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Mechanical trapping of fine particles in a medium of mono-sized randomly packed spheres



Mechanical trapping (or straining) of fine particles is a key mechanism in many filtration systems. For example, the performance of rapid sand filters depends in part on mechanical trapping of larger fine particles, while relying on adsorptive processes to trap very small fine particles and microbes. The ability to trap these particles is directly related to the construction of the packed bed used for filtration in this system. Thus, the ability to model the effect of the inner structure of the packed bed can lead to more efficient design for improved filtration. Because of its significant efficiency, gravitational sphere packing is employed in this work to simulate a bed of mono-sized randomly packed spheres. The simulated bed provides a way to visualize the pore network and estimate the pore size distribution associated with the void space between particles. Furthermore, by subsequently introducing fine particles into the bed, we evaluate the mass-rate of fine particles passing through and possibly saturating the packed bed. Results show that fine particles between 15% and 25% of the coarse particle size can be physically strained within the randomly packed bed. These results differ significantly from the results obtained assuming a periodically spaced bed. The technique therefore provides an efficient yet accurate alternative for understanding how fine particles pass through a coarse particulate medium. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.