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Size reduction or comminution is an important step in the
processing of many solid materials.
It may be used to create particles of a certain size and shape, to
increase surface area available for chemical reaction.
Size reduction of solids is an energy intensive and highly
inefficient process.
Design and scale-up of comminution processes is usually based on
experience and testing.

Particle Fracture Mechanisms

Fracture mechanism of sodium chloride crystal :
A crystal is composed of a lattice of positively charged sodium ions
and negatively charged chloride ions.

There are attractive and repulsive

forces between the opposite charge of
The attractive force has the magnitude
inversely proportional to the square of
the separation of the ions.
While, the repulsive force become
important at very small interatomic
The two oppositely charged ions have an equilibrium separation
such that the two forces between them are equal and opposite.

Fracture mechanism of sodium chloride crystal (Contd):

In order to break the crystal, it is necessary to separate adjacent
layers of ions beyond the region B into plastic deformation region.
The applied stress required to induce this elastic behavior is known
as the elastic limit or yield stress.


Griffith proposed that for a crack in the surface of a body to

propagate the following criteria must be satisfied:
The strain energy that would be released must be greater than
the surface energy created.
There must be a crack propagation mechanism available.

Energy Requirement and Product Size Distribution

There are three well-known postulates
requirements for particle size reductions:

predicting energy

1)Rittinger (1867) proposed that the energy required for particle

size reduction is directly proportional to the area of new surface
If initial and final particle sizes are x1 and x2 respectively, then
assuming a volume shape factor kv independent of size,

If the surface shape factor ks is also independent of size, then for

each original particle, the new surface created upon reduction is
given by:

In many systems, particles to be mixed have different
properties and tend to exhibit segregation

Particles with the same physical property collect together in

one part of the mixture and random mixture is not a natural
Even if particles are originally mixed by some means, they will
tend to unmix on handling (moving, pouring, conveying,
Differences in size, density and shape of constituent particles
of a mixture may give rise to segregation
Difference in particle size is most important, density
difference is comparatively unimportant except in gas

Segregation (Cont)
Demixing or segregation can give rise to variations in bulk
density of powder going to packaging

Chemical composition of the product may be off specification

(e.g. in blending of constituents for detergents or drugs)

Four mechanisms of segregation according to size may be

(1)Trajectory segregation:
if a small particle of diameter x and density rp, whose drag is
governed by Stokes law is projected horizontally with a
velocity U into a fluid of viscosity m and density rf, the limiting
distance that it can travel horizontally is :
A particle of diameter 2x would travel four times as far before
coming to rest

This mechanism can cause segregation where particles are

caused to move through air or when powders fall from the
end of a conveyor belt

(2) Percolation of fine particles

if a mass of particles is disturbed in such a way that individual
particles move, a rearrangement in the packing of the
particles occurs.
The gaps created allow particles from above to fall and
particles in some other place to move upwards
If the powder is composed of particles of different size, it will
be easier for small particles to fall down and so there will be a
tendency for small particles to move downwards leading to
Even a very small difference in particle size can give rise to
significant segregation
Segregation by percolation of fine particles can occur
whenever the mixture is disturbed causing rearrangement of

This can happen during stirring, shaking, vibration or when

pouring particles into a heap
Segregation by percolation occurs in charging and discharging
storage hoppers

As particles are fed into a hopper they generally pour into a

heap resulting in segregation if there is a size distribution and
the powder is free-flowing

(3) Rise of coarse particles on

If a mixture of particles of different
size is vibrated the larger particles
move upwards

This is the so-called Brazil-nut

effect and has received much
attention in recent years
The rise of the larger or denser
intruder within the bed of smaller
particles has been explained in
terms of creation and filling of
voids beneath the intruder

(4) Elutriation segregation

When a powder containing an appreciable proportion of particles
under 50 mm is charged into a storage vessel or hopper, air is
displaced upwards
The upward velocity of air may exceed the terminal freefall
velocity of some of the finer particles, which may then remain in
suspension after the larger particles have settled
Thus a pocket of fine particles is generated in the hopper each
time solids are charged

