A 12-year evolution – Part 3: Hydro Insight

Hydro Insight Dynamic Imaging

A Perfect Partnership

As we continue this exploration of the Mastersizer 3000 and its story of evolution, this month’s discussion looks at the benefits of combining dynamic imaging with laser diffraction to really bolster your analytical capabilities. Because whilst laser diffraction is the go-to sizing technique for many scientists, researchers and quality control managers (and for good reason too), sometimes you want to see what your particles look like and understand what shape they have.

Introduced in 2021, the Hydro Insight accessory combines dynamic imaging expertise from Vision Analytical with the Mastersizer 3000’s dispersion capabilities highlighted in last month’s blog post. When used in conjunction with the Mastersizer 3000, the Hydro Insight provides real-time images of your liquid particle dispersions and individual particles. The upshot to this is that you can get quantitative data on particle shape as well as better understand your laser diffraction measurement.

Let’s look at some of the ways the Hydro Insight can raise your particle size game on the Mastersizer 3000.

Optimize Method Development With Hydro Insight

A key aspect of method development on the Mastersizer 3000 is ensuring you are achieving suitable dispersion of your particles. Stirring, ultrasonication and use of surfactants are all methods of achieving a full, reproducible dispersion. And with the correct process, you can determine the correct amount of stirring/ultrasonication and concentration of surfactant for the job. Sometimes though, we do want some additional confidence that our particles are in the correct state of dispersion.

Figure 1: Using images to verify the dispersion of agglomerates by application of ultrasound

By combining the Mastersizer 3000 and the Hydro Insight, you can correlate and compare size data with the images of your dispersion. This allows real time monitoring of your particle dispersion from agglomerate to primary particle, so you can be happy that you’ve done a good job with your method development!

Tales of the unexpected

Things don’t always go to plan, it’s a fact of life and applicable to any laser diffraction measurement. Even with optimized methods that have been shown to give accurate and consistent results, you can observe an unexpected peak in your particle size distribution. But what is the cause of that peak? Does it mean your material is ‘out of specification’ or is it something else such as an agglomerate, bubble or contaminant? Hydro Insight can tell you.

Figure 2: Using the Hydro Insight to investigate the presence of an additional mode in particle size distribution

Hiding in plain sight

In some industries, large particles can make a significant difference. A few oversized particles in an ink could mean a nozzle or printhead is blocked; or a few oversized particles in a metal powder for additive manufacturing could result in a serious part failure.

Laser diffraction benefits from a wide dynamic range (0.01 to 3500 microns for the Mastersizer 3000), but it is an ensemble technique. The result is a statistical representation of the entire sample as opposed to individual particles. So if your sample contains small amounts of large particles in the ppm range, it is possible that they will not be detected by laser diffraction.

Figure 3: Laser diffraction can detect a small amount of oversized particle at approx. 1%, but it is much less sensitive at lower concentrations

The Hydro Insight, however, images individual particles and so it is sensitive to even small numbers of large particles. You can see what they look like and obtain quantitative information on size and shape. All valuable information when considering your next steps in dealing with these oversized particles.

Gain more insight

These are just some of the advantages that Hydro Insight users have benefited from, but there are many more like the ability to detect fine particles or high aspect ratio particles such as fibres.

If you want to find out more about the Hydro Insight, why not check out our demo at your desk video?

And of course, tune in next month for even content on the Mastersizer 3000!

Further reading