An overview of micron-ranged particle sizing techniques

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Courtesy of Particle Technology Labs

Given the wide range of particle sizing technologies and instrumentation on the market, the choice of measurement technique can be daunting, especially if one is unfamiliar with the options available. Once introduced and familiar with an individual technique, it can be easy to continue to choose it by default. While this is certainly understandable, it may prove a disservice when the technique is not optimal for the sample type.

When the particle size of a sample needs to be determined, there are many factors that influence the choice of technique that is used. If the sample type has been analyzed previously, it is likely that the same technique will be employed again, especially when a method has been established in a regulated environment. However, if the sample type has never been analyzed, the choice of technique may be influenced by a variety of factors. One of these factors may include instrument availability; for example, if a company only has access to laser diffraction instrumentation, it may be strongly inclined toward laser diffraction analysis. In a related sense, familiarity with methodology may play a key role; if a company is accustomed to working with basic sieves, it may be a challenging leap for them to choose the more complex electrozone technique. When there is a choice of technique, the cost, ease, and speed of analytical methodology may represent important factors in the decision-making process from a business standpoint. While these factors hold importance and are very' much justifiable in a practical sense, they may overlook the optimum choice of technique for the given sample type from a scientific perspective.

This discussion addresses several particle size characterization techniques for micron-ranged particle size distributions. It describes some of the considerations behind choosing each technique by providing examples of their potential benefits and disadvantages for certain sample types. By no means is this article all-inclusive. Rather, it contains a brief overview of a few of the more common techniques commercially available. It presents specific situations where the chosen technique adversely or positively affects the results with respect to the sample properties, and it aims to serve as an introduction to the decision-making process toward choosing the appropriate particle sizing instrumentation and methodology.

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