A high intensity light source is used to illuminate the particle as it passes through the detection chamber. The particle passes through the light source (typically a laser or halogen light) and if light scattering is used, then the redirected light is detected by a photo detector. If direct imaging is used, a halogen light illuminate’s particles from the back within a cell while a high definition, high magnification camera records passing particles. Recorded video is then analysed by computer software to measure particle attributes. If light blocking (obscuration) is used the loss of light is detected. The amplitude of the light scattered or light blocked is measured and the particle is counted and tabulated into standardized counting bins.
Applications of particle counters are separated into three primary categories: Aerosol particle counters, Liquid particle counters, Solid particle counters.
Aerosol particle counters are used to determine the air quality by counting and sizing the number of particles in the air. This information is useful in determining the quantity of particles inside a building or in the ambient air. It also is useful in understanding the cleanliness level in a controlled environment.
Liquid particle counters are used to determine the quality of the liquid passing through them. The size and number of particles can determine if the liquid is clean enough to be used for the designed application. Liquid particle counters can be used to test the quality of drinking water or cleaning solutions, or the cleanliness of power generation equipment, manufacturing parts, or injectable drugs.
Solid particle counters are used to measure dry particles for various industrial applications. One such application could be for the detection of particle size coming from a rock crusher within a mining quarry. Sieves are the standard instruments used to measure dry particle size. Vision based systems are also used to measure dry particle size. With a vision based system quick and efficient particle sizing can be done with ease and tremendous accuracy.
Other types of particle counters are Remote particle counters, Manifold particle counters, Manifold particle counters.
Small particle counters that are used to monitor a fixed location typically inside a cleanroom or mini-environment to continuously monitor particle levels. These smaller counters typically do not have a local display and are connected to a network of other particle counters and other types of sensors to monitoring the overall cleanroom performance. This network of sensors is typically connected to a facility monitoring system (FMS), data acquisition system or programmable logic controller. This computer based system can integrate into a database, alarming and may have e-mail capability to notify facility or process personnel when conditions inside the cleanroom have exceeded predetermined environmental limits. Remote particle counters are available in several different configurations, from single channel to models that detect up to 8 channels simultaneously. Remote particle counters can have a particle size detection range from 0.1 to 100 micrometres and may feature one of a variety of output options including 4-20 mA, RS-485 Modbus, Ethernet and pulse output.
Modified aerosol portable particle counter that has been attached to a sequencing sampling system. The sequencing sampling system allows for one particle counter to sample multiple locations, via a series of tubes drawing air from up to 32 locations inside a cleanroom. Typically, less expensive than utilizing remote particle counters, each tube is monitored in sequence.
A hand-held particle counter is a small, self-contained device that is easily transported and used, and designed for use with Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) investigations. Though lower flow rates of 0.1 ft3/min (0.2 m3/h) than larger portables with 1 ft3/m (2 m3/h), hand-held are useful for most of the same applications. However longer sample times may be required when performing cleanroom certification and testing. (Hand-held counters are not recommended for cleanrooms). Most hand-held particle counters have direct mount isokinetic sampling probes. One may use a barbed probe on a short piece of sample tubing, but it is recommended that the length of the tubing not exceed 6 ft. (1.8 m), due to loss of larger particles in the sample tubing.