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Filters and Filtration Handbook

Filters and Filtration Handbook

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Filters and Filtration Handbook

5/5 (5 evaluări)
810 pages
Feb 8, 2013


Filters are used in most industries, especially the water, sewage, oil, gas, food and beverage, and pharmaceutical industries. The new edition of Filters and Filtration Handbook is an all-encompassing practical account of standard filtration equipment and its applications. Completely revised and rewritten, it is an essential book for the engineer working in a plant situation, who requires guidance and information on what’s available and whether it’s suitable for the job. Co-published with the Institution of Chemical Engineers.
  • An up-to-date and comprehensive reference covering essential theory of filters and filtration, and including types of filter, media, filtration, equipment, techniques and systems.
  • Helps you decide the best filtration methods and materials for the task at hand
  • Includes new material on basic principles, filter media and the application of filtration within production systems
Feb 8, 2013

Despre autor

Trevor Sparks PhD., founder of Filter-Ability Ltd, Ireland, is a consultant within the filtration industry, working for end-users and technology-providers. He has worked in the process industries for 20 years and has focussed on filtration for the last 15 of these. He has previously worked for BHR Group Limited, Larox Oyj (now a part of Outotec), Finland, and as a Marie-Curie Research Fellow at UC RUSAL in Ireland. He is a Member of the Council of the Filtration Society.

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Filters and Filtration Handbook - Trevor Sparks


Section 1

Filtration – Introduction, Physical Principles and Ratings


We rely upon the separation of particles from fluids to provide us with the essentials of life – clean air and water. Furthermore, almost every foodstuff, medicine or manufactured article in your home, car or workplace relied upon a separation process somewhere in its production. Without the ability to separate particles from fluids, no part of your life would be the same.

This section provides an introduction to filtration, and separation as an engineering discipline, exploring the importance of filtration to everyday life and industry. The business of filtration, as well as its history, is discussed. The physical principles of filtration, as well as filter ratings and testing, are reviewed.


Filtration and separation; physical principles of filtration; filter rating and testing


1.1 Introduction – Filtration and Separation 2

1.1.1 Types of filtration process – the functions that they fulfil 6 Filtration as a part of an overall separation process 6

1.1.2 Air quality 7

1.1.3 Drinking water 8

1.1.4 Climate change 10

1.1.5 The filtration business 11 Industry drivers and trends 11

1.1.6 History of filtration 13

1.2 Physical Principles of Filtration 15

1.2.1 Particles 17 Solid–fluid suspension 18 Capture mechanisms 20 Filter medium 21 Surface, cake and depth filtration 22 Cross-flow versus dead-end filtration processes 30 Compressible cake 31 Pre-coat and body feed 32 Solid–liquid cake filtration and other de-watering mechanism 32 Solid–liquid cake filtration, filter cake washing and other process steps 33

1.3 Filter Ratings 39

1.3.1 Absolute ratings 40

1.3.2 Nominal rating 42

1.3.3 Mean filter rating 42 Filter efficiency 43

1.3.4 Beta ratio 43 Microbial rating 44

1.3.5 Filter permeability (flow curves) 45

1.3.6 Effect of pulsating flow 49

1.4 Filter Tests 49

1.4.1 Bead challenge test 50

1.4.2 Multi-pass test 50

1.4.3 Single-pass test 51

1.4.4 Bubble point test 51

1.4.5 Dirt-capacity test 53

1.4.6 Media migration test 53

1.4.7 Fatigue tests 54

1.1 Introduction – Filtration and Separation

We rely upon the separation of particles from fluids to provide us with the essentials of life – clean air and water. Furthermore, almost every foodstuff, medicine or manufactured article in your home, car or workplace relied upon a separation process somewhere in its production. Without the ability to separate particles from fluids, no part of your life would be the same:

• Engines and power stations would choke from particulate contamination in fuels, incoming air and lubricating fluids. Their emissions would be far more environmentally damaging.

• All metals, plastics, foods and medicines would be less pure, less wholesome, less effective or, probably, at least an order of magnitude more expensive.

