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The building blocks of matter have driven the imagination of philosophers, scientists, and artists for millennia. But, for manufacturers, these elements have a more concrete existence as powders. Powder processing technology conditions these primary materials to create a vast range of products, from chemicals and foods to pharmaceuticals and ceramics.

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Crush primary materials to free valuable grains from impurities

The first step to pulverizing a solid is through a crusher. The raw material is downsized to flakes, chips, or granules by crushing technology. Some bulk types, such as plastics or resins, are broken down into filaments.

Crushing breaks the grains away from gangue materials, particularly in the case of ore. Undesired compounds such as common silicate and carbonates are removed using separation technology like magnetic separators for metals and froth flotation for hydrophobics.

Use anti-clogging powder processing technology to ensure flowability

One of the main attributes of powders is flowability. Dry materials with a similar particle structure flow more easily than powders of different shapes. However, size is also an important variable.

Flowability decreases with the particle size as powders display greater cohesion and internal friction the smaller they become. To prevent ratholes or bridging and facilitate flow, advanced manufacturing equipment applies anti-clogging systems. These techniques are designed to move fine to ultra-fine bulk in specialized powder applications from pharmaceuticals to food to cosmetics.

Avoid unwanted agglomeration by coating powders in anti-adherent components

Manufacturing technology often subjects powders to thermal stresses that could degrade their processability. Friction and heat lead to surface diffusion, bonding particles together.

To prevent such undesired agglomeration, coat the powder particles in an anti-adherent substance like magnesium stearate. The water-insoluble compound is sprayed onto the material in a mixing drum to create a film around the particles.

Heat mineral and metal fine powders to overcome resistance to compaction

Mineral and metal powders present unique challenges in terms of processing, particularly when they are comminuted to finer materials. Particles become harder as their surface area increases, making them more challenging to densify.

Ductile metals like aluminum and copper retain plastic deformation properties down to particle sizes of 50-100 nanometers. But beyond that, powders need to be subjected to high temperatures to be effectively compacted.

Reduce powders to their nanostructures to maximize their properties

Particles of nanometric scale bond together to form nanopowders. As the ratio between surface area and volume increases, the characteristics of the atoms become more pronounced.

For instance, nanocrystalline materials such as titanium alloys nickel exhibit enhanced hardness and plasticity.  Advancements in powder processing technology allow engineering at the nanoparticle level, opening opportunities for new lightweight materials with solid structural stability.

Develop nanopowders either by bonding particles or downsizing granules

There are two ways to approach the production of nanopowders: large-to-small or small-to-large. When working with large materials like metals or minerals, the powders are generated by attrition. The techniques here are primarily mechanical, using dry milling equipment like jet mills or roll mills.

If you work with molecules such as sodium, the process goes from small to large by bonding molecules together to form the particle. This involves electromagnetic techniques like electrospinning and electrodepositing.

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