A laboratory prototype of a novel experimental apparatus for the analysis of spherical and axisymmetric nonspherical particles in liquid suspensions has been developed. This apparatus determines shape, volume, and refractive index, and this is the main difference of this apparatus from commercially available particle analyzers. Characterization is based on the scattering of a monochromatic laser beam by particles [which can be inorganic, organic, or biological (such as red blood cells and bacteria)] and on the strong relation between the light-scattering pattern and the morphology and the volume, shape, and refractive index of the particles. To keep things relatively simple, first we focus attention on axisymmetrical particles, in which case hydrodynamic alignment can be used to simplify signal gathering and processing. Fast and reliable characterization is achieved by comparison of certain properly selected characteristics of the scattered-light pattern with the corresponding theoretical values, which are readily derived from theoretical data and are stored in a look-up table. The data in this table were generated with a powerful boundary-element method, which can solve the direct scattering problem for virtually arbitrary shapes. A specially developed fast pattern-recognition technique makes possible the on-line characterization of axisymmetric particles. Successful results with red blood cells and bacteria are presented.
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