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Cyclone Dust Collectors

An Underestimated Technology?
by Malcolm Gale, Managing Director of MikroPul Ltd

uddenly cyclone dust collectors are all the rage.

The phenomenal success of the bagless, dual
cyclone based Dyson vacuum cleaner and its latest rival the triple vortex machine has brought all
the merits of this apparently simple air/dust separation technique to housewives throughout the
world. The benefits are similar to industrial applications - no more dirty filter bags to change, no more
having to buy and hold spare bags, and no more
finding you havent got a spare bag just when you
most need one.
And indeed the theory of cyclonic separation is
relatively simple. It is based on the principle that the
induced spiralling action of the gas / particle
stream subjects particles to substantial centrifugal
forces, which effectively adds G-force weight to the
airborne solids. This alters the relationship between
the particles and the minimum gas velocity
required to keep them airborne (known as saltation
velocity). As the effective mass of the particles
increases, they will drop out of suspension and be
discharged from the cyclone hopper, leaving the
clean air to exit through the central outlet tube (see
fig 1).

previously discounted. One example was a company which was having difficulty with a particular
process where the residual dust load was fine (100%
below 20 micron, 90% below 10 micron) and,
although not excessive, it could not be released to
The particulate arrestment was in the form of a
bank of roughing HEPA filters, which needed to be
changed every 8-10 weeks. To install a self cleaning
primary filter was going to be expensive, quite apart
from there being little room for additional equipment.
Cyclone technology had been considered previously and discounted as the understanding was
that such a light dust load of such small particles
could not be effectively arrested by cyclones.
Although this is true of many conventional cyclone
designs, new cyclone technology can employ a
geometry, which enables high collection efficiency
of small particles.
Further, in the case outlined above, computer
modeling of the process scenario enabled a cyclone
performance prediction to be made which would
make significant improvements to the system, at a
relatively low cost.
In this particular case, even with 90% of the dust
load being below 10 micron (the point at which
most conventional cyclones become ineffective),
the computer model gave an overall predicted efficiency of 83%. This represented a significant reduction in the dust burden to the HEPA filters.
Since the cyclones installation, the company has
only been changing HEPA filters once a year since.

Application Driven
The size and range of cyclones available is vast with
each design custom built for its duty. Applications
vary from power stations, which use cyclones with
an inlet scroll you can drive a bus through, to the
pharmaceutical and nuclear industries with highly
polished glove box and lab size applications.
All manner of materials of construction can be

Figure 1.

MikroPul Ltd
can be contacted on:
Tel: 01925 849220
Fax: 01925 849221


However, in industrial applications cyclones have

long been regarded as inefficient dust collectors
with limited uses when compared to, say, fabric filters. But with the correct applications knowledge
and experienced guidance, advanced cyclone technology can be more widely used in industrial powder handling and product recovery systems.
It is usually the lack of knowledge regarding the
correct applications of cyclones and the inability to
accurately predict performances of such machines
that has somewhat restricted their wider acceptance and use.
To fully exploit the potential of cyclones, industrial filtration experts are able to computer model the
saltation phenomenon resulting in very accurate
performance predictions for their range of high efficiency cyclones.
This ability has enabled the application of
cyclones in situations where they may have been

Figure 2.

used and refractory lined cyclones with hastalloy

outlet tubes have been supplied. Construction
codes to BS5500 and ASME VIII can be undertaken
and there are cyclones operating at 32 barg in the
petrochem industry. Also available are high temperature cyclones for applications in excess of 1,000C.
Removable wear liners are incorporated in most
cyclones and explosion relief or 10 bar pressure
shock resistant units can also be manufactured.
Other applications where cyclones have an added
advantage are pigments and flavourings production
where clean down between batches is required.
Installing a cyclone in front of a dust filter, and
designing it with quick release-easy strip cyclone
body parts and polished internals can cut downtime
significantly and increase product collection where
previously good product was disposed of in the filter.
Other surprising advantages have been discovered as illustrated by a cyclone installation at a pharmaceutical manufacturing site.
The manufacturers problem was one of personnel safety. Operations at the site surrounded the
manufacture of a range of pharmaceutical products
including a medicated shampoo, the active ingredient of which was Selenium Sulphide.
As part of the manufacturing process, the Selenium Sulphide powder, which is harmful to the eyes
and lungs, is drawn under suction from an existing
mill through a modified knock-out chamber into a
mixer/blender. The carry-overs from the knockout
chamber pass through a second collection unit
before ending up in the bag filter.
In the past, the second collection unit was very
labour intensive as well as inefficient (most of the
carry-over dust ended up in the bag filter, which was
only supposed to be a back-stop device). This
meant that the operators had to empty the drum
beneath the filter at frequent intervals using breathing apparatus.
In looking for a replacement method, acute
space limitations added to the problem of equipment selection.
The solution was to replace the second collection
unit with a new specially computer-modelled
cyclone on top of the mixer/blender vessel so that a
higher proportion of the material could be put
straight back into the process without manual handling.
Advanced computer modelling was used to custom design a high efficiency compact cyclone. A
compact model 18 (12 barrel diameter) with a
rotary airlock fitted to the discharge was selected.
Where as previously 100kg would have been carried
over and manually handled, the quantity of dust
has been reduced to approximately 3kg, a dramatic
97% reduction in carry-over dust going into the bag
This means the operators now only have to go
into the area for a fraction of the time that they used
to with the old system. The reports from site are
that the operators are more than happy with the
new set up.
Installations such as this demonstrate that, with
expert consultation, a small, correctly designed and
applied, yet inexpensive cyclone can be easily used
to overcome a serious problem, where a more complicated or expensive solution might otherwise have
been sought.