The global population continues to grow, and with this comes ever-higher demands for clean water (and the treatment of municipal and industrial wastewater), a safe environment (Figure 1.1) and food. At the same time, everyone strives for a higher standard of living; this can simply mean the provision of safer water in some developing parts of the world. In more developed economies, urbanization, car ownership and all that these entails in terms of manufacturing and operating are coming to societies which, a few decades ago, existed as rural farming communities. This places an increased burden on local environments, as well as increased demand for materials (ceramics, plastics, metals), chemicals and other outputs from industry (Figure 1.2).

Figure 1.1 A waterscape.

Figure 1.2 Industrial emissions.

In short, without separation, our world would be less clean, less colourful, less sustainable and almost everything that you consume or use would be more expensive. This handbook explores these issues in more detail and provides information on current technologies and techniques in use. In particular, Section 5 describes a number of examples that illustrate many of the important principles of separation through filtration.

These filtration needs are met by a large and highly diverse global industry. Many tens of thousands of people around the world spend their entire working lives engaged solely in the provision of filtration equipment, media or services; equally, there are people who spend their whole time using filtration as practitioners, perhaps running the filtration step in a chemical process or on a mineral concentration plant. A further many thousand people are actively working in research and development, looking for new technologies or theories that will improve our knowledge and application of filtration, leading to improvements in effectiveness and efficiency that, in turn, improve lives. In addition to these people, for many people, filtration fills a portion of their time, they may be developing new processes to deliver sustainable sources of fuel and filtration is necessary, or they may be responsible for optimizing mineral processing on a large mine, in which filtration plays an essential part, albeit alongside other essential processes. One purpose of this handbook is to provide a reference guide for experienced practitioners as well as those who need to dip into the subject for a particular purpose. Inevitably, we are dealing with filtration as an engineering subject, one that fits into chemistry, chemical engineering, mining, metallurgy, civil engineering and many other disciplines.

The word ‘filter’ can mean many things (even if we set aside its meaning in photography, electronics, computer science, online shopping, etc.).¹ In the context of particle–fluid separation, a filter can be a small disc of paper that a laboratory chemist fits to a syringe, or it can be a machine (in this example, a filter press) weighing more than 150 tonnes that removes water from a slurry of ore on an iron processing plant. The cost of these example filters spans a few pennies to many millions of Euros.

The phrase ‘filtration and separation’ contains a certain amount of redundancy. As the previous edition of this handbook discusses, the phrase is shorthand for ‘filtration and other related forms of separation’. The safe separation of iron particles in engine oil away from sensitive parts can be achieved using a filter, but equally using a simple magnetic device, other physical fields, such as gravity, can equally deliver a form of separation. Separation need not require filtration, but, for our purposes, filtration actually implies separation.

A related physical process, classification or the grading of solid particles according to their size can be achieved using filtration – a fraction above a certain size can be retained on a vibrating sieve, while particles below that size can pass through the sieve. However, the classification of similarly sized particles according to another physical differences, say density or magnetic properties, requires a physical force field – in these examples, particles differing in density can be graded in an accelerating field (say a cyclone) and, clearly, a simple magnet, or device incorporation magnets, will classify in the latter.

Thus, in the context of this handbook, filtration specifically, and separation generally, refers to the act of separating one or more distinct phases of matter from another using physical differences in the phases (such as particle size or density or electric charge). As was suggested above, this covers an enormous range of processes and applications. In trying to cover such a range, there will inevitably be conflicts, overlaps, ommissions, fuzzy distinctions and some inconsistencies.

Overwhelmingly, the two most important branches of filtration are for the separation of (i) solids and liquids and (ii) solids and gases. That is not to say that there are no other important forms of separation that use filtration, or something similar to filtration, including the removal of droplets of liquid from a gas (e.g. demisting) or the separation of immiscible liquids, e.g. emulsions.² There are also forms of filtration that separate a three-phase mixture of solid, liquid and gas into its constituents.

We use filtration, which always has an associated cost, because, separated, the individual phases become more valuable (or useful) or less harmful than they were together. This deceptively simple statement can be expanded to occupy many months of deliberation in choosing which filtration device, machine or process to use for a given duty. A non-exhaustive list of filtration duties to illustrate this point (a more detailed discussion will follow in Section 5):

• Upstream of combustion, to remove solid contaminants from fuel and/or air, which could damage the components in the engine, so that the service life of the engine can be increased.

• Downstream of combustion, to remove particulate pollutants from exhaust gases, which could cause harm to anyone who breathes them in, so that environmental consent can be obtained.

