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Aerosol Science and Technology

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Experimental Study of Aerosol Filtration by Fibrous Filters

K. W. Leea; B. Y. H. Liua
Particle Technology Laboratory, Mechanical Engineering Department, University of Minnesota,
Minneapolis, MN

First published on: 23 December 1981

To cite this Article Lee, K. W. and Liu, B. Y. H.(1981) 'Experimental Study of Aerosol Filtration by Fibrous Filters', Aerosol
Science and Technology, 1: 1, 35 — 46, First published on: 23 December 1981 (iFirst)
To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/02786828208958577


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Experimental Study of Aerosol Filtration
by Fibrous Filters*
K. W. Lee? and B. Y . H. Liu
Particle Technology Laboratory, Mechanical Engineering Department, University of Minnesota,
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Submicron aerosol filtration by fibrous filters has been diameter range. Filter solidity has ranged from 0.0086
studied experimentally employing a filter efficiency to 0.42. Filtration velocity has been varied between 1
measuring technique based on the use of moderately and 300 cm/sec. The results of the measurement have
monodisperse aerosols and an electrical aerosol de- been compared quantitatively with the available the-
tector. Using this technique, the filtration efficiencies of ories. It has been found that theories taking into account
filters made of uniformly sized fibers have been the interference effect of neighboring fibers are in
measured by the use of particles in the 0.03.5-1.3 pm reasonable agreement with the experiments.
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NOMENCLATURE Reynolds number

drag coefficient = P BUD,/P

constant face velocity, undisturbed air velocity

(cm /sec)
fiber diameter (cm)
average air velocity inside filter (cm/sec)
particle diameter (cm or pm)
= U,/(1 - a)
filter solidity
efficiency of filter mat
single fiber efficiency
efficiency due to filter holder
air viscosity (poise)
efficiency due to filter plus filter holder
stream function parameter
filter mat thickness (cm) = [c/(l - da)@]
pressure drop across filter (in. H,O or air density (g/cm3)
dimensionless fiber drag parameter
Peclet number = [R/( 1 - a)4n]
= trD ,/D
dimensionless fiber drag parameter
interception parameter, diameter ratio of = C, Re12
particle to fiber. or dimensionless particle
Among various ways to remove particles from
* This paper ia based on the thesis of K. W . Lee m partial
fulfillment of the requirements for the Ph.D. Degree at the University air, filtration using fibrous filters is relatively
of Minnesota. inexpensive and simple to implement, yet it
t Present address: Battelle Memorial Inst~tute,Columbus provides a most efficient means for collecting
Laboratories, Columbus. OH 4320 1. submicron particles. Because of the increasing

Aerosol Science and Technology 1:3546 (1982)

1982 Elsevier Science Publishing Co., Inc.
36 K. W. LeeandB. Y. H. Liu

need to protect human health and valuable phthalate (DOP) particles in a wide size range
devices from exposure to fine particles, filtration and for filtration velocities up to 300 cm/sec.
is becoming more important. The results of the filter efficiency measurements
The important mechanical mechanisms caus- are given as a function of particle size and
ing particle deposition in fibrous filters are filtration velocity and as a function of filter
diffusion, interception, and inertial impaction. In solidity. A series of comparisons between the
addition, electrostatic forces and gravitational experimental results and existing theories are
settling may contribute to particle collection in a made.
fibrous medium.
During the past 10 years, considerable prog-
ress has been made in air filtration studies.
Improved theories have been developed using
more reliable and exact flow fields (Spielman Figure 1 is a schematic diagram of the system
and Goren, 1968; Stechkina et al., 1969; used for filter efficiency measurement. The
Dawson, 1969; Harrop and Stenhouse, 1969; system is comprised of a condensation aerosol
Yeh and Liu, 1974).The corresponding progress generator, a filter holder, and an electrical
in experimental studies, however, has been slow aerosol detector. The different parts of the
primarily because of a lack of suitable means for system will be described separately.
measuring filter efficiencies over the broad range
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of conditions that are encountered in practice. Aerosol Generation and Detection

