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ECH 4224L

Unit Operations Lab I

Filtration

FILTRATION
Introduction
Separation of solids from liquids is a common operation that requires empirical data to
make predictions of performance. These data are usually obtained from experiments performed
on a small-scale laboratory equipment. In this lab, you will first perform experiments with a
small batch filter and use your experimental data to predict operating conditions for a continuous
rotary drum filter commonly used in industrial applications. You will then verify your
predictions by experiments on the drum filter. The experiments are performed with a slurry of
diatomaceous earth in water.
In order to satisfactorily complete this laboratory exercise, it is important to have a
thorough understanding of the following concepts:
Filtration
Filter cake resistance
Flow through porous media

Batch Filtration (Small Scale)


Controlling parameters: Pressure drop, time for filtration, concentration of slurry
Performance indicators: Filtrate flow rate, rate of cake formation.
Feed (slurry) is poured into a graduated cylinder and filtrate is collected in a conical flask. The
filter medium is a canvas cloth fixed at the bottom of the cylinder.
The batch filtration can be performed in two regimes:
1. Pressure-driven filtration. A constant vacuum pressure is applied to the conical flask via
pump induces liquid flow from the cylinder.
2. Gravity-driven filtration. The pump is disconnected from the conical flask and the fluid
flow from the cylinder into the flask is driven by gravity.

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ECH 4224L

Unit Operations Lab I

Filtration

Figure 1. Batch filtration

The objective of the batch experiment is to determine the permeability and porosity of the
cake. Once these values have been obtained they can be used to make predictions of the rate at
which solids are produced in the continuous filter. These predictions are then tested by running
the continuous filter.
The pressure (either due to the weight of the slurry or the vacuum pump) is related to the
water flow rate by Darcys law for flows through porous media:
(1)
Here, is the cake permeability, is the fluid viscosity, p is the pressure drop across the fluid,
L is the cake thickness, Q is the volumetric flow rate of the liquid, and A is the area of filter
media. In Eq. (1) we neglected the resistance of the filter medium, since in our experiment it is
much smaller than that of the cake.
Values of the water viscosity at various temperatures are available in the literature and
values of L, A, and Q can be measured directly. In particular, Q can be measured by the bucket
and stopwatch method,
(2)
Here, V(t) is the volume of the filtrate collected at time t. Therefore, we can solve Eq. (1) for the
only remaining unknown, namely the cake permeability .
Note, however, that several quantities in Eq. (1) are time dependent. Clearly, the cake
thickness L grows with time. The pressure drop depends on the height H of the slurry, which
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ECH 4224L

Unit Operations Lab I

Filtration

decreases with time. Finally, solution of equations discussed below shows that Q also depends on
time. Therefore, if we solve Eq. (1) for using data measured at different moments of time, we
will observe some fluctuations in due to errors in experimental measurement.
A more convenient approach to measurement of is to perform a least-squares fit to
experimental data. For this, we need to rewrite Eq. (1) as a differential equation by substituting
Eq. (2) into Eq. (1):
(3)
The height of the cake L can be obtained from the mass balance for the solids. The mass of solids
in the cake is
(4)
Here, co is the concentration of solids in the slurry (kg of solids per m3 of liquid),

is the

density of dry solid, and

is the

is the porosity (volume fraction of pores) of the cake:

volume of pores in the cake of volume LA. In the wet cake, this volume is occupied by water.
Therefore, the cake porosity can be determined by comparing weights of the wet and dry cakes.
Assuming that

is negligible in comparison with V, solving Eq. (4) for L, and

substituting the result into Eq. (3), we obtain:


(5)
or
(6)
where
(7)
Eq. (6) can be easily solved if p is constant. In this case,
(8)
Therefore, plotting V vs. t1/2 and fitting the plot to a straight line, we can obtain the cake
permeability .
Note that in reality p is time dependent,
.

