Carbon Nanotube Penetration Through Fiberglass and Electret Respirator Filter and Nuclepore Filter Media: Experiments and Models

Three different respirator filter media (two electrets and one fiberglass) were challenged with monodisperse multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) of mobility diameters 20–500 nm at 5.3 and 10.6 cm s−1 face velocities. The penetration data were compared with that of sphere-like NaCl particles. The MWCNT penetrations were generally lower than those of NaCl at both face velocities in all three filters. However, the MWCNTs had a slightly higher penetration than the NaCl in the fiberglass filter at 10.6 cm s−1 face velocity when their mobility diameters were lower than 50 nm and the alignment effect was expected to occur. Results from the scanning electron microscopic (SEM) analysis supported the hypothesis of the alignment effect, which showed that the MWCNTs tend to be straighter or with higher aspect-ratios at the mobility sizes less than 100 nm, leading them more readily to align with the flow. Therefore, caution should be exercised when respirators are used against the MWCNTs with the mobility diameters less than 100 nm. The single fiber theory predicted the penetration of both particles in the fiberglass filters well for the particles with below 100 nm mobility diameters but discrepancies occurred beyond 100 nm. The theory still predicted the NaCl penetration through the electret filters well for the sizes below 100 nm but only predicted the MWCNT penetration well for ∼20–30 nm. The Nuclepore filter and the corresponding capillary tube model were adopted to study the mechanical deposition mechanisms of MWCNTs. The model was found to predict MWCNT penetration very well when the effective length of the MWCNT was taken into account.

Copyright 2014 American Association for Aerosol Research