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Part. Part. Syst. Charact. 15 (1998) 108–111

Conversion Factors to Convert Particle Size Distributions Measured by One Method to Those Measured by Another Method

Leonard G. Austin*

(Received: 18 October 1997)


It is shown that the conversion of size distributions measured with a laser diffractometer or sedimentometer to equivalent sieve size distribution depends not only on a mean shape factor but also on the size distribution being measured. An equation is given for calculating an overall conversion factor when the

cumulative sieve size distribution is of the Schuhmann form PðxÞ¼ðx=kÞ m . The technique is illustrated using results from a laser diffractometer and the X-ray Sedigraph, and gives the conversion factors from diffractometer to sedigraph and vice versa.

1 Introduction

It is common knowledge that the definition of particle size as determined by a laser diffractometer is different from that of size as determined by a sedimentometer, and both are different to the definition of size measured by sieve analysis. This fact makes it difficult to compare results between different methods. In particular, although sieve analysis is by far the most widely used method of size analysis in industry [1], it is often desired to extend the analysis below 38 m material. To extend the sieve size distribution of a sample to below 38 m, it is not sufficient simply to measure the sub-sieve size material in a diffractometer or sedimentometer, as the two size distributions do not join smoothly because of the different definitions of size. To make them join it is necessary to multiply the size measured by the instrument by a factor, the apparent mean shape factor. This communication will show that this factor depends not only on the true mean shape factor but also on the size distribution being tested. It gives a method of calculating the factor based on calibrating an instrument

with a

connect size distributions which have the Schuhmann form of

sieve size fraction and shows how it can be used to


cumulative size distribution of PðxÞ¼ðx=kÞ m .

2 Theory

The first step is to prepare a

material by careful wet screening with standard sieves to ensure

that fine particles are not adherent to the particles within the

sieve range. Typically, the sample will be the 270 by 400 mesh (58 × 38 m), or the 230 by 35 mesh (63 × 45 m) fraction.

This is dispersed and tested in the sub-sieve size analyzer. The


primarily over five

size different from the geometric mean sieve size of the tested sample. This is due to the range of shapes of particles of a given


size intervals and have a 50%-passing


sieve size fraction from the








* Prof. L. G. Austin, Department of Mineral Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802 (USA).

sieve size. Figure 1 illustrates the process and defines the fractions

which fall into the five size intervals as k ¹2 , k ¹1 , k 0 , k 1 and k 2 . Austin and Shah [2] have shown experimentally that these mass

2 sieve interval chosen, providing

there is no change in the shapes of particles with size. Cho et al. [3]

have shown that the values also do not change significantly with

fractions do not depend on the

the shape of the size distribution curve from which the fraction is taken.

2 sieve

distribution curve from which the fraction is taken. 2 sieve Fig. 1: five Illustration of material

Fig. 1:


Illustration of material in a 2 instrument size intervals.


sieve size interval appearing in

The next step is to prepare the test sample of fine material, typically by wet sieving at 400 mesh, although any convenient

sieve size can be used. Let the separating sieve size be denoted by x 3 and let the sieve size distribution of the material be represented by the function P(x), where x is sieve size and P(x) is the mass fraction below size x. This can be put as the vector defined by the sieve sequence down to a small size, that is, the vector Pðx 3 Þ,

Pðx 4 Þ,


and Pðx 3 Þ ¼ 1. Now let the size distribution on this sample as

measured by the instrument be Q(x). Express this as Qðx 1 Þ,

x 2 , and Qðx 1 Þ 1.

Qðx 2 Þ; :Qðx n Þ, where x 2 ¼

Consider size x i where n ¹ 3 i 1. A mass balance on material which appears less than size x i as measured by the

instrument is

Pðx 5 Þ; :Pðx n Þ,


x 4 ¼ x 3 =

2 ; ……x n ¼ x n¹1 =



2 x 3 , x 1 ¼

Qðx i Þ ¼

Pðx i Þ¹ðk ¹1 þ k ¹2 Þp i ¹ k ¹2 p iþ1

þðk 1 þ k 2 Þp i¹1 þ k 2 p i¹2


where p i is the fractional mass of particles in the sieve size interval indexed by i, p i ¼ Pðx i Þ ¹ Pðx iþ1 Þ. The additional information is

Part. Part. Syst. Charact. 15 (1998) 108–111


that Pðx 1 Þ ¼ Pðx 2 Þ ¼ Pðx 3 Þ ¼ 1, that is, p 1 ¼ p 2 ¼ 0 and p ¹1 ¼ p 0 ¼ 0. Starting at i ¼ 1, Qðx 1 Þ ¼ 1. For i ¼ 2, Qðx 2 Þ ¼ 1 ¹ k ¹2 p 3 , and so on. The material in the final n th sieve internal

2 intervals is not

which is sent to the next two larger instrument

from a

not be extended to the three smallest size intervals. The problem is now ‘‘Given the vector of Qðx i Þ values, what is equivalent set of Pðx i Þ values?’’ In principle, this could be done by simultaneous or sequential solution of the sets of equations of equation 1, but due to experimental and model error the solution