• Upstream of a sugar crystallization or white pigment precipitation process, to remove dark solid particles, which could spoil the appearance of the final product, so that the product is of higher quality (and, hence, commercial value).

• Downstream of the above crystallization/precipitation process, to remove water, which would, otherwise, be expensive to evaporate or transport, so that the cost of production is lowered.

Each of these examples is phrased in terms of removal implying that the removed phase is somehow contaminating or spoiling the other phase. This is often the case, but there are large numbers of processes in which each of the phases is valuable in its own right, e.g. in the extraction of pure liquid from fermentation broth to be used to produce an active pharmaceutical ingredient, while the yeast cells are themselves useful as a biomass.

The list above also hints at the crucial question of balance between cost and benefits at the heart of everything to do with filtration. A framework that acts as a guide through this crucial question is given later in the handbook. But for now, the reader is challenged to consider their filtration processes in these terms:

We use filtration [insert location], to separate or remove [what from what], which [describe the benefit, or increased value], so that [describe the positive outcome(s)].

As the list also hints, filtration normally forms part of a chain of interconnected processes, each of which may be crucial in its own right. As with all interconnected systems, care must be taken to optimize the whole system, and not just each individual step.

1.1.1 Types of filtration process – the functions that they fulfil

The uses of filters and filtration fall into two main categories:

1. The removal of contaminants, normally solid, from a valuable or useful fluid, e.g.:

a. Drinking water.

b. Cabin/office air.

c. Fuel (gaseous or liquid).

d. Lubricating fluid.

e. Compressed air or process water.

f. Emissions (liquid or gaseous) from other processes, e.g. power generation or chemicals production.

g. To prolong the lifetime or prevent fouling of other equipment, e.g. electrolytic cells in a chloralkali process.

2. Recovery of one, or more, valuable phases from a mixture of phases, e.g.:

a. Recovery of valuable solids (removal of water) from a mining slurry before transportation.

b. Removal of a residue from a product in solution. This use of filtration is widespread throughout the manufacture of chemicals, metals and pharmaceutical products. The residue may have value itself, for recovery of other compounds.

This covers a vast array of applications, and many of these will be discussed in more detail later, but the core situation is that we start with a mixture of phases that is less valuable, or more harmful, than it would be if the phases were apart – the filtration process performs this duty.

It is not always trivial to achieve a good degree of separation, and it is impossible to reach a level of perfect separation (e.g. absolutely no liquid remaining with solids and absolutely no solid particles remaining in the fluid). However, reaching a certain degree of separation can in itself deliver a significant benefit, and quantifying this benefit can be crucial in determining the overall success of a process. Filtration as a part of an overall separation process

If the starting point is a mixture of solids and liquids, at, say, 10% solids by weight, and the desired state is to have the solids in a dry powder form, then an overall process might be designed as follows:

• Sedimentation (upstream of filtration)

• The aim of this example is to remove all of the water from the initial mixture. While this cannot be achieved by sedimentation alone, it is possible to remove a significant amount of liquid using thickeners or clarifier tanks, exploiting gravity so that particles settle towards the bottom (for removal) and clear liquid flows from the top. A short review of thickening and clarifying technology is given in Section 6. In this case, the suspension might be thickened to, say, 40% solids.

• Accelerated sedimentation (upstream of filtration)

• The use of hydrocyclones, or decanting centrifuges, can increase the degree, and rate, of separation that can be achieved over and above gravity settling. This step may be instead of, or in addition to, gravity sedimentation, and, per unit of liquid removed, would be more expensive than gravity. (Once again, these are discussed in Section 6.)

• Filtration

• In this example, a filter press (see Section 4), say, could remove more liquid from the feed delivered from the sedimentation step, perhaps delivering product with only 20% moisture. The cost per unit of water is likely to be higher than for the sedimentation steps previously.

• Thermal evaporation (downstream of filtration)

• The only remaining viable step in this process is evaporation, in, for example, a fluidized-bed dryer. This will certainly be, per unit of water, the most expensive step.

In this example, it would be a relatively routine task to calculate, or at least estimate, the running cost of each step.³

1.1.2 Air quality

We have no more fundamental need than to breathe clean air, yet the World Health Organization (WHO) estimate that air pollution caused 3.7 million premature deaths during 2012. These deaths from cardiovascular or respiratory illness or cancers are concentrated in Asia and arise from transport, power generation and industrial production.