Reduction of Segregation
Segregation occurs primarily as a result of size difference
Difficulty of mixing two components can be reduced by making
the size of the components as similar as possible and by
reducing the absolute size of both components
Segregation is generally not a serious problem when all particles
are less than 30 mm (for particle densities in the range 2000
3000 kg/m3)
In such fine powders, interparticle forces generated by
electrostatic charging, van der Waals forces and forces due to
moisture are large compared with gravitational and inertial

Reduction of Segregation (Cont)

This causes particles to stick together preventing segregation as
particles are not free to move relative to one another
The mobility of particles in free-flowing powders can be
reduced by addition of small quantities of liquid
The reduction in mobility reduces segregation and permits
better mixing

Three mechanisms of powder mixing:

(1) Shear mixing
shear stresses give rise to slip zones and mixing takes place by
interchange of particles between layers within the zone
(2) Diffusive mixing
Occurs when particles roll down a sloping surface
Convective mixing
Deliberate bulk movement of packets of powder around the
powder mass

In free-flowing powders both diffusive mixing and shear

mixing give rise to size segregation

For such powders, convective mixing is the major mechanism

promoting mixing

Types of mixers

Tumbling mixers
A closed vessel rotating about its axis
The dominant mechanism is diffusive mixing
Baffles may be installed to reduce segregation


Double cone

Types of mixers
Convective mixers
Circulation patterns are set up within a static shell by rotating
blades or paddles.
The main mechanism is convective mixing, although this is
accompanied by some diffusive and shear mixing.

Ribbon blender

Nauta mixer

Types of mixers
Fluidized bed mixers
The mixing is due to the natural mobility afforded particles in
the fluidized bed.
The mixing is largely convective with the circulation patterns
set up by the bubble motion within the bed.
Other processing steps, i.e., mixing, reaction, coating drying,
etc., may be carried out in the same vessel.

Types of mixers
High shear mixers
Local high shear stresses are created by devices such as high
velocity rotating blades, low velocity-high compression rollers,
The emphasis is on breaking down agglomerates of cohesive
powders rather than breaking individual particles.
The dominant mechanism is shear mixing.

Quality of a Mixture
The end use of a particle mixture will determine the quality of
mixture required.
The Scale of scrutiny was used to determine the quality of
Scale of scrutiny means the maximum size of regions of
segregation in the mixture which would cause it to be redarded
as imperfectly mixed.
The quality of mixture decreases with decreasing scale of
scrutiny until in the extreme we are scrutinizing only individual

To determine the quality of a mixture, it is generally necessary to
take samples

Sampling of mixtures and analysis of mixture quality require

application of statistical methods
i. Mean composition: the true composition of a mixture is often
not known but an estimate may be found by sampling
Statistics relevant to random binary mixtures are as follows:
i. For N samples of composition y1 to yN in one component, the
estimate of the mixture composition is given by:

ii. Standard deviation and variance: the true standard deviation,

s, and the true variance, s2, of the composition of the mixture
are quantitative measures of the quality of the mixture
The true variance is usually not known but an estimate S2 is
defined as:

ii. The standard deviation is equal to the square root of variance

iii. Theoretical limits of variance: for a two-component system

the theoretical upper and lower limits of mixture variance are:

Where p and (1-p) are the proportions of the two components

determined from samples and n is the number of particles in
each sample

iv. Mixing indices: a measure of the degree of mixing is the Lacey

mixing index

In practical terms the Lacey mixing index is the ratio of mixing

achieved to mixing possible
A Lacey mixing index of zero would represent complete
segregation and a value of unit would represent a completely
random mixture
Practical values of this mixing index are found to lie in the
range 0.75 to 1.0
A further mixing index is defined as:

This index gives better discrimination for practical mixtures

and approaches unity for completely random mixtures

v. Standard error: when the sample compositions have a normal

distribution the sampled variance values will also have a
normal distribution.
The standard deviation of the variance of the sample
compositions is known as the standard error of the variance,

vi. Tests for precision of mixture composition and variance: the

mean mixture composition and variance which we measure
from sampling are only samples from the normal distribution
of mixture compositions and variance values for that mixture.
We need to be able to assign a certain confidence to this
estimate and to determine its precision.