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Dust and droplet filtration is an essential process step in many industries. Although many studies have
been dedicated to the mechanisms of dust filtration, little is known about the behaviour of an air filter when
challenged with solid and liquid particles at the same time. This research article answers questions about
the pressure drop during the filtration of a solid/liquid particle mixture, as well as on the influence of the
respective solid and liquid particle concentrations.

Filtration of solid and liquid aerosol

mixtures: pressure drop evolution
and influence of solid/liquid ratio
T Frising1, 2, V Gujisaite 1, D Thomas1*, S Callé1, D Bémer2, P Contal1 & D Leclerc1
Laboratoire de Filtration des Aérosols
1 Laboratoire des Sciences du Génie Chimique, 1 rue Grandville, BP 451, F-54001 Nancy Cédex, France.
2 Institut National de Recherche et de Sécurité, av. de Bourgogne, BP 27, F-54501,

Vandoeuvre-lès-Nancy Cédex, France.

*Corresponding author:

as filtration is a necessary and compulsory operation for solid particles and liquid droplets bears a considerable influence
many industries in order to satisfy environmental, hygiene on a filter’s pressure drop and efficiency, and therefore its lifetime.
or simply purity standards. In certain industries, aerosols Thus the authors thought it important to investigate the
are composed of a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets. behaviour of a filter when challenged with solid and liquid
Examples include the mechanical industry, with mists of metal particle mixtures.
working fluid mixed together with solid particles (soot, metals) A series of experiments were conducted to determine the
and agriculture, with its liquid pesticides and very diverse mineral pressure drop of a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter
solid particles. during simultaneous filtration of solid and liquid particles.
Although a large number of studies have been dedicated to the Different mass percentages of solid aerosols were tested in order
mechanisms of solid particle filtration [1-3], some to liquid to investigate the influence of the respective solid and liquid
aerosols [4, 5], virtually no literature sources are available concentrations on the pressure drop.
concerning the filtration of solid and liquid particles
simultaneously [6, 7]. EXPERIMENTAL SETUP & PROCEDURE
Only two partial studies have been published. Sun and Chen
[6] studied the first stages of the filtration of different oleic acid / The experimental setup (Figure 1) is composed of an air
NaCl mixtures, while Rosati et al [7] conducted an industrial compressor, an air-dryer, a PLG 2000-HC liquid aerosol generator
study in different plants in the mechanical industry. (Palas®, Karlsruhe, Germany), an RBG 1000 rotary brush solid
It seems only reasonable to think that the interaction between aerosol generator (Palas, Karlsruhe, Germany), a 110 mm

HEPA safety filter

Mass flowmeter

Test Safety Pi Pi
Regulation filter filter

Solid aerosol
Mass flowmeters P P
Air dryer

Liquid aerosol Sampling lines


Figure 1: Schematic depicting the experimental setup.

ISSN 0015-1882/04 © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved March 2004 37
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The pressure drop is recorded throughout the

pressure drop (mbar)

4 Pressure drop evolution
100 As data are virtually absent from the literature, the
3 first task was to establish the pressure drop behaviour
2 of the filter during the filtration of a mixture of solid
and liquid aerosols. These results are shown in
Figure 2.
The pressure drop evolution is considerably
1 different from those encountered in solid or liquid
0 aerosol filtration. Five different stages can clearly be
0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 8000 identified on the plot in Figure 2.
filtration time (s) 1. During the first stage the pressure drop
increases slowly. This is characteristic of depth
Figure 2: Pressure drop evolution of a D309 HEPA filter, filtration of either solid or liquid aerosols. The solid
filtering a mixture of 13.5 mass % of solid and 86.5 mass % and liquid particles are captured by the fibres situated
of liquid particles. throughout the filter media (Figure 3a). Particles seem
to deposit preferentially on others already present on
diameter test filter holder, three mass flowmeters and two the fibres to form aggregates. These aggregates are moreover
sampling lines upstream and downstream of the test filter covered in liquid.
respectively. The ambient temperature and experimental pressure 2. The pressure drop rises sharply during the second stage as is
are monitored continuously throughout the experiments. The normally the case in liquid aerosol filtration. During this
flow rate is maintained constant during the experiment by a flow stage liquid bridges and films are developing at fibre
regulation control system. The pressure drop of the test safety intersections thus hindering the gas throughput. No particle
filters are continuously recorded using differential pressure deposit on the filter surface could be detected during these
transducers. first two stages.
The filter used in these experiments is a HEPA filter with an 3. The third stage is characterised by the formation of a filter
average fibre diameter of 1.21 µm (geometric standard deviation cake on the filtre surface. The pressure drop increases only
= 1.2), with a thickness of 409 µm and a packing density of slowly during this stage due to the accumulation of particle
0.078. The liquid aerosol used is di(2-ethyl hexyl) sebacate aggregates on the surface. This slow pressure drop increase
(DEHS) with an average particle diameter of 0.33 µm can probably be attributed to an internal redistribution of
(standard deviation = 0.23) at a concentration downstream of the liquid captured in the filter as would be the case for a
the generator of approximately 3.1 g/m3. The solid aerosol is an liquid aerosol filtration.
alumina powder with an average number diameter of 3.6 µm 4. A second sharp pressure drop increase is observed during this
(standard deviation = 1.31). These liquid (organic oil) and stage, albeit much shorter than the first one. It has been
solid (mineral) aerosols were chosen in order to present the least suggested this increase is due to the higher energy needed for
possible interaction between them. It can be assumed that the liquid to percolate through the cake and the filter in order
compounds that interact will exhibit a very different to reach the far end of the filter where it drains off. Another
behaviour. possible explanation for this second sharp pressure drop
increase could be the closing of the preferential passageways
Experimental procedure during the third stage along with the filter cake formation
until the pressure drop gets too high for the situation to go
For each experiment, two air flows are mixed: on. That is when the fourth stage takes place. New
• The first one of 30 Nl/min containing approximately
3.1 g/m3 of liquid droplets
(a) (b)
• The second of 50 Nl/min containing a previously
determined concentration of solid particles in order to
obtain the desired mass percentage (0%, 13.5%, 25%,
50%, 75% and 100%) of solid particles in the mixture.
This concentration is regulated by the speed of the
upward motion of the piston containing the solid
particles in the rotary brush generator.
Once mixed together, the flow is partly by-passed in order
to obtain a filtration flow of 30 Nl/min, which equals a Figure 3: (a) SEM photograph of stage 1 (x1000)
filtration velocity of approximately 5.8 cm/s on the test rig. & (b) SEM photograph of stage 5 (x1500).

