In the materials processing industry, size reduction or comminution is usually carried out in order to increase the surface area because, in most reactions involving solid particles, the rate of reactions is directly proportional to the area of contact with a second phase. Thus the rate of combustion of solid particles is proportional to the area presented to the gas, though a number of secondary factors may also be involved. For example, the free flow of gas may be impeded because of the higher resistance to flow of a bed of small particles. In leaching, not only is the rate of extraction increased by virtue of the increased area of contact between the solvent and the solid, but the distance the solvent has to penetrate into the particles in order to gain access to the more remote pockets of solute is also reduced. This factor is also important in the drying of porous solids, where reduction in size causes both an increase in area and a reduction in the distance .

the moisture must travel within the particles in order to reach the surface. In this case, the capillary forces acting on the moisture are also affected. There are a number of other reasons for carrying out size reduction. It may, for example, be necessary to break a material into very small particles in order to separate two constituents, especially where one is dispersed in small isolated pockets. In addition, the properties of a material may be considerably influenced by the particle size and, for example, the chemical reactivity of fine particles is greater than that of coarse particles, and the colour and covering power of a pigment is considerably affected by the size of the particles. In addition, far more intimate mixing of solids can be achieved if the particle size is small.