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Open Access Aerosol Penetration through Silica Gel Tubes

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Silica gel is commonly used by industrial hygienists to collect gases and vapors in the work place, in particular air contaminants with high polarity. The collected air pollutants are then treated and analyzed to identify their type and to determine the concentration using various methods and instrumentations. In addition to collection of gaseous pollutants, the silica gel tubes are also used for acid mist collection according to the listed official analytical methods (e.g., NIOSH method 7903 and OSHA method ID-165SG). However, the filtration characteristics of silica gel tubes have not been thoroughly investigated.

A constant output aerosol generator and an ultrasonic atomizing nozzle were used to generate submicrometer-sized and micrometer-sized aerosol particles, respectively. A scanning mobility particle sizer and an aerodynamic particle sizer were used to measure particles smaller and larger than 0.6 m, respectively. Potassium sodium tartrate and dioctylphthalate were used as the solid and liquid test agents, respectively. Two types of SKC silica gel tubes (Cat No. 226-10 and 226-10-03) were examined for aerosol penetration, air resistance, and loading characteristics. The results show that the aerosol penetration through the silica gel tubes could be as high as 80% at the penetration maximum (or collection minimum) under the normal sampling flow of 0.5 L/min, well within the inertial impaction dominated region. Two glass wool plugs and one urethane plug between sorbent sections and at the back end of the SKC 226-10 contributed about 22% of the total air resistance, and the remaining 78% of the air resistance was caused by the silica gel. When the filtration efficiency by these separators was deduced, the aerosol penetration at the most penetrating size was as high as 90%. The aerosol penetration increased and the penetration curve shifted to a smaller particle size as the sampling flow increased. However, this increase in aerosol penetration of particles smaller than the penetration maximum reached a maximum and then decreased as the sampling flow was increased beyond 1.5 L/min (equivalent filtration velocity of 93 cm/s), a clear evidence of inertial impaction surpassing the diffusion deposition. As a result, the use of silica gel tubes for acid mist collection may not be appropriate if the behavior of the complete aerosol size distribution is not considered as part of the assessment of these devices.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Institute of Occupational Medicine and Industrial Hygiene, College of Public Health, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan 2: Department of Industrial Safety and Hygiene, Chung Hwai College of Medical Technology, Tainan, Taiwan

Publication date: April 1, 2002

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