Comparison of pipette method and state of the art analytical techniques to determine granulometric properties of sediments and soils

  • Fruzsina Gresina Eötvös Loránd University, Faculty of Science, Department of Environmental and Landscape Geography, Budapest, Hungary; Geographical Institute, Research Centre of Astronomy and Earth Sciences, Budapest, Hungary.
Keywords: grain size analysis, laser diffraction, pipette method, particle shape


The determination of particle size distribution is a crucial issue in various fields of earth sciences (e.g., Quaternary research, sedimentology, stratigraphy, structural geology, volcanology), environmental sciences as well as diverse industrial applications (e.g., pharmaceuticals, cement industry). New measurement techniques developed as a result of industrial demands have also gained ground in environmental and Earth sciences research. The new techniques (especially laser diffraction) have enabled the particle characterisation in the broader size-range with a more detailed resolution. Still, they have to be compared with data obtained by classical methods. In light of the above, the primary aim of our research is to examine the methods of particle size determination critically. Excessive oversimplifications of particle size analyses routinely have used in paleo-environmental and paleo-climatological reconstructions, and other sedimentary studies, as well as insufficient knowledge of the background of the applied methods, distort the interpretation of the results. Over the past four decades, laser diffraction particle size analysers have proven to be practical tools of particle size characterisation. However, the shape of the natural sediment and soil particles are irregular and, therefore, affects the particle size distribution results obtained by different methods. The results of the traditional pipette method differed from laser diffraction results. The presence or absence of the pretreatments did control the differences between the two techniques. The results of Fraunhofer optical method were significantly different from Mie theory because it can detect much lower volume percentages of finer particles. Grain size results of coarse-grained samples measured by different laser diffraction devices were more comparable than the results of more clayey samples. The ratios of different sizes were changed due to the hydrochloric acid and hydrogen peroxide pretreatments. The comparison of different techniques is necessary to revaluate standards in grain size measurements which can enable the shift from conventional methods to more productive and reproducible methods. Still, light scattering techniques have not yet been able to displace classical methods in Earth sciences completely, in contrast to industrial applications.


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How to Cite
GresinaF. (2020). Comparison of pipette method and state of the art analytical techniques to determine granulometric properties of sediments and soils. Hungarian Geographical Bulletin, 69(1), 27-39.