The main forms of pollution are:

• particulate matter (PM)

• ozone (O3)

• nitrogen dioxide (NO2)

• sulphur dioxide (SO2).

The performance of filtration systems can have a direct bearing on the amount generated of each of these pollutants, and filtration systems can play a major part in their alleviation, as will be discussed in Section 3.

However, in this section, it is worth spending a little more time to discuss PM pollution, considered to be the most damaging to health, especially those particles with a size less than 10 μg or less, since these are small enough to enter the lungs and remain there. In the latest guidelines, from 2005, the WHO gives guidelines for the maximum levels of PM2.5 and PM10 (denoting particles with a diameter of 2.5 and 10 μg) of:

It is also noted that damage to health has been detected for all levels of PM; there is no lower limit, so any improvements should be welcomed. Figure 1.3 shows examples of air contaminants.

Figure 1.3 Typical air contaminants.

PM pollution can arise from a number of sources, e.g. dust from a grinding mill or even an uncovered belt conveyor transporting fine dusty material; however, the majority of PM is generated by combustion, for transport or power generation. To illustrate the point made above, filtration can reduce the amount of PM produced by combustion, by:

• removing particles from the fuel (liquid or gas)

• removing particles from the airstream feeding the engine

• forming a part of a fuel-cleaning process (e.g. washing of coal fines to remove non-organic matter or as an essential step in the Sulferox process⁴).

Furthermore, filtration systems can be used to capture particles in the exhaust gases, perhaps in combination with processes to remove other gaseous pollutants.

1.1.3 Drinking water

In 400 BC, Hippocrates wrote that

[Rain waters] are the best of waters, but they require to be boiled and strained; for otherwise they have a bad smell, and occasion hoarseness and thickness of the voice to those who drink them.

So it is clear that the causal link between poor drinking water clarity and ill health was understood, even without necessarily having knowledge of micro-organisms or other microscopic contamination.

Devices for the filtration of water were developed in order to provide clean water for armies and small municipalities, but perhaps the first large-scale device that is recognizable today was developed by James Peacock and a British patent was issued in 1791 for his ‘Invention of a new method for the filtration of water and other fluids which would be of great public and private utility.’

The 1852 Metropolis Water Act, passed by the British Parliament, specifically introduced the recommendation that water be filtered (through beds of sand and gravel) and, in 1870, the Southwark and Vauxhall Water Company commissioned a filtration plant in their Hampton water treatment plant on the River Thames. The interested reader is recommended to seek out a copy of Moses N. Baker’s book The Quest for Pure Water which gives an extremely thorough history of the development of water treatment systems.

The WHO also publishes guidelines on the drinking water quality, which although far less concise than those for air quality, include consideration of:

• microbial aspects

• disinfection

• chemical aspects

• radiological aspects

• acceptability aspects:

• for example taste, odour and appearance.

As with air quality, filtration can have a significant bearing on each of these aspects of water quality, as will be explored in more detail later.

The supply of clean, safe, drinking water for each person on earth is one of the major challenges facing humanity, and although progress has been made (by 2010, 89% of the world’s population was able to use improved water sources for drinking, from 76% in 1990), there are still, today, more than 700 million people living without access to water that is treated in any way. There are a number of initiatives for the provision of reliable and robust small-scale water treatment systems that can reduce the numbers of people that die each year, caused by poor water and sanitation, from the current level of 3.4 million (Figure 1.4).

Figure 1.4 Small-scale, transportable and rapidly deployable water treatment plant.

1.1.4 Climate change

There is overwhelming evidence and an almost complete consensus that anthropomorphic production of greenhouse gases – principally carbon dioxide, methane and other organic pollutants – is leading directly to a change in world climate, mainly through warming of the atmosphere.

Filtration and separation is having, and will increasingly have, a significant part to play in reducing this effect. Notably through:

• Enabling the production of power from alternative, renewable or carbon-neutral sources:

• Biomass

• Bioethanol/biodiesel

• Solar

• Improving process efficiency, e.g. reducing the amount of liquid to be removed through evaporation from a suspension of a solid product.

