What do Corning, Merck, Nestle, DuPont, and Unilever have in common? Yes, they are large companies, international companies, or companies driven by technology—but they are also companies that have recognized that particle science and technology is a critical factor in their businesses that needs to be understood and managed. One way that they address the complexities of particle science is by being members of consortia, such as the International Fine Particle Research Institute (IFPRI).
While none of these companies (nor, I expect, your own company) would define themselves as a particle processing company, the control of particle size, powder flow, or the production or use of particles with specific compositions is central to their products and the bottom line. In 1986, Edward Merrow authored a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-sponsored report on “A Quantitative Assessment of R&D Requirements for Solids Processing Technology” that was published by RAND Corp.1 This report delineates the difficulty in starting and operating a solids processing production plant as opposed to a liquids processing plant. As Merrow explained, an average liquids processing plant operates at 84% of design capacity, while a solids processing plant operates, on average, at 63% of design capacity. The report attributes much of this differential to the
lack of fundamental understanding of solids handling.