Particle Size Distribution of Inorganic Colloidal Dispersions: A comparison of different techniques



The particle size distributions of a latex and of four different inorganic colloidal systems, consisting of spherical particles suspended in aqueous solutions, have been evaluated by three techniques: electron microscopy (EM, scanning and/or transmission), classical light scattering (CLS, polarization ratio method), and photon correlation spectroscopy (PCS, commercial instrument). Both light scattering techniques appear to be exceedingly sensitive to even a relatively small level of aggregation. Thus, the effect of treating the dispersions by ultrasonic energy was tested in order to establish the best experimental conditions. While a shorter sonication results in a minimum or constant value for the average particle diameter (or the polydispersity of the suspension), longer times may promote reaggregation of particles. Good correlation of the results by different light scattering techniques was found as long as the conversion to number averages of the PCS data involved the proper corrections for polydispersity. The agreement with the EM depended on the chemical nature of the dispersed particles; i.e., drying and exposure to the electron beam greatly affected the histograms in some cases.