2019 Volume 36 Pages 156-186
The state of a suspension is crucial with regard to processing pathways, functionality and performance of the end product. In the past decade, substantial progress has been made in designing highly specialized and functionalized particles. In current particle technology, besides classic particle properties such as particle size distribution, shape and density, surface properties play an essential role for processing, product specification and use. For example, in medical therapy, analytical diagnostic applications, as well as in separation processing and harvesting of high-valued materials, magnetic micro- and nanoparticles play an increasing role. In addition to traditional parameters such as size, the particle magnetization has to be quantified here.
Sedimentation techniques have been used for hundreds of years to determine the geometrical characteristics of dispersed particles. Numerous national and international standards regarding these techniques have been published. Mainly due to the fast growing market share of laser scattering techniques over the past two decades, most customers these days are not aware of some advantageous features of particle characterization via a first-principle fractionating approach such as sedimentation. This is unfortunate as sedimentation techniques have made huge technological leaps forward regarding electronics, sensors and computing abilities.
This paper aims to give a short review about different cumulative and incremental sedimentation approaches to measure the particle size distribution. It focuses mainly on the in-situ visualization (STEP-Technology®) of particle migration in gravitational and centrifugal fields. It describes the basics of the new multi-sample measuring approaches to quantify the separation kinetics by spatial and time-resolved particle concentration over the entire sample height. Based on these data, the sedimentation velocity and particle size distribution are elucidated and estimates of accuracy, precision and experimental uncertainties are discussed. Multi-wavelength approaches, correction of higher concentration, and the influence of rheological behavior of continuous phase will also be discussed. Applications beyond the traditional scope of sedimentation analysis are presented. This concerns the in-situ determination of hydrodynamic particle density and of magnetophoretic velocity distributions for magnetic particulate objects.