In a world increasingly reliant on vacuum technology, the consequences of not protecting a vacuum system or its surrounding environment can be costly. For decades, vacuum pumps have enabled new technologies and processes to evolve in rapidly advancing industries such as food processing, pharmaceuticals, electronics, solar, semiconductor, and many more. These processes generate various contaminants that can cause catastrophic vacuum pump failure when ingested. Furthermore, toxic process contaminants must not be exhausted into the surrounding atmosphere due to health and safety concerns. When operating a vacuum system, careful consideration to inlet and exhaust filtration is critical in protecting both your equipment and your environment.
In this article, we discuss both vacuum pump inlet and exhaust filtration and explore how protecting your vacuum pump can increase productivity and help businesses reach their sustainability objectives.
Vacuum pump filtration is key to protecting an operation’s equipment and environment.
Vacuum Technology and Filtration
A vacuum pump is used to pull air from a process or closed system and will frequently encounter contamination from the process. As the pump pulls air out of the system, it exhausts that same volume of air to atmosphere. Vacuum principles show that as process vacuum level increases, mass flow through the pump decreases.
Process flow rate, vacuum level, temperature, and vapor pressure, all interact to pose a tremendous challenge when developing vacuum filtration solutions. Vacuum level can also affect the physical properties of a contaminant such as boiling point. A change in boiling point can cause a phase transition from liquid to vapor further increasing complexity with the filtration and separation selection process. Understanding the critical interactions between all variables is essential to the success or failure of a filter or separator.
There are two competing priorities when designing an effective vacuum system. The first is adequately protecting the vacuum pump from the process. The second is optimizing system performance over an extended time period. When designing a vacuum system, filtration should be at the forefront of the design process so field issues can be minimized. Properly identifying the contaminant type and load up front ensures the proper filtration technology is deployed. This is critical to ensuring system optimization.
Vacuum Pump Inlet Filtration
Vacuum filtration and separation is an art just as much as it is a science. The concept of filtration and separation is quite simple: remove any contaminant from an air or gas flow before the contaminant can enter a piece of equipment. However, contaminant removal becomes extremely complex when vacuum conditions and multiple process variables exist.
Ultimately, the purpose of an inlet vacuum filter is to protect the pump from the process. A typical particulate filter consists of a media, like paper, that air must pass through to be cleaned. Many types of particulate removal media exist, all of which have varying micron ratings and removal rate efficiencies. They have different physical and chemical properties which make them suitable for different operating conditions and applications. Paper, polyester, polypropylene, HEPA, ULPA, and PTFE are commonly used filtration medias. Other media types can include adsorbents such as activated carbon and activated alumina or coalescing medias which usually contain fiberglass and are proprietary in nature.
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