A wet scrubber is the generic name of a control device that uses the process of absorption to separate the pollutant from a gas stream. Absorption is a physical or chemical process of removing a pollutant from a gas phase media by dissolving the pollutant into a solvent media. Solvent media is most commonly a liquid phase, but can be a dry bulk solid in certain systems. The material that absorbs is called the solvent, and the gas that is to be absorbed is called the solute.
The most common type of wet scrubber is a packed-bed counterflow scrubber. There are other types of scrubbers, such as cross flow, bubble plate and tray scrubbers, and more sophisticated or proprietary designs.
The sketch below provides a very basic flow diagram and points out the common components of a crossflow wet scrubber. The gas stream that contains the pollutants to be removed enters from the bottom of the scrubber and quickly turns upward towards the exhaust at the top of the scrubber. The random packing provides necessary surface area to distribute the liquid solvent and encourage contact between the two medias. The liquid scrubbing media (or solvent) enters near the top of the scrubber and is distributed over the random packing. The liquid adsorbs the pollutants from the gas phase and is collected in the sump of the scrubber. Prior to exiting the scrubber, the gas phase passes over a mist eliminator and exits to the atmosphere.
Water is a very common scrubbing fluid, but there are many processes or pollutants that require different fluids or solvent types. One of the determining factors in calculating the performance capability of a scrubber is understanding the pollutants’ solubility in water (the assumed scrubbing fluid in this example). Calculating the relationship of the pollutants’ solubility in a scrubbing fluid is called the absorption equilibrium.
The principle advantages of a wet scrubber for gaseous organic pollution control are low capital and installation costs and simplicity of design. However, there are a number of limitations that should be understood: