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Researchers have started to discover that some of the biggest problems in the world can be addressed by working on some of the smallest scales.
In order to perform accurate work on the micrometer and nanometer scales, scientists will often perform particle analysis. Achieved through a number of different means, particle analysis is a method used to assess the size range or average size of particles in a solid or liquid sample.
After performing particle analysis, technicians and scientists can then make adjustments to their system or processes. These tiny tweaks can make a big difference in everything, from lowering harmful emissions to making better batteries.
Countries are passing increasingly stringent emissions standards to combat climate change and air pollution. In order to meet emissions standards, manufacturers and power plants use many different technologies. A few of these technologies employ materials to interact with the emissions to purify it. The particle size range of those materials directly affects the effectiveness of the emission control technique.
Desulfurization procedures are processes aimed at removing sulfur dioxide from emissions. The "wet" version of the technique normally involves limestone and water, which oxidizes the pollutant. The dry, or semi-dry, version of the technique often incorporates a lime slurry that sprayed into the emissions.
Dry sorbent injection may be used to meet targets for emissions with too much sulfur trioxide. Standard sorbents include sodium sesquicarbonate and sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda. Both materials remove sulfur pollutants above a certain temperature, making a sodium sulfate salt as a by-product.
A laser particle size analyzer is often used to asses materials, either used or generated by power plants. A laser system is able to assess powders, slurries, and suspensions between 10 nanometers and 5 millimeters.
Curing Degenerative Diseases
The buildup of misfolded proteins is believed to be accountable for many degenerative diseases. Given that this aggregation normally leads to a physical shift in protein size, particle size has shown to be an effective tool in the battle against these diseases. Researchers are particularly interested in the size, volume, and amount of aggregates in a given material.
Various scientific reports are carried out with either a technique known as dynamic light scattering (DLS) or laser diffraction. While DLS can describe factors like temperature, pH, salinity and protein folding, the laser analysis is used for aggregates that are too large for DLS.
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Creating More Efficient Power Storage
Battery technology is improving, and many experts say batteries will pave the way for the wider adoption of renewable energy resources. Better batteries can also lead to better devices with greater power storage for longer intervals between recharging and changing batteries.
Enhanced performance calls for higher control of the materials used and their physical qualities, including the particle size distribution. Particle size has a bearing on both capacity and coulomb efficiency, or the efficiency with which charge is transferred.
The particle size distribution (PSD) of the substances used to produce state-of-the-art batteries is analyzed in both R&D environments and in quality control for product acceptance, as a PSD specification is normally required for the material. Lowering particle size raises the surface area, altering essential battery characteristics as researchers or engineer see fit. Incidentally, this change lengthens the gaps between electrode particles, decreasing battery capacity.
Making More Effective Drugs
Physicochemical and biopharmaceutical properties of drugs and dosages can be highly impacted by the particle size, a significant parameter in pharmaceutical research and production.
The primary issue with particle size, as it relates to pharmaceuticals is the wide variety of equivalent particle diameters produced by various processes, mostly ascribable to the particle shape and particle dispersion system. In order to use the most appropriate or optimal sizing process, cross-correlation between various tactics may be necessary. A particle size analysis is used to fine tune and compare processes, ideally leading to better drugs.
Developing Next-Generation Materials
Nanotechnology is a broad field of study centered on materials and applications at a very small scale. Generally speaking, nanotechnology deals with structures that are 100 nanometers (nm) or smaller and involves establishing materials or devices within that size. A particle investigation can be used to characterize these materials.
Nanotechnology is extremely diverse, covering anything from novel extensions of customary device physics, to totally new approaches dependant on molecular self-assembly and to establishing new materials with dimensions on the nanoscale. Materials decreased to the nanoscale can show various properties as opposed to how they function on a macroscale, which allows for unique applications.
Particle technology intersects nanotechnology when researchers need to find out the particle size distribution and surface chemistry of materials. Carbon nanotubes are probably generated the greatest interest in nanotechnology right now.
References and Further Reading
Particle Characterization - Power Plants
Protein Aggregation Applications
Particle Size Analysis of Battery Materials
Particle Size Analysis in Pharmaceutics: Principles, Methods and Applications