Fertilizer Applications

Fertilizers are chemical compounds given to plants to promote growth. Fertilizers can be organic (composed of organic matter), or inorganic (made of simple, inorganic chemicals or minerals). They can be naturally occurring compounds such as peat or mineral deposits, or manufactured through natural processes (such as composting) or chemical processes (such as the Haber process). Fertilizers typically provide the three major plant nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium: N-P-K) in varying proportions, secondary plant nutrients (calcium, sulfur, magnesium) and sometimes trace elements (or micronutrients). The particle size of fertilizer materials directly affects release rate, potency, and working hazards such as dust generation. Naturally occurring organic fertilizers include manure, slurry, worm castings, peat, seaweed, sewage, and guano. Green manure crops are also grown to add nutrients to the soil. Manufactured organic fertilizers include compost, bone meal and seaweed extracts. Inorganic fertilizers are typically synthesized materials containing the three primary ingredients N-P-K. They are named or labeled according to the content of these three elements, which are macronutrients.

Potash fertilizer pellets and an image captured by the CAMSIZER.

The Effect of Particle Size and Shape

The fertilizer industry considers particle size analysis so important that a minimum frequency of measurements must be made to assure proper quality. The traditional technique for particle size analysis of fertilizers has been sieving, but companies are now looking for more efficient measurement tools. Any technique considered for replacing sieving must have the ability to match the historic sieve results, but provide gains in speed, ease of use and long term cost. The CAMSIZER Dynamic Image Analysis system fulfills each requirement.

Learn how the CAMSIZER uses dynamic image analysis technology to measure size and shape

The CAMSIZER captures particle size and shape using two CCD cameras.
Click to enlarge: The CAMSIZER captures particle size and shape using two CCD cameras.

Manufacturing

Because of occupational health and safety (respirability of fertilizer powder) and environmental aspects (formation of dust) fertilizer manufacturers are forced to granulate the fertilizer powders and crystals. This improves the handling and does not affect the molecular structure of the product in any way. Monitoring the amount of fine particles becomes an important release criteria for fertilizer products. With a measurement range of 30 microns to 30 millimeters the CAMSIZER technology quantifies both the amount of fines and desired particle size of the product. An optional ultrasonic accessory may be used to disperse moderately cohesive particles as well.


Matching Sieve Specifications

Many, if not all, fertilizer producers have set size specifications using sieves. And many times the situation requires any new measurement technology meet those same specifications. The CAMSIZER accomplishes this easily using an intelligent sieve fitting designed to calculate how a particle with a certain measured shape will pass through a square sieve mesh opening. Though the calculations are complex, creating each fitting file simple and fast. The user needs three inputs to create the fitting:

  • Sieve data to use as a reference
  • A CAMSIZER measurement of the entire sample
  • A CAMSIZER measurement of the sieve cut containing the mode (most common) size

The integrated CAMSIZER Elementary Fitting software then produces a fitting file which can be toggled on or off for each subsequent measurement of this particular material. See the figures below for a typical comparison of results before and after elementary fitting is applied.

This feature allows the CAMSIZER to both match historical specifications and provide significant advantages in speed, precision, and unit-to-unit agreement over sieves.

CAMSIZER vs. sieve results without Elementary Fitting.
CAMSIZER vs. sieve results without Elementary Fitting.
CAMSIZER vs. sieve results with Elementary Fitting.
CAMSIZER vs. sieve results with Elementary Fitting.

Easy Quality Control

The CAMSIZER comes with several software tools which make quality control easy. Visually display pass/fail criteria (see figure below) to quickly identify where the material is in, or out, of spec. Choose to save images of all particles or just those which prevent the lot from passing. These images provide inarguable proof and allow everyone to focus on solving the problem.

The CAMSIZER visually displays passing specifications for easy operation.
Click to enlarge: The CAMSIZER visually displays passing specifications for easy operation.

UI and SGN Calculations

SGN and UI calculations are also provided for those products or organizations requiring these metrics.

UI and SGN measurements available directly in the CAMSIZER software.
Click to enlarge: UI and SGN measurements available directly in the CAMSIZER software.

Summary of Benefits

Many satisfied CAMSIZER users in the fertilizer industry enjoy these benefits:

  • Much faster measurement compared to sieves

    • Removes bottlenecks in product release
    • Less time spent measuring, more time for analyzing/improving

  • More accurate analysis improves re-work and scrap metrics

    • Many users see 50+% yield improvement

  • SOP-driven measurements mean easy comparison between shifts and plants

    • Less time deciding if there is a problem, more time solving problems

  • At-line and on-line installations available
  • Excellent tool-to-tool reproducibility

Contact our particle specialists to discuss the application or request a demonstration.


Find Out More

Learn more about how the CAMSIZER works and how it measures fertilizer by watching the recorded webinars.

View Webinar TE002: CAMSIZER Dynamic Image Analyzer (You need to be logged in).

View Webinar AP016: Accurate Fertilizer Measurement with the CAMSIZER (You need to be logged in).

Download the CAMSIZER brochure


CAMSIZER Series Product Pages

CAMSIZER Dynamic Image Analyzer

HORIBA's CAMSIZER features dynamic image analysis to provide rapid and precise particle size and particle shape distributions for dry powders and bulk material in the size range from 20µm to 30mm.

CAMSIZER XT Dynamic Image Analyzer

HORIBA's CAMSIZER XT features dynamic image analysis to provide rapid and precise particle size and particle shape distributions for dry powders and wet dispersions in the size range from 1µm to 3mm.