In this study a new technique based on certian
The condensation aerosol generator previously
new instrumentation developments at the reported was used to produce monodisperse
Particle Technology Laboratory, University of
aerosols (Liu and Lee, 1975). In this generator a
Minnesota, was used for measuring fibrous filter low vapor pressure substance such as D O P is
efficiencies. This technique enables filter ef- dissolved in a volatile solvent, such as alcohol,
ficiencies to be measured quickly and accurately
and the solution is atomized. The polydisperse
over a wide range of conditions. Filters with
aerosols initially produced are then heated and
solidity ranging from 0.0086 to 0.42 and made
vaporzied. The vapor subsequently cools and
from uniformly sized Dacron fibers were tested.
condenses to form a monodisperse aerosol. The
The measurements were made for di-octyle
aerosol size is easily varied by varying the
concentration of DOP in the solution. This
method of aerosol generation had been used
FIGURE 1. Schematic diagram of filter efficiency previously (Liu et al. 1966; Tomaides et al. 1971).
measurement system. However, certain important improvements were

+ I- (li


Experimental Study of Aerosol Filtration 37

made; the output of the present generator is very tration measuring device, and the measurement
stable with a concentration fluctuation of less can be made easily, quickly, and with good
than 2.5:/, over a 1 hr period. In filter efficiency accuracy.
tests it is necessary to measure the aerosol
concentrations upstream and downstream of
the filter as a function of particle size. Since it is Filters Tested
desirable that generator output remain constant Two different types of filters were used in this
during a series of these time delays, the cap- study. These filters were made specifically for
ability of producing a highly stable output is an this study and had fibers that were very uniform
important requirement for an aerosol generator in size. They were intended as ideal filters so that
in filter efficiency measurements. the measurement results could be compared
In order to avoid unwanted electrostatic with the theories.
effects, electrical charges on the aerosols were The first type of filter, which will be denoted
neutralized by exposing the aerosols to a cloud Dacron filter A, is a filter consisting of uniform
of bipolar ions produced by a radioactive 11.0 pm diameter Dacron fibers loosely packed
source. The 2 mCi 85kryptonsource is placed together to form a filter mat. By compressing the
inside an aluminum tube and the aerosol is fibers, the filter solidity can be changed. The filter
passed through the tube. The particles are thus solidity was varied by compression between
brought to a state of Boltzmann charge equilib- 0.0086 and 0.299.
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rium. The size distribution of aerosols produced The mean fiber diameter of 11.0 pm was
by the generator will be discussed later. determined by an optical microscope equipped
To determine the aerosol concentrations up- with image-splitting eyepiece attachment that
stream and downstream of the filter, an electrical had been first calibrated against a stage micro-
aerosol detector similar to the unit now com- meter. The geometrical standard deviation of
mercially available (Model 3010, Thermo- the fiber was found to be 1.06.
Systems, Inc., St. Paul, MN 55108) was used. The homogeneity of the filter was confirmed
This instrument is a simplified version of the as follows. First, several batches of filters with
previously reported electrical aerosol analyzer the same nominal solidity and dimensions were
(Liu and Pui, 1975);its two essential parts are a prepared and the pressure drop across each filter
diffusion charger and an electrometer current was measured as a function of velocity. The
sensor. The aerosol is detected by first exposing results were compared. All of the filters were
the particles to unipolar ions in the diffusion found to have nearly identical pressure drop
charger and then measuring the charge on the characteristics. It was concluded that the filter
particles with the electrometer current sensor. A was the same.The filter dimensions used in this
detailed description of the instrument has al- study are listed in Table 1.
ready been published (Liu and Lee, 1975). The second filter, Dacron filter B, was also a
One of the main advantages of using the specially prepared filter made of uniform
electrical aerosol detector in the filter efficiency Dacron fibers of 12.9 pm in diameter. The
tests is that it allows the particle concentration geometric standard deviation of the fibers was
to be measured over a wide range of flow rates. found to be 1.06. The particular filter contains
The operating pressure can also be varied over a about 10% by volume of small "fibrids" that
wide range of values. In filtration efficiency were used to make the fibers adhere to one
studies only the relative aerosol concentrations another to form a high density mat. The proper-
upstream and downstream of the filter need to ties of this filter are shown in Table 1. The actual
be measured, and the absolute aerosol concen- solidity of Dacron filter B was varied between
tration need not be known. The electrical 0.0963 and 0.42. The filter thickness ranged from
aerosol detector is particularly suited to this 0.1 to 0.037 cm. The filter structure is not as
purpose because it is basically a relative concen- homogeneous as Dacron filter A.
38 K. W. Lee and B . Y. H. Liu

