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Partic. vol. 37 pp. 127-133 (April 2018)
doi: 10.1016/j.partic.2017.06.006

Removal of inhalable particles from coal and refuse combustion by agglomeration with solid nuclei

Deshuai Sun*, Xiaodong Zhang, Zhongyi Zhang, Long Fang, Hui Du

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    • Nuclei properties affected agglomeration of inhalable particles. • Increase in diameter of nuclei benefitted the agglomeration. • Removal of fly ash particles increased with increasing gas relative humidity.


Airborne inhalable particles are a potent environmental pollutant. Formed via industrial processes, separation of these particles is difficult using conventional clean up techniques. In this work, solid nuclei particles of different chemical compositions were introduced into an agglomeration chamber with simulated flue gases to investigate their ability to remove these particles. Organic nuclei were able to capture more inhalable particles from coal-derived fly ash than inorganic nuclei, though these proved more effective for the agglomeration of inhalable particles in refuse-derived fly ash. Increasing the diameter of the solid nuclei benefitted the agglomeration process for both types of ash. Varying the local humidity changed adhesion between the particles and encouraged them to aggregate. Increasing the relative humidity consistently increased particle agglomeration for the refuse-derived ash. For coal-derived fly ash, the removal efficiency increased initially with relative humidity but then further increases in humidity had no impact on the relatively high efficiencies. After agglomeration in an atmosphere of 62% relative humidity, the mean mass diameter of inhalable particles in the coal-derived fly ash increased from 3.3 to 9.2 μm. For refuse-derived fly ash, agglomeration caused the percentage of particles that were less than 2 μm to decrease from 40% to 15%. After treatment at a relative humidity of 61%, the mean size of inhalable particles exceeded 10 μm.

Graphical abstract


Inhalable particle; Agglomeration; Solid nuclei; Fly ash; Air pollution; Relative humidity