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What Are Microparticles?

Platelets are other living creatures in blood are microparticles.
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  • Written By: M. McGee
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 15 October 2014
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Microparticles are very small bits of substance. While some of these particles can be seen by the naked eye, they are so small that onlookers are unable to see any detail or formation on the particle’s surface. When used by humans, these particles are often clumped together into collections of the same material, such as with flour. When they occur naturally, microparticles are typically part of a system and are not directly connected to other similar particles. As a result of their size, microparticles will often have properties that larger occurrences of the material don’t possess.

The only common factor between microparticles of different materials is their size. A microparticle is between .1 and 100 micrometers (0.003 inches) in size, which is the range between a bacterium and a very fine human hair. The larger microparticles can be seen with no assistance, but the smallest ones require magnification. Even when the particle is visible, the structure of the particle is far too small for a human eye to see.

Nearly every person sees microparticles every day. Common everyday materials, such as sand, flour and pollen, are all made up of these tiny particles. When a microparticle is used by humans, it will often be gathered together. This is especially true with cooking materials and the particles created for use in manufacturing. When the microparticle is not used by humans, such as dust or pollen, it will often be discouraged from clumping together.

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An industrial miroparticle is often a magnetic core surrounded in a second material. These particles are designed to mix with another substance and do something. That something varies wildly based on what the outer shell is made of; it can be anything from separating valuable metal from rock to purifying water. The magnetic inner core is used to retrieve the particles after it has done what it was designed to do.

There are also naturally occurring microparticles in living creatures. Several portions of blood, like platelets, are actually microparticles. In addition, the endothelial cells that line the circulatory system of many creatures give off a steady stream of particles. In the past, people believed these were simply cast off material, but recent studies have shown a connection between the number of endothelial microparticles in the bloodstream and certain diseases.

A microparticle has a much greater surface-to-non-surface area than most materials. This causes some types of particles to react differently on the small scale than they do on the large. One of the most common reactions comes from certain metals. When these materials are exposed to air and friction, such as from being thrown into the air, they become highly volatile and even explosive.

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