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Grain size
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Particle size, also called grain size, refers to the diameter

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

Basic concepts
Contents Particle size Grain size
Size distribution Morphology
1 Krumbein phi scale
Methods and techniques
2 International scale
3 Sorting Mesh scale Optical granulometry
4 See also Sieve analysis Soil gradation
5 References
6 External links Related concepts
Granulation Granular material
Mineral dust Pattern recognition
Krumbein phi scale Dynamic light scattering

Size ranges define limits of classes that are given names in

the Wentworth scale (or UddenWentworth scale) used in the United States. The Krumbein phi ()
scale, a modification of the Wentworth scale created by W. C. Krumbein[1] in 1937, is a logarithmic
scale computed by the equation


is the Krumbein phi scale,

is the diameter of the particle or grain in millimeters (from petrowiki, krumbein and monks
equation) and
is a reference diameter, equal to 1 mm (to make the equation dimensionally consistent).

This equation can be rearranged to find diameter using :

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Wentworth grain size chart from United States

Geological Survey Open-File Report 2006-1195

Beach cobbles at Nash Point, South


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Size range Size range Aggregate name

scale Other names
(metric) (approx. inches) (Wentworth class)
<8 >256 mm >10.1 in Boulder
6 to 8 64256 mm 2.510.1 in Cobble
5 to 6 3264 mm 1.262.5 in Very coarse gravel Pebble
4 to 5 1632 mm 0.631.26 in Coarse gravel Pebble
3 to 4 816 mm 0.310.63 in Medium gravel Pebble
2 to 3 48 mm 0.1570.31 in Fine gravel Pebble
1 to 2 24 mm 0.0790.157 in Very fine gravel Granule
0 to 1 12 mm 0.0390.079 in Very coarse sand
1 to 0 0.51 mm 0.0200.039 in Coarse sand
2 to 1 0.250.5 mm 0.0100.020 in Medium sand
3 to 2 125250 m 0.00490.010 in Fine sand
4 to 3 62.5125 m 0.00250.0049 in Very fine sand
8 to 4 3.962.5 m 0.000150.0025 in Silt Mud
10 to 8 0.983.9 m 3.81050.00015 in Clay Mud
20 to 10 0.95977 nm 3.81083.8105 in Colloid Mud

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

International scale
ISO 14688-1:2002, 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 people.[2]

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ISO 14688-1:2002
Name Size range (mm) Size range (approx. in)
Large boulder LBo >630 >24.8031
Very coarse soil Boulder Bo 200630 7.874024.803
Cobble Co 63200 2.48037.8740
Coarse gravel CGr 2063 0.787402.4803
Gravel Medium gravel MGr 6.320 0.248030.78740
Fine gravel FGr 2.06.3 0.0787400.24803
Coarse soil
Coarse sand CSa 0.632.0 0.0248030.078740
Sand Medium sand MSa 0.20.63 0.00787400.024803
Fine sand FSa 0.0630.2 0.00248030.0078740
Coarse silt CSi 0.020.063 0.000787400.0024803
Silt Medium silt MSi 0.00630.02 0.000248030.00078740
Fine soil
Fine silt FSi 0.0020.0063 0.0000787400.00024803
Clay Cl 0.002 0.000078740

An accumulation of sediment can also be characterized by the grain size distribution. A sediment deposit
can undergo sorting when a particle size range is removed by an agency such as a river or the wind. The
sorting can be quantified using the Inclusive Graphic Standard Deviation:[3]


is the Inclusive Graphic Standard Deviation in phi units

is the 84th percentile of the grain size distribution in phi units, etc.

The result of this can be described using the following terms:

0.35 < < 0.50 < < 1.00 < < 2.00 < <
< 0.35 4.00 <
0.50 1.00 2.00 4.00
very well moderately very poorly extremely poorly
well sorted poorly sorted
sorted sorted sorted sorted

See also
Feret diameter
Martin diameter

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Orders of magnitude (volume)

Soil texture
Substrate (biology)
Unified Soil Classification System (USCS)

1. Krumbein, W. C.; Aberdeen, Esther (April 1937). "The Sediments of Barataria
Bay" (http://archives.datapages.com/data/sepm/journals/v01-32/data/007/007001/0003.htm). Journal of
Sedimentary Petrology. 7 (1). doi:10.1306/D4268F8B-2B26-11D7-8648000102C1865D
(https://doi.org/10.1306%2FD4268F8B-2B26-11D7-8648000102C1865D). Retrieved 11 May 2014.
(Subscription required (help)).
2. "ISO 14688-1:2002 Geotechnical investigation and testing Identification and classification of soil Part
1: Identification and description" (http://www.iso.org/iso/iso_catalogue/catalogue_tc/catalogue_detail.htm?
csnumber=25260). International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
3. Folk, Robert L.; Ward, William C. (1957). "Brazos River bar: a study in the significance of grain-size
parameters" (http://www.er.uqam.ca/nobel/aqqua1/articles/Folk_Ward_27%281%29-3.pdf) (PDF). Journal of
Sedimentary Petrology. 27 (1): 326. doi:10.1306/74d70646-2b21-11d7-8648000102c1865d
(https://doi.org/10.1306%2F74d70646-2b21-11d7-8648000102c1865d). Retrieved 11 May 2014.

External links
R D Dean & R A Dalrymple, Coastal Processes with Engineering Applications (Cambridge
University Press, 2002)
W C Krumbein & L L Sloss, Stratigraphy and Sedimentation, 2nd edition (Freeman, San
Francisco, 1963).
Udden, J. A. (1914). "Mechanical composition of clastic sediments". Geological Society of
America Bulletin. 25 (1): 655744. doi:10.1130/GSAB-25-655 (https://doi.org/10.1130%
Wentworth, C. K. (1922). "A Scale of Grade and Class Terms for Clastic Sediments". The Journal
of Geology. 30 (5): 377392. Bibcode:1922JG.....30..377W
(http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1922JG.....30..377W). doi:10.1086/622910
(https://doi.org/10.1086%2F622910). JSTOR 30063207 (https://www.jstor.org/stable/30063207).

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Categories: Sedimentary rocks Pedology

This page was last edited on 9 May 2017, at 00:03.

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