The Helmke Drum test method to measure particles shed from garments was developed twenty years ago. It consists of a tumbling drum containing the garment under test. A probe connected to an optical particle counter is used to transport the sample from the drum. Dilution air is drawn into the drum from the surrounding cleanroom. The optical particle counters at the time of development were limited in resolution to 0.5 μm diameter. This particle size requirement is still in the current version of IEST-RP-CC003.2, Garment Systems Considerations for Cleanrooms and Other Controlled Environments. A question was raised in the current IEST Contamination Control Working Group 003, "Garment System Considerations for Cleanrooms and Other Controlled Environments," as to whether the method could be extended to smaller particle diameters. The method would benefit by including measurements of smaller particle diameters for two reasons: the higher particle counts expected for sub-0.5 μm particles might improve the statistics of the method; and there is a growing need to consider contamination by ultra-fine particles during the manufacture of high performance products. We hypothesized that the size distribution of particles released by garments follows a power law similar to that for cleanroom classes. The form of the power law distribution is N(d) = Ad(-B), where N(d) is the cumulative concentration greater to or equal to d, d is the particle diameter, and A and B are statistically determined coefficients. The size distributions from a number of Helmke Drum tests were analyzed and were found to be highly correlated to the power law equation. However, the slopes appeared to vary depending on the type of garment tested. These results support including guidance with respect to particle size in the Helmke Drum test section in the upcoming revision of IEST-RP-CC003.2.

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