Characterization of fractal particles using acoustics, electroacoustics, light scattering, image analysis, and conductivity

Langmuir. 2007 May 8;23(10):5338-51. doi: 10.1021/la062612o. Epub 2007 Apr 12.


Fractals are aggregates of primary particles organized with a certain symmetry defined essentially by one parameter-a fractal dimension. We have developed a model for the interpretation of acoustic data with respect to particle structure in aggregated fractal particles. We apply this model to the characterization of various properties of a fumed silica, being but one example of a fractal structure. Importantly, our model assumes that there is no liquid flow within the aggregates (no advection). For fractal dimensions of less than 2.5, we find that the size and density of aggregates, computed from the measured acoustic attenuation spectra, are quite independent of the assumed fractal dimension. This aggregate size agrees well with light-scattering measurements. We applied this model to the interpretation of electroacoustic data as well. A combination of electroacoustic and conductivity measurements yields sufficient data for comparing the fractal model of the particle organization with a simple model of the separate primary particles. Conductivity measurements provide information on particle surface conductivity reflected in terms of the Dukhin number (Du). Supporting information for the zeta potential and Du can also be provided by electroacoustic measurements assuming thin double-layer theory. In comparing values of Du from these two measurements, we find that the model of separate solid particles provides much more consistent results than a fractal model with zero advection. To explain this, we first need to explain an apparent contradiction in the acoustic and electroacoustic data for porous particles. Although not important for interpreting acoustic data, advection within the aggregate does turn out to be essential for interpreting electrokinetic and electroacoustic phenomena in dispersions of porous particles.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustics
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Particle Size
  • Silicon Dioxide*


  • Silicon Dioxide