• Reducing the transport demands by removing water from mining slurries.

This impact can also be indirect, e.g. in the essential part that filtration plays in the production of aluminium for the manufacture of vehicles that are lighter and therefore use less fuel.

1.1.5 The filtration business

We may use products of the filtration industry directly, say when we consciously use a kitchen water filter, or indirectly when we use water filtered on a treatment plant, or breathe filtered cabin air in a car or on an aeroplane. However, the filtration industry is vast and diverse, and it delivers product, services and technologies that influence almost every aspect of our lives in some form.

Estimates of the size of the industry vary widely – as do definitions of its scope. The fifth edition of this handbook gave an estimate of the size of the industry of US$38 billion, while other estimates from recent years have given higher estimates. It is sufficient to say that it is a multi- (tens-of )-US$ industry. Solid–liquid filtration is the most significant in terms of the size of business, with the usual estimates giving a 3 to 1 split in overall value compared with air/gas filtration.

Figure 1.5 shows an outline of the filtration industry value chain. Throughout, it should also be borne in mind that all of the raw materials used for filtration depend upon filtration in their manufacture. End-of-life disposal of filter media can be a significant issue, with incineration (ideally with filtration of flue gases) being one option.

Figure 1.5 Value chain in the filtration industry. Industry drivers and trends

The major drivers of the filtration industry, in common with many others are:

1. Increasing population

a. The need for water and sanitation

b. The need for food

2. Desire for a higher standard of living/consumption

a. Health care

b. Protection of the environment

c. Increased demand for

i. manufactured goods (metals, plastics)

ii. food (higher calorie diets)

Processes are clearly becoming more challenging as industries develop more exotic products and processes; significantly, many high grade mineral resources have been used-up leaving the mining industry to exploit poorer grade resources, requiring finer grind sizes. As a consequence industrial processes generally, and, in particular, filtration processes are becoming larger.

1.1.6 History of filtration

The use of solid–liquid filtration is natural and instinctive to us; a child on the beach will notice that a cloudy bucket of sand and water will separate to leave a clear layer of water on top after a few seconds. It is likely that ancient humans knew that cloudy water collected from a river was better to drink once the solids had been allowed to settle; they would also soon notice that this process could be accelerated by passing the water through a mat of reeds or a simple woven fabric.

There are drawings and writings from more than 2000 years ago that illustrate simple water filtration processes and there is no doubt that the correlation between water clarity and its wholesomeness was understood by the ancients. Long before the industrial revolution, when mankind lived in small communities, often by rivers or lakes, there is evidence that filtration was used in the manufacture of dyes, wines and beers. In southern Europe there are many examples in museums of olive oil and cider presses – usually incorporating a large wooden screw that is wound to force two slabs of wood, with bags of the fruit between them, together.

With the industrial revolution in northern Europe came both the need, because of large-scale urbanization, and, importantly, the ability to engage in large-scale water treatment and transportation. The ability came largely from the ability to use iron to produce pumps (and pipes, although hollow wooded tree trunks served delivered water to some homes in the UK until surprisingly recently), and steam engines to provide an intense concentration of power. Early forms of water treatment included the passing of water through large beds of sand (large-scale treatment of wastewater did not come until much later), and filtration as a technique was rapidly adopted in the ceramics industry.

Many process filters in operation today bear a strong resemblance to filters that were being used more than 100 years ago (Figure 1.6).

Figure 1.6 Filter press in operation on a clay drying plant, early twentieth century (Wheal Martyn Museum, St Austell, UK).

However, while the overall principle of this machine type’s operation has remained the same, almost nothing else has, and this provides an opportunity to summarize how process machinery has developed over the last century.

1.2 Physical Principles of Filtration

A filtration process, within the field of interest of this handbook, separates a mixture of solids and fluids into separate phases. There can be many reasons for doing this, but they are all stem from the fact that the separated components are more valuable, or perhaps less costly or harmful, when they are apart than when they are together. Some examples of this are:

• To remove solids from a fluid

• A liquid might contain a valuable product in solution and the solid is a worthless, or even harmful, residue. Examples include pregnant liquor on a metal refinery, or a sugar solution before the product is crystallized.

• In the case of gas filtration, it may be necessary to remove dust contamination from a kiln exhaust stream before discharge to the atmosphere, or to remove traces of contamination from a bottled gas source.

