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Learning About Particle Size Characterization With A Water Pitcher Filter

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

NEW Lab Experiments in Materials Science

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Page Count


Page Numbers

11.870.1 - 11.870.7



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Paper Authors


Gukan Rajaram North Carolina A&T State University

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GUKAN RAJARAM is a PhD student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. He received the B.E. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Madurai Kamaraj University, and his MS in Metallurgical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology – Madras. His doctoral research is in the area of electrode and electrolyte synthesis and characterization for solid oxide fuel cells. He has been involved in teaching mechanical engineering lab courses.

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Devdas Pai North Carolina A&T State University

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DEVDAS M. PAI is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at NC A&T State University and Associate Director of the Center for Advanced Materials and Smart Structures. He teaches manufacturing processes and tribology related courses. A registered Professional Engineer in North Carolina, he serves on the Mechanical PE Exam Committee of the National Council of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors and is active in several divisions of ASEE and in ASME.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract



Particle technology deals with the production, characterization, modification, handling, and utilization of organic and inorganic powders, in both dry and wet conditions. Particulate systems as a core technology impact a number of industries including advanced materials [1], chemical, energy, environmental [2], mineral, agricultural, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and food processing. With the emergence of nanoscience and nanotechnology, particles of increasingly smaller size are being synthesized for applications as catalysts, coatings, advanced ceramics [3,4], pharmaceuticals [5,6] and medical applications. The size and size distribution of these particles are of great importance to the end user because they affect key colloid properties such as rheology, film gloss, surface area and packing density. Before the invention of digital technology, the particle characterization was performed by sieving, which gives only a rough idea of the size distribution. More sophisticated techniques like using a Coulter counter or sedimentation technique do not provide any information on the crystal shape. Quantitative image analysis is one method which determines size and shape parameters. Increases in computer processing power has led to the emergence in recent years of both static and dynamic image analysis instruments that are capable of rapidly classifying tens, if not hundreds of thousands of particles. This has moved image analysis, for the determination of particle morphology, away from a qualitative technique where perhaps just a few 100 particles were analyzed, to a quantitative technique with statistically valid data being produced. Apart from particle count, size and shape characterization, image analysis can also be used to measure particle velocity, trace moving objects and measure deformation by recording successive scenes over a period of time [7]. We have developed an experiment for undergraduate mechanical engineering students to introduce concepts of particulate system using digital image analysis. In order to keep the experiment simple and relevant, we have used carbon particles (activated carbon, used in a household water pitcher) and coins (nickels, dimes and quarters) as examples of particulate materials. Digital surface images of the powder particles and the coins are captured using a digital camera with proper lighting conditions. The digital images are analyzed for particle size and particle count using PC-based image analysis software. The currency coins are measured with a caliper and the measured values are compared with the software results. The percentage error indicates the accuracy of the software. The carbon particle size and count is also measured using the same procedure. The experiment helps student to get exposed to modern characterization procedures.


Initially, the digital images of the coins and were taken with coins arranged in a random pattern. We used six quarters, seven dimes and seven nickel arranged randomly. It was made sure that the coins were not touching each other. The reason is the Image analysis software would count the

Rajaram, G., & Pai, D. (2006, June), Learning About Particle Size Characterization With A Water Pitcher Filter Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1172

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