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Spray Dryer:

Spray drying is a method of producing a dry powder from a liquid or slurry by rapidly drying with a hot gas. This is the preferred method of drying of many thermally-sensitive materials such as foods and pharmaceuticals. A consistent particle size distribution is a reason for spray drying some industrial products such as catalysts. Air is the heated drying medium; however, if the liquid is a flammable solvent such as ethanol or the product is oxygen-sensitive then nitrogen is used.[1] All spray dryers use some type of atomizer or spray nozzle to disperse the liquid or slurry into a controlled drop size spray. The most common of these are rotary disk and single-fluid high pressure swirl nozzles. Atomizer wheels are known to provide broader particle size distribution, but both methods allow for consistent distribution of particle size.[2] Alternatively, for some applications two-fluid or ultrasonic nozzles are used. Depending on the process needs, drop sizes from 10 to 500 µm can be achieved with the appropriate choices. The most common applications are in the 100 to 200 µm diameter range. The dry powder is often free-flowing. The most common type of spray dryers are called single effect. There is a single source of drying air at the top of the chamber (see n°4 on the diagram). In most cases the air is blown in the same direction as the sprayed liquid (co-current). A fine powder is produced, but it can have poor flow and produce a lot of dust. To overcome the dust and poor flow of the powder, a new generation of spray dryers called multiple effect spray dryers have been produced. Instead of drying the liquid in one stage, drying is done through two steps: the first at the top (as per single effect) and the second with an integrated static bed at the bottom of the chamber. The bed provides a humid environment which causes smaller particles to clump, producing more uniform particle sizes, usually within the range of 100 to 300 µm. These powders are free-flowing due to the larger particle size. The fine powders generated by the first stage drying can be recycled in continuous flow either at the top of the chamber (around the sprayed liquid) or at the bottom, inside the integrated fluidized bed. The drying of the powder can be finalized on an external vibrating fluidized bed. The hot drying gas can be passed in as a co-current, same direction as sprayed liquid atomizer, or counter-current, where the hot air flows against the flow from the atomizer. With co-current flow, particles spend less time in the system and the particle separator (typically a cyclone device). With counter-current flow, particles spend more time in the system and is usually paired with a fluidized bed system. Co-current flow generally allows the system to operate more efficiently.

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