2 sieve interval and also k 1 , k 2 ¼ 0, so the balance can

will normally be unstable and produce some negative values of p i . Cho et al. [3] have given two search procedures to overcome this problem, one method assuming a functional form for P(x), and the

other a constrained search to obtain the sets of p i values. However,

a much simpler procedure is available in the common case where

the values of Q(x) give an extended region which fits a relation of QðxÞ ¼ ax m , as follows:

Consider a cumulative sieve size distribution which has the form PðxÞ¼ðx=kÞ m , or has a substantial region which fits this form. The

values of Pðx i Þ are given by

Pðx i Þ¼ðx i =kÞ m :


2 . Then each value of Pðx i Þ is related to

Let R be the sieve ratio 1=

the values at two intervals larger and two intervals smaller by

Pðx iþ2 Þ ¼ R 2m Pðx j Þ

Pðx iþ1 Þ ¼ R 1m Pðx i Þ

R 0m Pðx i Þ

Pðx i Þ ¼

Pðx i¹1 Þ ¼ R ¹1m Pðx i Þ

Pðx i¹2 Þ ¼ R ¹2m Pðx i Þ



By substituting p i ¼ Pðx i Þ ¹ Pðx iþ1 Þ in Eq. (1) and collecting terms

it becomes (using 1 ¹ k 1 ¹ k 2 ¹ k ¹1 ¹ k ¹2 ¼ k 0 ),

Qðx i Þ ¼ k 0 Pðx i Þ þ k ¹2 Pðx iþ2 Þ þ k ¹1 Pðx iþ1 Þ

þk 2 Pðx i¹2 Þ þ k 1 Pðx i¹1 Þ:

Substituting from Eq. (3) gives

Qðx i Þ ¼

k 0 þ k ¹2 R 2m þ k ¹1 R m þ k 2 R ¹2m þ k 1 R ¹m gPðx i Þ


QðxÞ ¼ KPðxÞ ¼ Kðx=kÞ m :




Thus it is proved that Q(x) is also a power function with the same exponent m but changed in magnitude by a constant factor K. If the instrument size distribution Q(x) is plotted versus x as a Schuhmann log-log plot, the slope will be m and the equivalent sieve size distribution P(x) will be a parallel line, higher if K < 1 and lower if K > 1, over the particle size region where Q(x) is a straight line. In addition, Pðx 3 Þ ¼ 1 is known, since the top sieve size of the tested sieve sample x 3 is known. The shift factor K cannot apply to the top two sieve size intervals or the two size

intervals above the top sieve size. In principle, estimates of Pðx 4 Þ, Pðx 5 Þ, etc., can be made by sequential solution down to the x value where Q(x) versus x becomes a power function, but normally errors accumulate rapidly in this computation.

It is common [4] to define a ‘‘mean shape factor’’ as the factor r by

which the instrument size must be multiplied to give the sieve size at which the same mass percentage less than size is obtained. If the particle size as measured by the instrument is denoted by X and the

particle size as measured by sieving is denoted by x, r ¼ x=X where QðXÞ ¼ PðxÞ. This is equivalent on log-log Schuhmann plots to sliding the Q(X) curve to the right by a factor to obtain the equivalent sieve size distribution (see Figure 2). The connection between K and r is clearly QðXÞ ¼ KPðXÞ ¼ KðX=kÞ m and QðXÞ¼ðrX=kÞ m , giving

r ¼ K 1=m


K ¼ r m



Þ m , giving r ¼ K 1 = m or K ¼ r m :

Fig. 2: Calculated size distributions for a sieve size distribution of Pðx i Þ ¼ ðx i =63 m): K 1 ¼ 0:87 for crystalline quartz in a Microtrac; K 1 ¼ 1:06 in Sedigraph.

Since Eq. (4) shows that K is a function of m it is clear that r is also

a function of m. Thus, a mean shape factor r defined by x ¼ rX is

not unique to the material but depends on the size distribution being examined, so it is better to call it an apparent shape factor. This shape factor can only be compared between different materials or different instruments for the particular case when

m ¼ 1, in which case

r 1 ¼

k 0 þ 2k 2 þ k 1


þ k ¹2 =2 þ k ¹1 =

2 :


A corresponding unique value of K applicable for m ¼ 1 is

symbolized by K 1 , where K 1 ¼ r 1 .

3 Experimental Results

The values of k for irregular particles of quartz and coals as measured in the Microtrac laser diffractometer instrument [5] have already been reported [2, 6], and are shown in Table 1. The result shows that the particle size measured by the instrument is larger than the geometric mean sieve size, that is, the instrument size distribution must be moved up (K < 1) to obtain the sieve size distribution. If the diffractometer size distribution over a substantial range of size intervals has a slope of 1 the values of Q(x) must be multiplied by 1.15 (¼ 1=K 1 Þ to obtain the equivalent sieve size distribution. In terms of sliding the curve in the size

scale, the Microtrac size scale must be multiplied by 0.87. There is

a significant effect of the slope m on K. A diffractometer size

distribution with a flat slope of 0.5 would have to be slid by a factor


Part. Part. Syst. Charact. 15 (1998) 108–111

Table 1:

Dispersion factors k for

2 sieve interval fractions of crystalline quartz tested in the Microtrac laser diffractometer and the X-ray Sedigraph.



