Particle Size Reduction


Size Reduction: The initial reduction of cereal grains begins by disrupting the outer protective layer of the seed (hull), exposing the interior, see the picture. Continued size reduction increases both the number of particles and the amount of surface area per unit of volume. It is this increased surface area that is of primary importance. A greater portion of the grain's interior is exposed to digestive enzymes, allowing increased access to nutritional components such as starch and protein. The enhanced breakdown of these nutritional components improves absorption in the digestive tract. The overall effect is increased animal performance. Size reduction is also used to modify the physical characteristics of ingredients resulting in improved mixing, pelleting, and, in some instances, handling or transport.

Hammer mills reduce the particle size of materials by impacting a slow moving target, such as a cereal grain, with a rapidly moving hammer. The target has little or no momentum (low kinetic energy), whereas the hammer tip is traveling at a minimum of 4,880 m/min (~16,000 feet per min) and perhaps in excess of 7,015 m/min (~ 23,000 feet per min) (high kinetic energy). The transfer of energy that results from this collision fractures the grain into many pieces. Sizing is a function of hammer-tip speed; hammer design and placement; screen design and hole size; and whether or not air assistance is utilized.

Because impact is the primary force used in a Hammer mill to reduce the size of the particles, anything that; increases the chance of a collision between a hammer and a target, increases the magnitude of the collision, or improves material take-away, would be advantageous to particle size reduction. The magnitude of the collisions can be escalated by increasing the speed of the hammers. Anderson (1994) stated that when drive speed and screen size were kept constant, the increased hammer-tip speed obtained from increased rotor diameter produced particles of smaller mean geometric size.
Particles produced using a hammer mill will generally be spherical in shape with a surface that appears polished. The distribution of particle sizes will vary widely around the geometric mean such that there will be some large-sized and many small-sized particles.

Roller mills accomplish size reduction through a combination of forces and design features. If the rolls rotate at the same speed, compression is the primary force used. If the rolls rotate at different speeds, shearing and compression are the primary forces used. If the rolls are grooved, a tearing or grinding component is introduced. Coarse grooves provide less size reduction than fine grooves do. There is little noise or dust pollution associated with properly designed and maintained roller mills. Their slower operating speeds do not generate heat, and there is very little moisture loss.

Particles produced tend to be uniform in size; that is, very little fine material is generated. The shape of the particles tends to be irregular, more cubic or rectangular than spherical. The irregular shape of the particles means they do not pack as well. For similar-sized particles, bulk density of material ground on a roller mill will be about 5 to 15 percent less than material ground by a hammer mill.

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