When I was asked to consult on a research paper written about geology, by geologists, I didn’t imagine at the time that it might be well worth a read for anyone working with materials characterization…

…or that I’d ever get the opportunity to use such a cheesy headline!

Characterization in Earth science

However, despite its highly niche title, ‘Size dependent comminution, tectonic mixing, and sealing behaviour of a “structurally oversimplified” fault zone in poorly lithified sands: Evidence for coseismic rupture?’, by F. Balsamo and F. Storti from the Dipartimento di Scienze Geologiche, Universita deglie Studi Roma Tre in Rome, Italy, stands as an excellent example of good practice methodology in the application of particle size measurements using Mastersizer 2000 laser diffraction and particle shape analysis with the Morphologi G3 .

Not so different after all…

I suspect that many of our usual readers already understand that measurements of physical parameters in raw materials can inform the efficient processing and performance of final products such as pharmaceuticals, foods, cements, proteins or polymers, among others. However, readers from industries not involved in the machinations of the Earth itself might struggle to imagine how the potential of a fault zone in the Crotone Basin (southern Italy) to succumb to surface earthquakes might, in any way, be of relevance to them. So let me clarify the connections:

  • the characterization of raw materials = sands of varying grain size
  • to better understand process = sedimentation
  • and performance = permeability and the potential to earthquakes in the upper crust
  • in a product = a fault zone

Good practice particle characterization methodology

So, even if you find yourself getting lost trying to understand the detail in Balsamo and Storti’s paper, you are likely to find yourself comfortably back on solid ground (boom boom) when you arrive at:

  1. Appendix 1: Laser Diffraction Granulometry Procedure (p615-617) and the rather glorious set of illustrative results on p616
  2. Appendix 2: Grain-Shape Analysis (p617) which explains how the Morphologi G3’s sensitivity to circularity, aspect ratio and convexity were most useful for discriminating between sand grains.

Do let me know what you think!