Importance of Particle Size Analysis in Industry

Particle size analysis gives information on the size distribution of particles. This can be used to calculate different properties of a particle and how they will act under certain conditions. This information is critical in  industries to achieve different goals.

Many industries can use particle size analysis methods to discover properties about materials they are working with. This allows them to manipulate the materials, manufacturing conditions, or product to achieve a better, safer, or more cost-efficient product. Pharmaceutical industry, petroleum industry, building and decorating industry, water treatment industry are some of the industries that benefit from this.

Techniques & Solutions for Particle Size Characterization

Petroleum Industry

During chemical reactions, the surface area of a solid particle is important to determine the rate of a chemical reaction. As chemical reactions are more likely to occur on smaller particles, particle size analysis techniques are useful to plan an experiment or chemically manufacture a product. The production of hydrocarbon fuels involves the conversion of CO and H2 into hydrocarbons, also termed as the Fischer-Tropsch reaction. In 1985, the surface area of cobalt (catalyst for this reaction) was reduced from 200 to 9 nm which drastically improved the yield of hydrocarbons.

Pharmaceutical Industry

Size and metabolism

The particle size can affect the rate a substance will dissolve. Smaller particles have a smaller surface area, therefore making dissolution occur more quickly. The pharmaceutical industry uses this information when designing drugs, as drugs with a smaller surface area will be metabolized more quickly. Water-soluble drugs also dissolve at a faster rate if they have a smaller particle size.

Drug design

Particles above a certain size are filtered out of the respiratory system, which controls the air supply in the body and avoids any potential damage to the lungs. Oral or Nasal administered drugs must be able to penetrate the lungs, pharmaceutical companies must take the particle size into consideration when designing these types of drugs. Additionally, dust and mist can be dangerous to inhale, therefore caution must be taken when working around dust and mist.

Drug delivery

Nanoparticle tracking analysis (NTA) passes a laser beam through a chamber that contains suspended particles. The particles scatter the laser allowing them to be visualized and analyzed. NTA can be used to develop targeted drug delivery systems, as the particle size of medicines can affect diffusion rates, immune responses, and drug uptake/delivery.

Building and Decorating Industry

Larger particles pack more poorly than smaller particles. Packing density can be improved by decreasing the particle size, which also decreases the unoccupied volume (voidage). Particle size distribution affects the packing density of cement particles in a paste, hydration rate, and hydration quantity. A higher packing density allows for denser cement.

Water Treatment Industry

Sedimentation refers to settling of  particles in a suspension settle out of the fluid, usually underneath the fluid but depend on the nature of the particle. The speed of sedimentation is dependent on the size of the particle. During water purification, solids that are suspended in the water are removed by sedimentation.

A basic introduction to Dynamic Light Scattering (DLS) for particle size analysis


Many different industries benefit from particle size analysis techniques. Many industries manipulate either the materials they use or the manufacturing process to achieve a superior product. With more research into particle size analysis techniques, industries will be able to benefit from this information.

Further Reading

Last Updated: Aug 23, 2018

Written by

Samuel Mckenzie

Sam graduated from the University of Manchester with a B.Sc. (Hons) in Biomedical Sciences. He has experience in a wide range of life science topics, including; Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Anatomy and Physiology, Developmental Biology, Cell Biology, Immunology, Neurology  and  Genetics.


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