Although man's environment, from the interstellar dust to the earth beneathhis feet, is composed of finely divided material his knowledge of theproperties of such material is surprisingly slight. For many years scientistshave accepted that matter can exist as solids, liquids or gases: Although thedividing line between the states may often be rather blurred; this classificationhas been upset by powders which at rest are solids, when aerated may behaveas liquids and when suspended in a gas take on some of the properties of the
Superficially one would consider DuPont to be a chemical company butthis is a misconception. Two-thirds of DuPont's products are sold in the formof powders and eighty percent, contain powders. It is therefore essential thatemployees of this and similar companies should have an understanding ofpowder properties and behaviour.It is now widely recognised that powder technology is a field of study in itsown right. The industrial applications of this new science are far reaching.The size of fine particles affects the properties of
powder in many ways. Forexample, it determines the setting time for cement, the hiding power ofpigments, the activity of chemical catalysts, the taste of food, the potency ofdrugs and the sintering shrinkage of metallurgical powders. Particle sizemeasurement is to powder technology as thermometry is to the study of heat.In making a decision on which particle sizing technique to us, the analystmust consider the purpose of the analysis. What is generally required is notthe size of
particles, but the value of some property that is size dependent.In such circumstances it is important whenever possible to measure the sizedependent property, rather than to measure the "size" by some other methodand then deduce the required property. For example, in determining the "size"of boiler (fly) ash with a view to predicting atmospheric pollution the terminalvelocities of the particles should be measured; in measuring the "size" ofcatalyst particles, the surface area should be measured, since this is theproperty that determines the reactivity. The cost of the equipment as well asthe ease and the speed with which the analysis can be carried out have then tobe considered. The final criteria are that the method shall measure theappropriate property of the particles, with accuracy sufficient for the particularapplication at an acceptable cost, in a time that will allow the result to be used.