(9)

Here, ppump is the pressure drop generated by the vacuum pump, slurry is the slurry density, and
H(t) is the height of the slurry column above the cake. Dependence of H(t) on time is directly
related to that of V(t). Therefore, Eq. (6) can still be solved albeit the solution becomes more
complex. In the pressure-driven experiments, ppump = const and, if the contribution of the
gravity to p is negligible, one can assume that p= const.
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ECH 4224L

Unit Operations Lab I

Filtration

Continuous Filtration (Large Scale)


Controlling parameters: Pressure drop, concentration of slurry, drum speed.
Performance indicators: Filtrate flow rate, rate of cake formation.
Rotary drum filter consists of a drum rotating in a tub of liquid to be filtered (see Fig. 2).
The liquid to be filtered is sent to the tub below the drum. The drum rotates through the liquid
and the vacuum sucks liquid and solids onto the drum. The liquid portion is sucked through the
filter media to the internal portion of the drum, and the filtrate is pumped away. The solids
adhere to the outside of the drum, which is then blown off the surface by air. The rotating drum
continuously takes in feed from slurry tank and blows off the cake form the surface. This
establishes a continuous operation.
(a)

(b)

Figure 2. Rotary drum filter: (a) the Bird-Young filter installed in the Unit Operations Lab; (b)
Schematics of the filter operation.
The continuous filter operates at constant p and hence each element of cloth acts like a
batch filter. Therefore, the filtrate flow rate can be predicted by the batch filtration model
discussed above. Let us compute amount of filtrate V passing through the filter during a short
time interval t. Divide the drum surface into N segments of size wl, where w is the width of
the drum and l is the distance traveled by a point on the drum surface during time t,
(10)
Here, R is the drum radius and is the angular velocity of the drum. Area of each segment is
(11)
and the total area of the drum surface immersed in the slurry is
(12)
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ECH 4224L

Unit Operations Lab I

Filtration

Here, = Nt is the time during which a filter segment remains immersed in the slurry. This time
can also be expressed as
(13)
where is the angle corresponding to the portion of the filter immersed in the slurry (see Fig. 2b).
The segments on the drum surface are numbered so that the n-th segment spent time
(14)
inside the slurry. Then the amount of filtrate that passed through the n-th segment since its
immersion into the slurry is given by Eq. (8) with t = tn-1, i.e.
(15)

where K is given by Eq. (7). Volume of the filtrate passing through this segment during the next
t seconds is Vn = [V(tn) V(tn-1)]. Volume of the filtrate passing through the entire filter
immersed in the slurry during time t is

(16)

Thus the filtrate flow rate is


(17)
The 2nd equality was obtained by multiplying both the numerator and denominator by N. V() in
the right-hand side of Eq. (17) is given by Eq. (8).
Once V(t) is known, we can also obtain the cake thickness L on the surface of the filter
coming out of the solution. For this, we can assume that L = 0 when the filter segment enters the
solution and use Eq. (4) to obtain L(). In this experiment, we cannot measure L directly. Instead,
we can measure the rate of the cake production. A theoretical prediction for this rate can be
easily obtained once L() is predicted and the speed of the drum, R, and the filter width, w, are
measured. This prediction can then be verified experimentally.

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ECH 4224L

Unit Operations Lab I

Filtration

Objectives
The main learning objective is to gain experience in scaling up from a bench-scale operation to a
production operation.
Batch Filtration
1. Determine permeability and porosity of the cake from the batch experiment.
2. Determine effects of pressure drop, slurry concentration, and initial amount of slurry on the
filtrate flow rate and the porosity and permeability of the filter cake.

Continuous Filtration
1. Use results of the batch filtration experiment to predict dependence of the filtrate flow rate
and the rate of the filter cake production on the speed of the drum rotation, pressure drop, and
the slurry concentration.
2. Verify your theoretical predictions experimentally.
3. Determine porosity of the cake for various pressure drops and slurry concentrations and
compare these results with the results of the batch filtration.

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