Introduction to the filtration of sediments in liquids

Introduction to the filtration of sediments in liquids.

Filtration is a solid-liquid separation process used in water treatment systems to lower the concentration of suspended solids (particles) in the water. There are several types of filters and each of them has its application depending on the size and concentration of particles to be retained. Figure 1 shows the different types of filtration and the typical size of particles they retain.

Comparison of filtration processes and size ranges of the particles they retain Figure 1. Comparison of filtration processes and size ranges of particles retained (Weiner, 2012)


As for the concentration of particles, in a filtration line, you can have several filters in series to retain particles of the same size. This is because there are filters for high solids loads and others for lower loads. So, why choose a filter to retain low concentrations of solids?

It's all about efficiency. The filters that are used when we have high loads of solids, have the peculiarity of having cleaning mechanisms that are activated when the filter is saturated. Among them are the mesh filters, disc filters and granular media filters. However, most of these filters allow a certain percentage of particles equal or higher than the micronage they claim to retain to pass through. The amount of particles that leak into the effluent depends on each manufacturer's design. There are applications where particles cannot be allowed to pass, so other types of filters are used. These are chosen according to their filtration efficiency and the size of particles they are intended to retain. Among them are: bag filters, membranes and cartridge filters. As they do not have a cleaning mechanism, once these filters are saturated, they generally have to be discarded, so it is not viable to filter currents with high solid loads with this type of technology.

Filtering media.

A filter medium is defined as: "any material which, under specified operating conditions, is permeable to one or more components of a mixture, solution or suspension and impervious to the remaining components" (Purchas and Sutherland, 2002). The main role of a filter media is to cause the separation of particles from a fluid with minimum energy consumption.

There are several types of filtering materials, these have the characteristic of having or forming pores (empty spaces), such as:

Meshes and fabrics woven from metals, polymers or natural fibers such as cotton.

Fabrics and fabrics

The Non-woven materials (Non-wovenare an accumulation of fibers adhered to each other, by chemical agents (resins or adhesives) or physical means (such as temperature and pressure). Some examples are thermo-adhesive fibers or foamed polymers. These materials generally create more complex porosities, thus complicating the passage of solids through them.

Non-woven materials

Membranes are permeable materials. They are usually polymers and ceramics, which according to the method of manufacture of the membrane, various structures can be obtained, such as those shown below:


Granular materials are used as filter media or support systems in deep bed filters. In packed columns these form intra-articular spaces, the size of which depends on the shape and size of the granular medium. Below is a picture of a silica sand bed approach.

Filter Media

Surface and depth filtration.

The filter media retains particles in two ways. The first is when the particles are larger than the pores of the filter media, these are deposited on the surface of the media forming a cake (Figure 2), this phenomenon is known as surface filtration.

Surface filter. (Donaldson)

Figure 2. Surface filter. (Donaldson)

When particles are smaller than the pores of the filter media, retention occurs in the internal structure or depth of the material. This is achieved by the attraction of electrostatic charges between the material and the contaminant, and by the tortuous path that solids have to travel within the depth of the filter media. However, not all particles are retained in the internal structure; some manage to pass into the effluent. This phenomenon is called depth filtration (Figure 3).

Depth filter and non-fixed pore. (Donaldson)

Figure 3. Depth and pore filter not fixed. (Donaldson)


  • Wakeman (2005), Richard J., Solid/liquid separation: principles of industrial filtration. Elsevier.
  • (1999). Water Quality &Treatment a Handbook of Community Water Supplies. McGraw-Hill.