Particle Size Distribution Analysis – An Overview

Within the context of particle science, particle size analysis refers to determination of size, range and/or mean size of particles present. This analysis is crucial for research and commercial applications in a number of industries and a wide variety of applications. In the chemical industry, when powders form one or more of the reactants, precise constitution of the powder is vital to ensure consistency. In the construction industry, particularly road building, aggregates must be optimised for maximum strength and durability. 

Mining necessitates precise particle analysis to ensure efficient production and agriculture and forestry rely on particle counting to prevent contamination and maintain quality. Choice of analytical method depends on the material under investigation and how the result is to be applied.

Sieving is one of the most straightforward approaches; using a series of graduated sieves many types of organic and non-organic materials – for example seeds, grain, clays, sands or coal, can be analysed. Use of techniques such as sonic sieving and air jet sieving will offer more options for finer powders.

Dynamic light scattering can be applied to particles in suspension, or polymers in solution, and relies on the scattering of a monochromatic coherent light source, such as a laser. Another optical approach involves dynamic image processing whereby particles flow past a detector to give information about particle size and shape. Acoustic spectroscopy uses ultrasound for collecting information on dispersed particles in a fluid.