TABLE 1. Dimensions and Pressure Drop Characteristics of Experimental Filters

Filter Dimensionless Fiber

Solidity thickness fiber drag parameter diameter
Filter 01 (cm) Re C D , / ~ (ium)

Dacron filter A

Dacron filter B

Filter Holder Modifications to the filter holders were made

Three different filter holders were used, depend- to avoid the uncertainty in filtration velocity
caused by a poor holder design. The problem is
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ing upon the particular filter being studied or the

flow rate used. For Dacron filter A the holder illustrated in Figure 2a. It is seen that the flow
described by Yeh (1972) was used. This par- can expand radially as it passes through the filter
ticular holder can hold filters with a thickness of medium, causing a reduction in the filtration
up to about 3 cm. However, some modifications velocity. This problem is particularly serious
were necessary which will be described later. For when the dimension L in Figure 2a is not small
Dacron filter B a 25-mm-diam Millipore filter in comparison with R, - R,. This problem was
holder (Model XX 5002500) and a 3.5-in.-diam noted by Dawson (1969) in comparing his
Sierra filter holder (Model 710) were used. theory with the experimental results of Wong
and Johnstone (1953);he found he had to make a
correction in the indicated face velocity. There
FIGURE 2. Schematic diagrams of (a) the con- was nearly a factor of 2 uncertainty in the
ventional filter holder, and (b) the present filter filtration efficiency caused by the uncertainty in
holder design. flow.

Filter Support Screens

1,Filter Holder Outer Housing

I/ Filter Holder
Inner Housing

Filter F7 bers \
(a) (b) Filter Support S c r e e n s
Experimental Study of Aerosol Filtration 39

To eliminate this uncertainty, the holder desired filter holder, bringing the aerosol genera-
design shown in Figure 2b was adopted. A filter tor to a steady operating condition, and then
holding ring was inserted in the holder, thereby measuring the aerosol concentrations upstream
eliminating the uncertainty in flow. In actual and downstream of the filter with the electrical
use, the filter fibers were first packed into this aerosol detector. The last step was accomplished
ring and the two supporting screens were at- by directing the aerosol into the electrical
tached to both sides of the ring with screws. aerosol detector either through the filter or
The entire assembly was then inserted into the through a bypass. The ratio of the downstream
holder housing. Rings of different thickness had to upstream aerosol concentration was then
to be used to create filter mats of dfierent thick- taken as the filter penetration P, from which the
ness. This new filter holder design had the filter efficiency E = 1 - P was then calculated.
added advantage over the conventional arrange- Owing to particle loss in the electrical aerosol
ment of allowing the filter thickness to be deter- detector, it was necessary to restrict the flow rate
mined very accurately. through the electrical aerosol detector (Q, in
Figure 1) to less than a certain value. It was
found that at higher flow rates the loss could be
Filter Efficiency Measurement substantial and the measurement result could be
In generating monodisperse aerosols with the in error. A simple experiment showed that the
generator described previously, a series of stan- measured efficiency of a filter decreased with
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dard solutions was prepared to produce aer- increasing flow rate through the electrical detec-
osols of the desired particle size. A total of 11 tor. The appareht drop in the efficiency is caused
different solutions were used to produce aero- by particle loss by impaction in the instrument.
sols 0.035- 1.3 pm diameter. Table 2 summarizes Consequently, in performing the filter efficiency
the particle sizes chosen, the solution concentra- measurements, the flow rate of the electrical
tions used, and the geometrical standard devi- detector was kept at 4 l/min or below, which was
ation of the aerosol produced. found to be satisfactory.
The operating procedure for each experiment Since the aerosol passing through the 85Kr
consists of first placing the filter medium in the neutralizer was not completely neutralized and
was only brought to a state of charge equilib-
rium given by the Boltzmann's law, some experi-
TABLE 2. List of Particle Sizes Used ments were performed to determine the effect of
in the Efficiency Measurement and the DOP
the residual particle charge on the measured
Concentrations Used for Generating
the Aerosols efficiencies. This was done in a way similar to
that used previously by Liu and Lee (1976).The
Nominal efficiency was first measured with the charge
DOP Nominal geometrical equilibrated aerosol and then with the aerosol
concentration mean particle standard
that had first been passed through a precipitat-
(vol. %) size (pm) deviation up
ing electric field to remove the charged particles.
The same result was obtained, indicating a
negligible influence of the charge particles.
Since the filter efficiency measured by the
procedure described here was the total efficiency
with the filter placed in the holder, it was
necessary to correct for the contribution of the
holder to the total efficiency measured. To make
this correction, and also to account for the
differencein aerosol losses in the filter line and in
the bypass line, a separate series of measure-
K. W. LeeandB. Y. H. Liu

