On Techniques for the Measurement of the Mass Fractal Dimension of Aggregates
A review is presented of a number of techniques available for the characterisation of the structure of aggregates formed from suspensions of sub-micron particles. Amongst the experimental techniques that have been commonly used are scattering (light, X-ray or neutron), settling and imaging and these are the focus of this work. The theoretical basis for the application of fractal geometry to characterisation of flocs and aggregates is followed by a discussion of the strengths and limitations of the above techniques. Of the scattering techniques available, light scattering provides the greatest potential for use as a tool for structure characterisation even though interpretation of the scattered intensity pattern is complicated by the strong interaction of light and matter. Restructuring further complicates the analysis. Although settling has long been used to characterise particle behaviour, the absence of an accurate permeability model limits the technique as a means of determining the porosity of fractalaggregates. However, it can be argued that the determination of fractaldimension is relatively unaffected. The strength of image analysis lies in its ability to provide a great deal of information about particle morphology and the weaknesses lie in the difficulties with image processing and sample size as this is a particle counting technique. There are very few papers which compare the fractaldimension measured by more than one technique. Light scattering potentially provides a useful tool for checking settling results. However, further work is required to develop proper models for aggregate permeability and flow-through effects.