• To remove liquid from solids

• The solid might be a mined metal ore that is transported across the world to a refinery, the liquid is simply water and transporting it would be a waste of shipping (as well as a potential hazard if the system re-slurries and sloshes about in the ship’s hold).

• If a fully dried product is required, then the overall cost of water removal can be optimized by removing as much water as possible through physical means (including sedimentation and filtration) before thermal evaporation.

• To recover both solids and fluids

• In a fermentation process, the liquid may contain a valuable product (say bioethanol) while the solids also have a value as, say, a component in animal feed.

In solid–liquid separation, fluid that has passed through the filter is known as filtrate; however, in the gas or air filtration, this fluid is normally simply referred to as ‘clean(ed) air’ or ‘clean(ed) gas’. It is rarer, although not unknown, in gas or air filtration processes for the solids to be recovered as a product as, in general, these forms of filtration are often used to protect people, products (e.g. paint finish), machinery or the environment from harmful particles.

In a perfect world, these separations would be absolute – there would be no solids at all in the fluid that has passed through the filter and no fluid at all remaining with the solids. In reality, nearly all filtration processes are somewhat imperfect, solids will pass the filter and liquids (in particular) will remain with the solids. In the perfect world, it would require little effort to separate solids from fluids, whereas in reality filtration processes can weigh several hundred tonnes, cost millions of dollars and consume many kilowatts of power.

The filtration process may simply be a single step along a longer separation process, perhaps preceded by gravity or centrifugal thickening, or cyclonic dust collection, and followed by thermal evaporation or a catalytic reaction. This will be explored, along with practical examples of filtration processes in later sections.

A litre of a typical industrial slurry contains many hundreds of billions of individual particles suspended in liquid and the outcome of a filtration process that we can observe at our scale (or measure using flow meters, scales, moisture analysis, turbidity meters or by counting the number of pallets of product that leave a site, etc.) is the aggregate result of countless billions of interactions between these microscopic particles, suspended in fluid, in the presence of a motive force for filtration and a filter medium.

It is crucial, then, to try to understand what is happening at this microscopic scale in a process in order to understand its outcome and look for ways to improve it. This process, thinking about what could be happening followed by testing of the idea (say with a physical test), can be every bit as powerful as mathematical modelling of a situation. This approach will serve equally well in process development (which might be years from full-scale production) or with more immediate problems. The reader is directed towards Principles of Industrial Filtration by Wakeman and Tarleton for a more thorough treatment of the topic for solid–liquid filtration and Advances in Aerosol Filtration edited by Kvestoslav Spurny for solid–gas.

Filtration processes are complex and multi-factored; the importance of the particular phenomena discussed in this Section will vary according to application, in some applications, e.g. sieving or blocking might be a dominant mechanism, but they may be entirely absent from others. In reality, the net outcome from a filtration process is a blend of many different mechanisms occurring to various degrees.

The figures provided are not meant to provide accurate representations of real physical situations, instead they are meant to illustrate a point or idea. The next section will discuss general concepts, which apply to both solid–liquid and gas–liquid filtration. The last section will look at the particular, but extremely important, case of solid–liquid cake filtration.

It is important to note that there are no hard-and-fast distinctions between the mechanisms described below and, even if there were, a number of them would act simultaneously to deliver the overall result of the filtration process. There are also extremely fuzzy boundaries between definitions.

1.2.1 Particles

In general, industrial filtration processes are concerned with the removal of solid particles of less than, say, 1 mm, down to the limit of out limit of the ability to detect solid particles.⁶ In practice, however, this lower limit is in the nanometre scale. Particles are either generated intentionally, say through a milling or precipitation process, or may arise as an unfortunate side effect of another process, say combustion or in the off-gas from a calciner or kiln.

Later in this Section, the case of cake filtration, in which particles come together to form a structure, will be considered in detail, but for now we will consider the case of an isolated particle and an idealized form of filter medium. However, it is rare for all particles in a system to have a uniform particle size and this is therefore normally characterized, see for example Figure 1.7, in the form of a distribution, either as a full breakdown over a wide range of sizes or, very often as a single value (say d50 which could refer to the particle size above and below which an equal number, or possibly mass or volume, of particles exist) or a small number of values, say d20, d50 and d80.

