Shape factor (image analysis and microscopy)
Shape factors are dimensionless quantities used in
image analysisand microscopy that numerically describe the shape of a particle, independent of its size. Shape factors are calculated from measured dimensions, such as diameter, chord lengths, area, perimeter, centroid, moments, etc. The dimensions of the particles are usually measured from two-dimensional cross-sections or projections, as in a microscope field, but shape factors also apply to three-dimensional objects. The particles could be the grains in a metallurgical or ceramic microstructure, or the microorganisms in a culture, for example. The dimensionless quantities often represent the degree of deviation from an ideal shape, such as a circle, sphere or equilateral polyhedron. [L. Wojnar & K.J. Kurzydłowski, et al., "Practical Guide to Image Analysis", ASM International, 2000, p 157-160, ISBN 0-87170-688-1.] Shape factors are often "normalized", that is, the value ranges from zero to one. A shape factor equal to one usually represents an ideal case or maximum symmetry, such as a circle, sphere, square or cube.
*The most common shape factor is the
aspect ratio, a function of the largest diameter and the smallest diameter orthogonal to it:
The normalized aspect ratio varies from approaching zero for a very elongated particle, such as a grain in a cold-worked metal, to near unity for an equiaxed grain. The reciprocal of the right side of the above equation is also used, such that the AR varies from one to approaching infinity.
Another very common shape factor is the circularity, a function of the perimeter "P" and the area "A":
The circularity of a circle is 1 , and much less than one for a
starfishfootprint. The reciprocal of the circularity equation is also used, such that "f"circ varies from one for a circle to infinity.
Elongation shape factor
The less-common elongation shape factor is defined as the square root of the ratio of the two second moments "in" of the particle around its principal axes. H.E. Exner & H.P. Hougardy, "Quantitative Image Analysis of Microstructures", DGM Informationsgesellschaft mbH, 1988, p 33-39, ISBN 3-88355-132-5.]
Compactness shape factor
The "f"comp of a circle is one, and much less than one for the cross-section of an
Waviness shape factor
Some properties of metals and ceramics, such as
fracture toughness, have been linked to grain shapes. [P.F. Becher, et al., "Microstructural Design of Silicon Nitride with Improved Fracture Toughness: I, Effects of Grain Shape and Size," "J. American Ceramic Soc.", Vol 81, Issue 11, P 2821-2830, Nov 1998.] [T. Huang, et al., "Anisotropic Grain Growth and Microstructural Evolution of Dense Mullite above 1550°C," "J. American Ceramic Soc.", Vol 83, Issue 1, P 204-10, Jan 2000.]
An application of shape factors
Greenland, the largest island in the world, has an area of 2,166,086 km2; a coastline (perimeter) of 39,330 km; a north-south length of 2670 km; and an east-west length of 1290 km. The aspect ratio of Greenland is
The circularity of Greenland is
The aspect ratio is agreeable with an eyeball-estimate on a globe. Such an estimate on a flat map would be less accurate due to the distortion of high-
latitudeprojections. The circularity is deceptively low, due to the fjords that give Greenland a very jagged coastline. A low value of circularity does not necessarily indicate a lack of symmetry! And shape factors are not limited to microscopic objects!
* J.C. Rust & R.T. Dehoff, "Practical Stereology", 2nd Ed., Kluwer Academic, 2000.
* E.E. Underwood, "Quantitative Stereology", Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., 1970.
* G.F. VanderVoort, "Metallography: Principles and Practice", ASM International, 1984.
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