• agglomerate;
  • grain boundary diffusion;
  • lattice diffusion;
  • primary particle size distribution;
  • sintering;
  • viscous flow

During sintering (coalescence) of aggregates of polydisperse primary particles (PPs), restructuring takes place, the average PP size increases and the PP size distribution (PPSD) narrows affecting particle performance in a number of applications. Here, aggregate sintering by viscous flow, lattice, and grain boundary diffusion is simulated by multiparticle discrete element methods focusing on PP growth dynamics and elucidating the detailed restructuring of aggregates during their coalescence. The effect of initial PPSD and sintering mechanisms on the evolution of PP polydispersity (geometric standard deviation) and surface area mean diameter are presented. Each sintering mechanism results in a distinct evolution of PPSD but quite similar growth in average PP diameter. Grain boundary diffusion has the strongest impact among all sintering mechanisms and rapidly results in the narrowest PPSD, as it has the strongest dependence on PP size. During sintering of aggregates with initially monodisperse PPs, the PPSD goes through a maximum width before narrowing again as PPs coalesce. A power law holds between projected aggregate surface area and number of PPs regardless of sintering mechanism and initial PP polydispersity. This law can be readily used in aerosol reactor design and for characterization of aggregates independent of material composition, initial PP polydispersity, and sintering mechanism. © 2013 American Institute of Chemical Engineers AIChE J, 59: 1118–1126, 2013