Grain size

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

  (Redirected from Particle size (grain size))
Jump to: navigation, search
Not to be confused with Crystallite size which is referred to as Grain Size by Metallurgists.
Wentworth grain size chart from United States Geological Survey Open-File Report 2006-1195

Particle size, also called grain size, refers to the diameter of individual grains of sediment, or the lithified particles in clastic rocks. The term may also be applied to other granular materials. This is different from the crystallite size, which is the size of a single crystal inside the particles or grains. A single grain can be composed of several crystals. Granular material can range from very small colloidal particles, through clay, silt, sand, and gravel, to boulders.

Krumbein Phi Scale-United States[edit]

Size ranges define limits of classes that are given names in the Wentworth scale (or Udden-Wentworth) used in the United States. The Krumbein phi (φ) scale, a modification of the Wentworth scale created by W. C. Krumbein[1] in 1937, is a logarithmic scale computed by the equation



\phi is the Krumbein phi scale,
D is the diameter of the particle,[clarification needed] and
D_0 is a reference diameter, equal to 1 mm (to make the equation dimensionally consistent).

This equation can be rearranged to find diameter using φ:

D=D_0 \times 2^{-\phi}\,
φ scaleSize range
Size range
(approx. inches)
Aggregate name
(Wentworth Class)
Other names
−8 <256 mm <10.1 in <Boulder
−6 to −864–256 mm2.5–10.1 inCobble
−5 to −632–64 mm1.26–2.5 inVery coarse gravelPebble
−4 to −516–32 mm0.63–1.26 inCoarse gravelPebble
−3 to −48–16 mm0.31–0.63 inMedium gravelPebble
−2 to −34–8 mm0.157–0.31 inFine gravelPebble
−1 to −22–4 mm0.079–0.157 inVery fine gravelGranule
0 to −11–2 mm0.039–0.079 inVery coarse sand
1 to 0½–1 mm0.020–0.039 inCoarse sand
2 to 1¼–½ mm0.010–0.020 inMedium sand
3 to 2125–250 µm0.0049–0.010 inFine sand
4 to 362.5–125 µm0.0025–0.0049 inVery fine sand
8 to 44–62.5 µm0.00015–0.0025 inSiltMud
10 to 81-4 µm< 0.00015 inClayMud
20 to 101-1000 nm< 0.000039 inColloidMud

In some schemes, gravel is anything larger than sand (comprising granule, pebble, cobble, and boulder in the table above).

International scale[edit]

ISO 14688-1, establishes the basic principles for the identification and classification of soils on the basis of those material and mass characteristics most commonly used for soils for engineering purposes. ISO 14688-1 is applicable to natural soils in situ, similar man-made materials in situ and soils redeposited by man.[2]

ISO 14688-1[3]
NameSize range (mm)
Very coarse soilLarge boulderLBo>630
BoulderBo200 – 630
CobbleCo63 – 200
Coarse soilGravelCoarse gravelCGr20 – 63
Medium gravelMGr6.3 – 20
Fine gravelFGr2.0 - 6.3
SandCoarse sandCSa0.63 - 2.0
Medium sandMSa0.2 - 0.63
Fine sandFSa0.063 - 0.2
Fine soilSiltCoarse siltCSi0.02 - 0.063
Medium siltMSi0.0063 - 0.02
Fine siltFSi0.002 - 0.0063


An accumulation of sediment can also be characterized by the grain size distribution, called sorting. According to a formula[4] the sorting can be quantified as

φ < 0.350.35 < φ < 0.500.50 < φ < 0.710.71 < φ < 1.001.00 < φ < 2.002.00 < φ
very well sortedwell sortedmoderately well sortedmoderately sortedpoorly sortedvery poorly sorted

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Krumbein, W. C.; Aberdeen, Esther (April 1937). "The Sediments of Barataria Bay". Journal of Sedimentary Petrology 7 (1). Retrieved 11 May 2014. (subscription required (help)). 
  2. ^
  3. ^ ISO 14688-1:2002 at[dead link]
  4. ^ Folk, Robert L.; Ward, William C. (1957). "Brazos River bar: a study in the significance of grain-size parameters". Journal of Sedimentary Petrology 27 (1): 3–26. doi:10.1306/74d70646-2b21-11d7-8648000102c1865d. Retrieved 11 May 2014. 

External links[edit]