenhouse air temps drop, humidity rises to maximum and severe condensation forms on inner greenhouse. Again, heat is leaving the water in the beds.

Sure, it could be plants, I run a full load most of the time, but so does my friend without the same problems. But only a few plants are growing now as I have removed them to place a styro sheet over gravel. I can't tell that removal off plants had any effect on heat and moisture. What has slowed it considerably is the covering with styro and the flood drain cycle rate. I used to cycle every hour -- now I do it every 6 hours. (without fish, all that cycling is unnecessary).
Image

Initially, I thought this evap rate was a virtue. Now, I've decided there are much better ways to control water temps.

The stuff is fairly cheap but i won't use it in the future. (you can see it on page 6, I think, of the worm thread) First, because of the evap and, second, because it's kinda hard on the worms when handling them in the gravel.

I'm building a separate bed just for worms (it'll take another month or so to implement) but I will use a smoother river rock.

It's just that I've seen a lot of the hydroton and wondered if it suffers the same problems.

Thanks, both of you.

m

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 Post subject: Re: hydroton
PostPosted: Jan 15th, '10, 00:04 
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I suspect that the hydroton does have a stronger wicking or capilary effect than smooth river gravel. But if you are only flooding deep enough that the top surface of the media stays dry, I don't expect that the difference between the two due to evaporation from within the media beds should be all that different.

The air/climate one is in, will have a huge effect on evaporation and simply being on a differently sloping hill can definitely affect humidity and therefore evaporation. In an arid location, a huge amount of cooling can be seen from evaporation. Here in my location, not so much.

Comparing your system and the friends system some distance away probably isn't gonna give you accurate enough data to base a sound theory on. However, any excuse to use the cheaper river gravel rather than spending big money on expanded clay, is fine in my book.

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 Post subject: Re: hydroton
PostPosted: Jan 29th, '10, 21:59 
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Has the size of the media been discussed?
I've been working with expanded shale and it is smaller than Hydroton by a factor of 3 or more. You have more pebbles touching each other within the same volume. Where they touch, and where they are no more than 1/8 inch apart, surface tension holds water up in contact with the media and the air. Since the media is porous, I surmise that the additional surface tension means more opportunity (than in Hydroton) for capillary action to occur.
So yeah, I would expect if your LECA is smaller than clay balls, you would see wicking that does not occur in nonporous river rock, and wicking to a greater extent than the larger (and spherical) Hydroton.

I am at the point of ordering some expanded shale for my first Large growbeds and may just mix in some same-sized rock gravel to break up the wicking. Test with 1:1 in a growbed, 1:2 (rock:Expanded) in another. If you can call 300 gallons x2 a 'test.'

Or be prepared to top off with rainwater to the extent needed.

Thanks for bringing this up, it does seem like a mixed blessing in hot climates.

Rick

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 Post subject: Re: hydroton
PostPosted: Jan 29th, '10, 22:25 
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Rick, how much smaller is "smaller"... I wouldn't go a media size less than 15mm - 20mm...

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 Post subject: Re: hydroton
PostPosted: Jan 29th, '10, 22:48 
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RupertofOZ wrote:
Rick, how much smaller is "smaller"... I wouldn't go a media size less than 15mm - 20mm...


I just took a ruler to a few pieces. Most seem to be flat with approx dimensions of 10mm x 10mm x 5mm - some a little bigger, some smaller. Rupe, are you concerned about clogging, poor drainage, or both?

Thanks
Mark

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