Figure 1.7 Volume-based particle size distribution curves for two starch forms. Note that the wheat starch is known to have a bi-modal distribution, with a significant portion of smaller particles (the left-hand peak). Logarithmic x-axis.

While spherical glass beads that are almost precisely dimensioned are often used to determine the cut-off point for a filter, and a number of mathematical models of filtration make the assumption that the particles are spherical, it is rare to find such particles in industrial filtration. Particles may be described as irregular, crystalline, needle- or plate-like, or even like a snowflake. It is also common for tiny particles to agglomerate into larger bundles, which can be considered particles themselves. The size and material density of a particle are also important factors that influence how it will interact with the filtration system. A number of non-sieving capture mechanisms may be resisted by the momentum of comparatively larger, denser particles.

Almost all surfaces have an associated electrical charge (or the ability to have) and, for small particle, the scale of electrical forces may cause attachment to, or even deflection from, other particles or surfaces, e.g. on the filter medium itself. This is also true of magnetic forces for some metallic particles (Figure 1.8).

Figure 1.8 Examples of particle size. Solid–fluid suspension

The range of solid–liquid suspensions that are treated with filtration spans the removal of a tiny proportion of solids (removing a fine haze) through to solids removal from a thick mixture, or sludge. Often expressed as a weight ratio, another way of describing this range is from a few parts per million to more than 50%. Examples of filter applications at the lower end may be the final polishing of water before it is put into a vial of injectable medicine or used to wash a medical implant. At the upper end of the range, many mineral processing suspensions are filtered to remove as much water as possible before transportation. (The filtrate of some process filters described in this book may in fact be significantly higher in solids than the suspension reporting to other filter devices.)

Above a certain point, albeit one without a standard definition, a solid–liquid suspension may become known as a slurry, or pulp. This definition certainly applies to a suspension with more than 5% or 10% solids. Within the scope of this handbook, a teaspoon of solid–liquid suspension may contain a few hundred thousand, up to a few billion, particles.⁷ These mixtures of solids and liquids at microscopic scale are a teeming, dynamic system with particles settling, diffusing, being carried by convection and interacting with each other, agglomerating, repelling or bouncing at a rate of countless billions of times per second.

In a typical industrial applications, the billions of billions of particles have a rather loose interaction with one another, they may interact with those particles that are very near, but will not individually affect (or transmit force to) those much more than one or two particle sizes away.

The liquid in the suspension, as a fluid, does transmit force and is subject to normal fluid dynamics (continuity, viscous drag, convection, transmission of pressure). For the vast majority of industrial filtration processes, the fluid flow in the region of the filter medium will be laminar, and the assumption will be that particles tend to follow smooth streamlines.

In the following descriptions, it is assumed that the solid–fluid suspension is given a motive force to encourage it to report to a filter medium; this can be provided by a fan or pump, or a pressure difference created by, for example, low pressure on the downstream side of the filter medium. Capture mechanisms

For the moment, consider one particle, being carried with a fluid through a pore in a filter medium, characterized here as a three-fibre system (Figure 1.9). Important capture mechanisms are:

1. Sedimentation, or gravity settling. Although not strictly a filtration mechanism, it is important to note that larger, denser, particles may settle out in within a filtration system and potentially accumulate and affect the performance of the system (this can be a larger problem if the particles form a scale or cement together). Many filtration processes follow sedimentation or cyclonic separation processes and the solids reporting to the filter are the overflow from these steps.

2. Straining or sieving. If the particle is larger than the pores in the filter medium, and does not have enough inertia to damage the medium, then it will be held back.

3. Inertial impaction occurs when the particle does not follow the streamline of the fluid, but continues on its existing path to intercept with the filter medium. The likelihood of this occurring depends upon the momentum of the particle (and thus the velocity of the fluid). If this is an important mechanism of interaction, then the degree of solids passing will be dependent upon the flow rate through the filter, all other conditions, i.e. temperature, density, viscosity, being equal.

4. Interception. The particle, following a streamline, comes into contact with the filter medium and is retained. It is assumed that the fluid flow is laminar and the likelihood capture through this mechanism depends upon the ratio of particle to pore size, and the bond that forms between particle and filter medium. Once again, the speed of the fluid may have an effect on this

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