Everything about Microspheres
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  • Particle Image Velocimetry and Tracer Particle Visibility

    Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) expresses a vast field with varying techniques and data acquisition methods. However, the main goal is providing an optical method of flow visualization. The exact information obtained depends on which method is used, with new algorithms and approaches being discovered constantly.

    There are generally two ways data is obtained PIV and Particle Tracking Velocimetry (PTV) which can then be broken down into many other methods based on how exactly the data was obtained and the processing done to said data. PIV measures the velocity field of a fluid based on a Eulerian method where stated locations are observed over time to determine the flow. While PTV tracks the movement of singular particles over time, a Lagrangian approach. This provides a plot of the particles movement and by relation information about the fluid flow. They each use the same tracer particles however they look at them in different senses. If logs in a river are representations of our seed particles then PIV looks at the river and sees the logs moving through it determining how the river flows based on this information. While PTV watches the movement of individual logs to obtain similar information. Which leads to the assumption that tracking particles must be easily visualized.

    Visibility being an important aspect of tracer particles is a given but how those particles are visible is where differences can come about. Tracers can be visible if they block light from reaching the visualization mechanism (eye, camera, etc.) essentially being visible as a shadow. This method is known as backlit shadowgraphy where the flow is placed between an illumination source and a camera allowing for the absence of light (shadow) caused by tracer particles to be tracked.

    Reflective Silver Coated Hollow Glass

    Another approach to assuring particle visibility is using highly reflective spheres that will reflect in the direction of your camera set-up allowing them to appear as dots of high intensity light, of the illumination source used. Lasers are most commonly used as the illumination source for this form of particle visibility. As lasers have high power, high collimation, and a relatively tight emission bandwidth. Recently LED’s are also being used as the illumination source for reflectivity visualization methods as well as backlit shadowgraphy. LED’s may not currently have the power or collimation abilities of lasers but are consistently growing in power. LED’s also have a very limited emission spectrum as well as their ease of use and low cost compared to lasers.

    Fluorescent Tracer Particles

    Finally, some tracer particles can emit their own light which allows them to be an easily distinguishable wavelength from the illumination source which can often flood the visualization area. One of the most common examples of this would be fluorescent spheres. Which when excited by the illumination source will emit a different wavelength of light. This allows the wavelength of light used as your illumination source to be filtered out providing an image with just the light from tracers. Phosphorescent spheres fall into a category similar to fluorescent particles as phosphorescence emits light similarly to fluorescence. However, phosphorescence emits over longer periods of time. Another significant difference of phosphorescent materials is their unique temperature variance which allows for them to be used as a form of temperature sensor.

    With both PIV and PTV having their strengths and weaknesses there is no clear superior method. However, with advances in technology PTV is becoming more feasible and thus may overtake PIV methods due to its ability to provide greater data varieties. Visibility options also have their unique aspects that ensure their necessity in specific cases. Shadowgraphy is gaining traction in areas due to its reduced cost requirement and ease of use. While, fluorescent tracers remain as an ideal option for applications where shadowgraphy can not quite meet the necessary criteria.

  • 12th International Symposium on Particle Image Velcoimetry

    Particle Image Velocimetry and Seeding Particles

    I recently attended the 12th International Symposium on Particle Image Velocimetry in Busan, Korea on behalf of Cospheric, a company that specializes in precision microspheres. With the hope of learning more about seeding particles involved in PIV research and what advancements in microsphere technology would benefit the work being done in flow visualization. Through conversations with many attendees I was able to gather information on some of the important factors involved in tracer particle and their ideal capabilities. An interesting addition to seeding particles brought up by several individuals was temperature sensitive spheres which could potentially provide temperature field information.

    Below is an example of neutrally buoyant microspheres which are used as flow tracers in PIV applications.

    Fluorescent Red Polyethylene Microspheres

    The venue, Haeundae Grand Hotel, was spectacular with multiple large halls available for the over 200 presentations. The surrounding city was a maze of markets and skyscrapers nestled between the mountains and coast. Wonderful weather graced us, even rivaling that of Santa Barbara. Which was not something I had considered possible. I had the pleasure and displeasure of trying many unique foods. With bibimbap from a shop near the beach and shrimp dumplings from a small business steeped in the steam used to cook their dumplings being definite highlights. While the eel which I am still unsure whether was cooked or not falling on the other side of the spectrum. I am still processing the wealth of information from ISPIV 2017 and will express my conclusions as it manages to leak from my head.

  • Use of Polyethylene Spheres for Analyzing Microplastic Transport in Correlation with Earthworm Presence

    Work by Matthias C. Rillig, Lisa Ziersch, and Stefan Hempel at Freie Universität and Brandenburg Institute of Advanced Biodiversity Research in Berlin has been published in an article titled Microplastic transport in soil by earthworms. This article investigates earthworms effect on microplastic movement into subsurface soil layers.

    Polyethylene Microplastic

    With the increase in plastic usage in recent decades the issue of how this discarded plastic will affect marine environments has been studied extensively. However, effects of microplastics on soil environments have not been tested to the same extent. Scientists have begun testing microplastic movement into lower soil layers by analyzing how differing sized polyethylene beads moved in a 21-day period with and without earthworm facilitation.

    The experiment was designed to confirm the assumption that earthworms would aid in particle movement. Results found earthworms to have a significant positive effect on transporting polyethylene particles from the soil surface. While particle size was also an important factor on the level of transportation into subsurface environments. With polyethylene spheres in the size range 710-850um being significantly more likely to move into the lowest layer when earthworms were present.

    With this experiment showing the ability of earthworms to transport microplastics into subsurface layers more research needs to be done to determine the effects this may have on the soil environment and the worms themselves. Including the multitude of other organisms that could also facilitate similar transportation. As well as the possibilities of microplastics reaching ground water where problems similar to those realized in marine systems could occur.