Anionic surfactants, typically lignin sulphonates produced as a by-product of the Kraft paper making process, are used extensively. These large surfactant molecules, which are several orders of magnitude larger than any disperse dye molecule, adhere to and encapsulate the large dye pigment particle and form a stable dispersion.

If I omit "several orders of magnitude", and say "which are larger than .........", this sentence makes sense to me. But due to presence of "several orders of magnitude" makes this sentence awkward to me.

Please, help me to clarify this problem.


The entire phrase several orders of magnitude modifies larger (qualifying larger by answering the question how much larger), which is why you can omit it and the sentence will still make sense.

@Kreiri provided a great link in the comments explaining what an order of magnitude is (basically, a power of 10). So several orders of magnitude larger would mean its current size with several zeroes tacked on the end of it.

What the sentence is trying to convey is that the "large surfactant molecules" are vastly larger than any "disperse dye molecule", without being specific about the measurement of sizes.

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