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What is an Industrial Scrubber?

By B. Turner
Updated May 17, 2024
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An industrial scrubber is a device used to remove pollution from smokestacks and exhaust systems. The scrubber system keeps harmful chemicals and fumes from entering the atmosphere, and many are designed to capture both gases and solid particles. Adequate air pollution control helps to reduce carbon and other emissions, which can in term reduce the effects of ozone depletion and global warming.

Any industrial plant or manufacturing facility may install an industrial scrubber to reduce air pollution from smokestacks. These scrubber systems are particularly relevant to factories that use harmful chemicals or dangerous gases during production. An industrial scrubber can also reduce emissions from furnace flues or other exhaust systems, even those that are not associated with toxic fumes or chemicals.

Once exhaust air leaves a furnace or piece of manufacturing equipment, it passes through the building's duct network before entering the scrubber. An industrial scrubber collects any potentially harmful materials from the air, then releases the clean air out through a smokestack or exhaust vent. Some systems also contain a heat recovery coil that collects any heat energy from the air so it can be transferred back to the building's heating unit for reuse.

The hazardous materials collected by an industrial scrubber can be handled using one of three basic techniques. Many are sent to a recycling facility for safe handling and reuse, while others are neutralized and disposed of through regular waste channels. Still others are recirculated through the plant and reused in internal manufacturing processes.

There are two basic types of industrial scrubbers systems, categorized as "wet" or "dry." Wet systems use water or liquid chemicals to collect polluting substances from exhaust air. These systems work with both gaseous and solid material, and can even handle corrosive materials. Dry scrubber systems use chemicals to absorb or dissolve hazardous materials in the air, and work better with gaseous materials than they do with solid waste particles.

Industrial scrubbers provide numerous benefits to the environment. They help prevent global warming and acid rain while keeping air quality levels high. By lowering hazardous emissions, they protect nearby residents from potential health problems caused by these materials. Scrubbers also reduce odors and prevent dangerous materials from polluting local land or waterways.

Scrubber systems require a great deal of maintenance in order to operate properly. They must be cleaned regularly, and all filters or material collection devices should be emptied or replaced. A poorly maintained scrubber is not only ineffective, but can become a breeding ground for disease-causing bacteria.

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Discussion Comments

By anon934329 — On Feb 20, 2014

Scrubbers are cool! Does anyone know why all factories use them? Are they like expensive or something?

By jmc88 — On Nov 08, 2011

Does anyone know how long scrubbers have been around? If I had to guess, it sounds like something that was invented a while ago, but became more common in the 60s and 70s when people started to get more concerned with the environment.

I would be interested to see how they factories can reuse some of the materials that get caught in the scrubbers. I wonder if there are some things that could even go right back into the production process. I'm not sure what those would be, though.

By kentuckycat — On Nov 07, 2011

@Emilski - Good questions. You are right that there is not any real scrubbing going on. I guess it just mostly refers to the fact that the air is getting cleaned by removing the bad stuff like if you scrubbed a floor.

The kinds of particles that are removed really just depends on the type of factory and how much they have to remove by law. In a lot of places, coal has a lot of sulfur in it, but sulfur is also responsible for acid rain, so there are a lot of laws in place saying that power plants have to have sulfur scrubbers. That's not something a normal factory would have to worry about as much, though.

Some of the other things that might get filtered out are carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide as well as different nitrogen compounds, since these are part of global warming and acid rain. If a plant is using heavy metals or producing some other strange byproduct, they would probably have to have a scrubber for that, too.

By Emilski — On Nov 06, 2011

I have never heard of these industrial scrubbers before, but they sound like an interesting idea. I knew factories and things had some way to get rid of different pollutants, but I didn't know how it was done.

I'm still not sure I understand exactly how scrubbers work. It sounds like they don't actually do any physical scrubbing, right? I guess the dry system is easier to imagine, but how would the wet scrubber work? Is there some type of a "bath" that the air goes through that filters out the different particles? What kind of particles are usually taken out of the air?

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