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Automation of size fractionation to extract clays and silts

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The objective of this study was to build an automated size fractionator to process up to 16 samples at one time. Most parts used in the apparatus are inexpensive items, available from lawn irrigation, household appliance and aquatic pet supply stores. The device can be used to extract different silt and clay fractions by changing sedimentation time. A bentonite, a kaolin and an ironoxide-rich Oxisol were fractionated by this instrument to sequentially extract particles that have sizes equivalent to <2 μm, <5 μm, <10 μm and <20 μm quartz spheres. A laser diffraction particle size analyser revealed size differences in the different fractions and also showed that the silt fractions contained particles having slightly larger sizes than the assumed diameters of spherical quartz. Scanning electron microscope examination suggested that the greater particle size was mainly due to the non-spherical shapes of the particles and a reduced bulk density of the porous aggregates.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: September 1, 2011

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