Tested size: mesh

k 2

k 1

k 0

k ¹1

k ¹2




170 × 230} 230 × 325}


















270 × 400
















Conversion factors Microtrac to Sedigraph











of 0.85 in the size scale, but only 0.96 for a steep slope of m ¼ 2.

The Sedigraph [7] results showed that the mean instrument size (the 50%-passing size) was almost equal to the geometric mean

sieve size. However, the vertical shift factors K were greater than

1, and the horizontal shift factors r were also greater than 1, so that

size measured by the instrument is less than sieve size. The conversion factors from Microtrac to Sedigraph are quite large and

vary significantly with m.

4 Discussion and Conclusions

To obtain reproducible results for the shift factors it is necessary to perform careful wet-screening to ensure that fines are washed off the coarser material, and to perform sufficient tests to get a reliable set of k values. The shift factor K translates the region of the instrument data which fits QðxÞ x m to an equivalent sieve size distribution by PðxÞ ¼ QðxÞ=K. Since the top sieve size of the test sample is known (x 3 ) it is often possible to interpolate from this region to x 3 where Pðx 3 Þ ¼ 1.

In practice, because of the asymmetric nature of the k values there

may be some small fraction of material which falls in the third


interval. However, it is normally sufficient to consider only five k

values, although the corresponding Equation 4 for seven intervals

is easily derived. Attempts to back-calculate P(x) from Q(x) values

by direct sequential solution (or matrix inversion) of the Equation

1 set are not normally successful due to accumulation of errors and

a constrained search procedure is necessary [3] if the size

distribution is not of the form PðxÞ¼ðx=kÞ m . For the crystalline quartz tested here, the Sedigraph particle size

is quite close to the sieve size but the Microtrac size is considerably larger, for a slope of the tested size distribution

close to 1. On the other hand, for a slope of 2 the Microtrac particle size is still larger than the sieve size and the Sedigraph size smaller, but the Microtrac size is now actually closer to the sieve size than the Sedigraph size, in the region of constant slope, see Figure 3. The shift factors K or r depend not only on the particular instrument and material tested but also on the shape of the size distribution of the sample being measured. Thus it is not surprising that the consistent comparison of size distributions measured by one technique with those measured by another has proved difficult. Calibration of instrument and material by determining reproduci-

ble values of the dispersion k values on

be a step forward.

size interval above (or below) the top sieve size


2 sieve samples would

above (or below) the top sieve size 2 2 sieve samples would Fig. of Sedigraph. distribution





Pðx i Þ¼ðx i =63 m) 2 : K ¼ 0:86 for the Microtrac and 1.18 for the









5 Symbols and Abbreviations


k the value of x in PðxÞ¼ðx=kÞ m at which PðxÞ ¼ 1 ð mÞ


an integer indexing a


2 size interval (–)

the mass fraction of material in a

appears in a

larger (–) in the same size interval (–) two intervals smaller (–)

the vertical shift factor defined by QðxÞ ¼ KPðxÞ (–) value of K for m ¼ 1 (–)

2 sieve size which




instrument size interval two intervals




K 1

m the exponent in PðxÞ¼ðx=kÞ m (–)

n the number of size intervals (–)

p i

2 sieve size interval

the mass fraction of material in the

indexed by i (–) the cumulative mass fraction of material less than sieve

size x (–) the cumulative mass fraction of material less than size x as determined by the instrument (–)

a size scale shift factor defined by QðXÞ ¼ PðrXÞ (–)

a shape factor defined by the value of r for m ¼ 1 (–)





r 1


x particle size ( m)


x i


the upper size of the

a particle size measured by an instrument corresponding to

a sieve size x, where QðXÞ ¼ PðxÞ ( m)

2 interval indexed by i (–)

Part. Part. Syst. Charact. 15 (1998) 108–111


6 References

[1] K. Leschonski: Sieve Analysis, the Cinderella of Particle Size Analysis Methods? Powder Technol. 24 (1979) 115–124.

L. G. Austin, I. Shah: A Method for Inter-Conversion of Microtrac

and Sieve Size Distributions. Powder Technol. 35 (1983) 271–28. [3] H. Cho, K. Yidilrim, L. G. Austin: The Conversion of Sedigraph Size Distributions to Equivalent Sub-Sieve Screen Size Distribu- tions. Powder Technol. 95 (1998) 109–117.


[4] T. Allen: Particle Size Measurement, 4 th Ed. Chapman and Hall, New York 1990, p. 169. [5] Leeds and Northrup, Microtrac Model 7991-01.

L.G. Austin, O. Trass, T.F. Dumm, V.R. Koka: A Rapid Method for


Determination of Changes in Shape of Comminuted Particles using a Laser Diffractometer. Part. Part. Syst. Charact. 5 (1988)


[7] Micromeritics Instrument Corporation, Sedigraph Model 5100.