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The enduring appeal of laser diffraction

6 December 2010 No Comment

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One of the most interesting aspects of my job is the need to constantly look forward and conceive smarter laser diffraction technology. On the other hand, browsing through the results of a fairly recent Malvern Instruments customer survey the other day made me think of systems past and how the technology has progressed. It’s not by chance that more and more industrial sectors now use laser diffraction as standard for particle sizing.

Ease of use

When we asked people what they like about their Malvern particle size analyzer more than half highlighted ease of use. This isn’t surprising  – what most of use want from our  analyzer is a reliable laboratory workhorse: there when we need it; able to produce high quality results; and, accessible and easy to use by anyone,  even if they haven’t had much training.

The technology at the heart of laser diffraction instrumentation has improved over the last decade or so, in many ways that interest me from a physics point of view, but for most people it’s the developments that have delivered the ‘easy to use’ tag that are most appreciated. System automation and the availability of user-friendly software are key themes which appear again and again withn the feedback we receive.

A few excellent quotes….

Returning to the survey I have a few favourite quotes that together sum up what a good laser diffraction particle size analyzer can  now deliver:

‘It works – all the time. No sample prep. Fast results.’

‘Reliability. Its 12 years old and still runs great!’

‘Speed. Before the Malvern we used a sieve stack that required about 40 minutes to get a number.’

‘User friendly.  Easy to use.  Consistent results.  Simple data analysis.’

These are, of course, music to my ears but they have also prompted me to take a more detailed look at exactly which developments propelled laser diffraction towards the widespread use it enjoys today.

I hope you’ll join me over the next few months on an exploration of the archives of laser diffraction development. For those of you using alternative particle sizing  techniques, the story will provides compelling reasons why you might want to switch. And for those of you who just take your system for granted, understanding what lies beneath the bonnet may just enable you to get a little more from your analyser or perhaps simply appreciate what a wonderful piece of technology it is!