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preferential passageways are (re)created. The sharp 200
pressure drop increase is an indicator for the
supplementary energy that is needed for this to
5. The fifth and last stage is the drainage stage. The 150

Pressure drop (mbar)

liquid only
draining liquid that is running off the back of the 13.5% solids
filter is caught in the containers situated at the 25% solids
50% solids
bottom of the filter holder. This explains the 100 75% solids
constant character of the pressure drop. No solid solids only
particles could be identified in the draining liquid.
Preferential passageways could also be detected on
the fibre surface (Figure 3b).

Influence of solid particle %

0 2000 4000 6000 8000 1 104
Experiments with different mass percentages of
filtration time (s)
solid particles in the aerosol mixture (0%, 13.5%, 25%,
50%, 75% and 100%) have been carried out. The
results of those experiments are plotted in Figure 4. Figure 4: Pressure drop evolution of a D309 HEPA filter as a
Whatever the percentage of solids in the mixture function of solids content in the aerosol mixture.
(13.5 to 75%), the pressure drop evolution is always the
same. Five stages can be identified for all concentrations. The National Polytechnique de Lorraine, Nancy, France.
pressure drop is higher than for solid or liquid particles alone 3. Thomas D. 2001. Etude de la filtration des aérosols par des
under the same operating conditions. The pressure drop increases filtres à fibres, Habilitation à diriger des recherches,
as well with the percentage of solids in the mixture, which Université Henri Poincaré Nancy, France.
corroborates the findings of Rosati et al. [7]. This may be due to a 4. Payet S. 1992. Filtration stationnaire et dynamique des
thicker layer of filtration cake that accumulates on the filter over aérosols liquides sub-microniques, PhD Thesis, University
time. Moreover the first sharp pressure drop increase takes place Paris XII, Paris, France.
earlier for a higher solid particle percentage. At the end of each 5. Contal P, Simao J, Thomas D, Frising T, Callé S,
filtration, the pressure drop is nearly constant as is the case for Appert-Collin J.-C & Bémer D. 2004. Clogging of fibre filters
liquid aerosol filtration whereas for the solid particles the pressure by submicron droplets. Phenomena and influence of operating
drop continues to increase. conditions, J. Aerosol Science, Vol. 35, p. 263-278.
6. SunW & Chen D-R. 2002. Filter loading characteristics of
CONCLUSIONS & PRESPECTIVES liquid-coated particles, American Filtration and Separations
(AFS) Society, IAQ Filtration Conference, 14-16 November,
The pressure drop behaviour of a HEPA filter when challenged Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.
with mixtures of solid and liquid aerosol could be established in 7. Rosati J, Leith D & Raynor P. 1999. Determinants of filter
the first part of this study. This has, to the authors’ knowledge, lifetime, Filtration+Separation, December, p.30-32.
never been done for a complete filtration experiment. This
behaviour is significantly different from those encountered in solid
and liquid aerosol filtration. Five different stages could be Research Article Submission
identified for all solid / liquid particle ratios tested. The pressure
If you are a researcher working in the fields of filtration
drop is increasing the higher the solid particle percentage in the and/or separation, or a related area, and would like to submit
mixture. a research paper for publication in the Filtration+Separation
However this study is only at its very beginning. Numerous magazine please send two hard copies of the manuscript,
questions remain unanswered, such as the influence of the flow together with a copy on disk or CD-ROM to:
rate, the filter (material and fibre diameter), the interaction
between the solid and liquid particles, the influence of the different The Editor
sizes of the solid and liquid particles with respect to the fibre Filtration+Separation,
diameter. The efficiency evolution of the filter also demands Elsevier Advanced Technology,
serious attention. PO Box 150,
Oxford, OX5 1AS,
1. Pénicot P. 1998. Etude de la performance de filtres à fibres lors
de la filtration d’aérosols liquides ou solides submicroniques, If you would like more information on the submission
PhD Thesis, Institut National Polytechnique de Lorraine, process and/or the refeering process please contact the
Nancy, France. editor directly on:
2. Callé S. 2000, Etude des performances des media filtrants Tel: +44 1865 843313 or E-mail:
utilisés en dépoussiérage industriel, PhD Thesis, Institut

Filtration+Separation March 2004 39