ments was made in which the efficiency of an

empty filter holder was measured using the same
apparatus and the same procedure.
In order to verify a filtration theory com-
pletely, it is necessary to have data not only on
the filtration efficiency but also on the filter
pressure drop. The filter pressure drop was
measured across pressure taps installed on the
upstream and downstream sides of the filter
holder. A micromanometer was used to measure
filter pressure drop to a precision of 0.001 in.
H 2 0 for pressure drops of up to 2 in. H 2 0 . For
pressure drops above 2 in. H,O, a conventional
inclined manometer was used. The pressure
drop across the filter was obtained by subtract-
ing the measured pressure drop across the
empty filter from the measured pressure drop W
across the entire holder plus filter assembly. En SOLIDITY , Q
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FIGURE 3. Dimensionless fiber drag parameter for

RESULTS Dacron filters A (0)and B (0) as a function of
Results for Dacron Filter A
Table 1 contains a summary of the filter dimen-
sions used and the filter pressure drop charac- The results of the filter efficiency measure-
teristics. The dimensionlessfiber drag parameter ments are shown in Figures 4--9. If we denote the
based on a face velocity of 5 cm/sec is plotted true filter efficiency by E, the filtration efficiency
against the filter solidity in Figure 3, where the due to the filter holder by E,, and the total
parameter is obtained from pressure drop A P by
the following equation:
FIGURE 4. Single fiber efficiency of Dacron filter
A ( a = 0.0086).

R is the dimensionless fiber drag
C,, the drag coefficient,
Re the Reynolds number,
AP the pressure drop across the filter mat,
L the filter mat thickness,
a the filter solidity,
D, the filter fiber diameter,
U, the face velocity, and
p the air viscosity.
It was also found that the dimensionless fiber
drag parameter remains constant for a face
velocity of up to 30 cm/sec. PARTICLE DIAMETER , pm
Experimental Study of Aerosol Filtration 41


0001 ' ' ~ l Il 1 1 ~ 1 1 l l 1~ ~

002 01 1 2
FIGURE 5. Single fiber efficiency of Dacron filter FIGURE 7. Single fiber efficiency of Dacron filter
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A ( a = 0.0168). A ( a = 0.0823).

eficiency of the filter plus the holder by E,, we The measurement results reported have all been
have corrected by means of Eq. (2).
In order to obtain the single-fiber eficiency q,
the following relation was used:
from which we have

E = ( E t - Eh)/(l-Eh).

FIGURE 6. Single fiber efficiency of Dacron filter FIGURE 8. Single fiber efficiency of Dacron filter
A (a = 0.0434). A (a = 0.151).

42 K. W. Lee andB. Y. H. Liu

D1 = 12.9 p m
a = 00963

0.1 1 2
FIGURE 9. Single fiber efficiency of Dacron filter PARTICLE DIAMETER , pm
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A ( a = 0.299). FIGURE 10. Single fiber efficiency of Dacron filter

B ( a = 0.0963).
The resulting single-fiber efficiency is plotted as a
function of particle size for various filter solidity based on the assumption that the filter is made
values, as seen in Figures 4-9. Detailed efficiency of uniform circular cylinders and the particles
values in tabular form have been reported are monodisperse. Since the present experi-
elsewhere (Lee, 1977). It is seen that in all cases mental data can meet this assumption, a series of
the curves are similar in shape: For small comparisons was made between the data and
particles, the efficiency first decreases with in-
creasing particle size, showing the predomin- FIGURE 11. Single fiber efficiency of Dacron filter
ance of the diffusion mechanism. After reaching B ( a = 0.175).
a minimum, the efficiency then increases with
increasing particle size, showing the increasingly
important role of the interception and impac-
tion mechanisms. These results will be discussed
further when comparison with the theories is
Results for Dacron Filter B
The pressure drop characteristics from Dacron
filter B are shown in Table 1 and Figure 3. The
efficiency results covering the solidity range of
0.0964.420 are shown in Figures 1G13. For
these filters, the face velocity ranged from 1 to
300 cm/sec.
a = 0.175
A number of filtraton theories are available that
incorporate various filtration mechanisms and 0.001
0.02 0.1 1 2
various flow fields. Most of these theories are PARTICLE DIAMETER , pin
Experimental Study of Aerosol Filtration 43

