Grain size

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Basic concepts
Grain size
Size distribution · Morphology
Methods and techniques
Mesh scale · Optical granulometry
Sieve analysis · Soil gradation

Related concepts
Granulation · Granular material
Mineral dust · Pattern recognition
Dynamic light scattering
Wentworth grain size chart from United States Geological Survey Open-File Report 2006-1195
Beach cobbles at Nash Point, South Wales.

Grain size (or particle size) is 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 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.

Krumbein phi scale

Size ranges define limits of classes that are given names in the Wentworth scale (or Udden–Wentworth scale) 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


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 φ:

φ scale Size range
Size range
(approx. inches)
Aggregate name
(Wentworth class)
Other names
<−8 >256 mm >10.1 in Boulder
−6 to −8 64–256 mm 2.5–10.1 in Cobble
−5 to −6 32–64 mm 1.26–2.5 in Very coarse gravel Pebble
−4 to −5 16–32 mm 0.63–1.26 in Coarse gravel Pebble
−3 to −4 8–16 mm 0.31–0.63 in Medium gravel Pebble
−2 to −3 4–8 mm 0.157–0.31 in Fine gravel Pebble
−1 to −2 2–4 mm 0.079–0.157 in Very fine gravel Granule
0 to −1 1–2 mm 0.039–0.079 in Very coarse sand
1 to 0 0.5–1 mm 0.020–0.039 in Coarse sand
2 to 1 0.25–0.5 mm 0.010–0.020 in Medium sand
3 to 2 125–250 µm 0.0049–0.010 in Fine sand
4 to 3 62.5–125 µm 0.0025–0.0049 in Very fine sand
8 to 4 3.9–62.5 µm 0.00015–0.0025 in Silt Mud
10 to 8 0.98–3.9 µm 3.8×10−5–0.00015 in Clay Mud
20 to 10 0.95–977 nm 3.8×10−8–3.8×10−5 in Colloid Mud

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