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What is Particle Size Analysis?

Particle size analysis: it sounds tricky, but mark our words, it’s something that everyone would be well-served learning more about. Whether you realise it or not, particle size analysis plays an extremely important role in many of the products we use, consume and interact with in our everyday lives. In this article, we’re going to offer you a brief introduction to particle size analysis, listing some of its most common applications as well as its most established methods. We’ll also take a look at zeta potential, a measurement that is often used along side particle size analysis.

What is particle size analysis?

There are a huge number of industries which rely on methods of particle size analysis to ensure products are of the highest quality. From powders to creams, gels, lotions, and other mixtures, the size and characteristics of the particles contained within can have dramatic effects on properties such as stability, appearance, flow and chemical reactivity. As a result, a highly important industry has developed centred on particle size analysis, with constant innovation in methods that provide more and more accurate ways of analysing particle size.

What are the applications of particle size analysis?

As we’ve already mentioned, the applications of particle size analysis are numerous; too numerous to mention here. However, some of the industries that rely heavily on the understanding of particle size distribution include:

  • The cosmetics industry
  • The pharmaceutical industry
  • The cement industry
  • The food and beverage industry
  • The plastics industry
  • The pigments and inks industry
  • The ceramics industry
  • The metal powders industry

What are some common particle size analysis methods?

Probably the most popular method of particle size analysis is laser diffraction , which involves particles being illuminated by a laser beam, causing the light to be scattered in various directions. The scattering patterns are then measured with specially-designed detectors and particle size distribution can be calculated from this data. For example, larger particles bring about a higher intensity of scattering at lower angles to the beam, while smaller particles offer a low intensity of scattering at higher angles.

Laser diffraction has the advantage of offering real-time particle analysis that allows for several benefits, including:

  • Increased return of investment
  • Lower energy consumption
  • Better troubleshooting
  • Increased efficiency
  • Reduced operator risk

What is Zeta Potential?

When measuring particle size distribution, it’s also important to consider the particle’s zeta potential or ‘charge’ measurement. Most particles will gain a charge on their surface when dispersed in an aqueous system. These charges change the distribution of the surrounding ions, leaving a layer around the particle that does not have the same properties as the rest of the solution. Zeta potential determines how particles interact within solution and measurement of zetapotential can give valuable insight into stability and reactivity of a material.