a3 effects of neighboring fibers. Additional results

of the comparisons that are not reported here
can be found in Lee (1977).
0.1 Figure 14 is a comparison of the experimental
results with the theory of Spielman and Goren
GZ (1968). The measurement results for filter soli-
w dities of 0.0086, 0.0434, and 0.1513 are used in
L this comparison. First, the pressure drop of the
W filter with various solidities was compared with
the theoretical predictions. The comparison
0.01 showed that Dacron filters can be well rep-
resented by the result for the Spielman-Goren
a two-dimensional random fiber model. The
V) stream function parameters as defined in the
DACRON FILTER B theory for the relevant filter solidities were found
to o 100
0 30 + 300 to be 2.479, 1.523,and 0.812, respectively. Using
these values, the theoretical efficiencies were
0 0.02 . 0
0.1 O l O
1 2 calculated. The comparison shows that the
PARTICLE DIAMETER , pm agreement between the theory and the experi-
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FIGURE 12. Single fiber efficiency of Dacron filter ment is very good for '13RPe''3> 1. However,
B ( a = 0.271).
FIGURE 14. Correlation of filtration data using the
the existing theories. The theories compared theory of Spielman and Goren (1968).
include those of Spieln~anand Goren (1968),
Dawson (1969), Harrop and Stenhouse (1969),
Stechkina et al. (1969), and Yeh and Liu (1974).
These theories take into account the interference

FIGURE 13. Single fiber efficiency of Dacron filter

B ( a = 0.420). {iH:i:
l o o ~ 0 4 3 4
a oooa
I 523

re o 008

- A 10 O 100 Df= 12.9 prn -
O 30 + 300 a = 0420

1 1 1 1111
I 1 1 111111
1 2
44 K. W.LeeandB. Y. H. Liu

the theory tends to predict higher efficiency since at small Stokes numbers the experimental
values for small values of - ' I3RPe' 13. data may be influenced by diffusion effects. It
The theories of Harrop (1969) and Harrop should be noted that while the theory always
and Stenhouse (1969)are for filtration by impac- predicts a higher efficiency for a larger particle
tion and interception and use the Happel flow size at the same Stokes number, the experi-
field (Happel 1959).Figure 15 is a comparison of mental data show that smaller particles can have
these theories with the experimental data. In a higher efficiency at the same Stokes number
order to provide experimental data in the under some instances. For example, the ef-
impaction and interception regimes, the results ficiency for the 0.7 pm particle with Stokes
for Dacron filter B with a solidity of 0.0963 and number of 0.925 is higher than that for the 1.3
velocities of 100 and 300 cm/sec are used. The pm particle with Stokes number of 0.971. The
pressure drop predicted by the Happel flow was efficiency for the 0.5 pm particle with Stokes
compared with the measured pressure drop to number 0.509 is also higher than that for the 1.0
arrive at an empirical factor to account for the pm particle with Stokes number of 0.594. A
inhomogeneity in fiber distribution. An in- possible explanation for this would be as fol-
homogeneity factor of 1.72 was found. lows. As may be noted in Figure 15, the
Figure 15 shows that the theory overestimates Reynolds number involved in the filtration for
the efficiency at high Stokes numbers. At low 0.7 and 0.5 pm size particles in the example is
Stokes numbers it is not clear whether the 2.82, while that for 1.3 and 1 pm particles is 0.94.
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theory would still overestimate the efficiency, The filtration efficiency at such a high Reynolds
number should increase as an effect of increasing
the fluid inertia, and it is possible that this is
FIGURE 15. Comparison of data with the theories
sufficiently significant that even small particles
of Harrop (1969) (-) and Dawson (1969) (---)
in inertial impaction regime. at a comparable Stokes number will have a
higher efficiency than large particles. The theory
of Harrop does not account for the effect of an
increasing Reynolds number. Therefore, it is
difficult to determine the quantitative Reynolds
number dependence of efficiency.
The theories of Stechkina et al. (1969)andYeh
and Liu (1974) involve calculations of the fil-
tration efficiency for all three mechanisms. A
comparison of these theories with the measure-
ments obtained in the present study is shown in
Figure 16 for Dacron filter A and a solidity of
0.151. By comparing the measured pressure
drop and the predicted pressure drop, an in-
homogeneity factor of 1.52 and an effective fiber
length factor of 2.62 were determined. The
comparisons show that the overall agreement
between the theories and the experiment is very
good. However, the theory of Stechkina et al.
(1969)shows some discrepanciesat low filtration
velocities. The inertial impaction efficiency pre-
dicted by the theory is also found to be too high.
Regarding the impaction efficiency,Stechkina et
0 001 I I I I lllll 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
0.1 I 10 al. (1970)later stated that the assumptions they
Stokes Number, Stk employed in the theory for impaction were not
Experimental Study of Aerosol Filtration

