Design and collection efficiency of a new electrostatic precipitator for bioaerosol collection

Gediminas Mainelis, Klaus Willeke, Atin Adhikari, Tiina Reponen, Sergey A. Grinshpun

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We have developed and tested a new bioaerosol sampler in which airborne microorganisms are collected by electrostatic means. In this sampler, 2 ionizers charge the incoming particles if they carry insufficient electric charge for efficient collection. The organisms are then subjected to a precipitating electric field and are collected onto 2 square agar plates positioned along the flow axis. Tests with nonbiological NACl particles versus B. subtilis var. niger (BG) spores and vegetative cells have shown that airborne microorganisms are collected more efficiently than nonbiological particles, even when the microorganisms have first passed through an electric charge neutralizer with no additional charging applied. The difference was attributed to the natural charges contained in cell membranes or spore coats of the microorganisms. Charge-neutralized BG spores and vegetative cells were collected at 4 L/min with efficiencies close to 80%, depending on the precipitation voltage, versus 50-60% for NACl test particles. When incoming BG spores were charged with positive ions and then collected by a precipitating voltage of +1,300 V, about 80% of the incoming spores were collected and more than 70% of incoming spores formed colonies. These experiments with BG spores have also indicated that there were no significant particle losses inside the sampler. The collection efficiency of biological and nonbiological particles increased to 90-100% when the particles were externally charged and the precipitating voltage was increased to more than ±4,000 V. It has also been shown that the aerosolized BG spores (used as anthrax simulants for bioaerosol sensors) carry a net negative electric charge. Thus the collection efficiency depends on the polarity of the electric field applied across the agar plates. These findings indicate that the collection of airborne microorganisms is possible by electrostatic precipitation without prior electric charging if the microorganisms already carry electric charges. These are usually high immediately after their release into the air.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1073-1085
Number of pages13
JournalAerosol Science and Technology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2002


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Pollution

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