\ Dacron Filter A U,,crn/sec i

FIGURE 16. Comparison of data with the
theories of Stechkina et al. (1969) (- - -)
and of Yeh and Liu (1974) (-) for
Dacron filter A ( a = 0.151).
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P a r t ~ c l e Diameter, p m

adequate. On the other hand, the agreement regime, good agreement with experiment, com-
between the experimental data and the theory of parable to that obtained with the theories of
Yeh and Liu (1974) is good at low filtration Stechkina et al. and Yeh and Liu, was obtained.
velocities. As velocity increases, the theory For comparison in the region of impaction plus
begins to underestimate the efficiency some- interception, Dacron filter B with a solidity of
what, and the discrepancy becomes larger as the
velocity is increased. It is also seen that the FIGURE 17. Comparison of data with the theory of
particle size for greatest penetration predicted Dawson (1969) for Dacron filter A ( a = 0.0434).
by the theory is in good agreement with thedata. Uo= 30 cm/sec.
Figure 17 is a comparison of the experimental
data with the theory of Dawson (1969). The
comparison is made for a Dacron filter of
solidity 0.0434 at 30 cm/sec. Dawson introduced
a model of parallel flow to account for the
nonuniformity of filter. By comparing the pre-
dicted pressure drop and measurement, the
resistivity ratio defined by the theory was found
to be 0.62 for a Dacron filter having a solidity of
0.0434. The comparison shows that the theory is
in good agreement with the result of the measur-
ement. The theory of Dawson (1969) on diffu-
sion and interception is based on the expression
of Stechkina et al. (1969), except that Dawson
used the flow field of Spielman and Goren (1968)
and employed the parallel flow model to ac-
count for nonhomogeneity of the filter. For this PARTICLE DIAMETER , p m
46 K. W. Lee andB. Y. H.Liu

0.0963 was chosen, and the efficiency values This research was financially supported by the U. S.
measured at the face velocity of 100 and 300 Environmental Protection Agency under Research Grant No.
cm/sec were compared with the theoretical R804600-01.
values. Figure 15 shows that the experimental
data are in good agreement with theory.
Compared with the efficiencies predicted by
Harrop (1969),the efficiencies given by Dawson REFERENCES
are generally lower for Stokes number larger Dawson, S. V. (1969). Theory of collection of airborne
than 1. The possible effect of increasing particles by fibrous filters, Ph.D. Thesis, The Harvard
School of Public Health, Boston, MA.
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Happel, J. (1959). AIChEJ. 5:174.
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Harrop, J. A. (1969). The effect of fiber configuration on the
efficiency of aerosol filtration, Thesis, Loughborough
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CONCLUSIONS Harrop, J. A., and Stenhouse, J. I. T. (1969). Chem. Eng.
The real-time experimental technique described Sci. 24: 1475.
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fibrous filters, Ph.D. Thesis, University of Minnesota,
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The measurement results show clearly the Liu, B. Y. H., and Pui, D. Y. H. (1975). J. Aerosol Sci.
dependence of the filter efficiency on particle
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The comparison of the experimental results
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among the theories which take into account the nesota, Minneapolis.
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