What are the two types of separators?


Types of Separators in Industrial Processes


In various industrial processes, the need to separate different components or phases arises. Separation is a crucial step that helps in purifying, clarifying, or extracting specific substances or materials. Separators play a vital role in achieving this objective by efficiently separating solids from liquids or separating different liquid phases. There are numerous types of separators available, each designed for specific applications and operating principles. In this article, we will explore two common types of separators used in industrial processes, namely, gravitational separators and centrifugal separators.

Gravitational Separators

Gravity is a fundamental force that has been utilized in various separation processes for centuries. Gravitational separators, also known as settling tanks or clarifiers, rely on the difference in density between the components to achieve separation. These separators use the principle of gravity to allow the denser phase to settle at the bottom while the lighter phase floats or rises to the top.

Working Principle

Gravitational separators consist of a large tank or vessel where the mixture to be separated is introduced. The mixture enters the tank, and due to its density difference, the heavier phase settles at the bottom, forming a sediment or sludge layer. The lighter phase, which can be a liquid or a gas, collects at the top and is typically removed through an overflow or outlet pipe.

The settling process in gravitational separators is influenced by various factors, such as the size and shape of particles, viscosity of the fluid, and the concentration of solids. To enhance the separation efficiency, gravitational separators often incorporate mechanisms that promote particle collision, coalescence, or flocculation.


Gravitational separators find widespread applications across industries, including wastewater treatment, oil refining, mining, and food processing. In wastewater treatment plants, gravitational separators are commonly used to remove suspended solids, allowing cleaner water to be discharged. In the oil industry, settling tanks are utilized to separate impurities and water from crude oil, improving its quality.

Advantages and Limitations

Gravitational separators offer several advantages, making them a popular choice in various industries. Firstly, they have a simple design and are relatively cost-effective compared to other types of separators. Additionally, gravitational separators can handle a wide range of flow rates and have low operating and maintenance costs.

However, gravitational separators also have certain limitations. They are generally less efficient in separating smaller particle sizes or particles with similar densities. In such cases, additional treatment processes may be required to achieve desired separation efficiency.

Centrifugal Separators

Centrifugal separators, also known as cyclones or centrifuges, utilize centrifugal force generated by high-speed rotation to separate components of different densities. Unlike gravitational separators, which rely on the settling of particles, centrifugal separators exploit the difference in centrifugal forces exerted on the components.

Working Principle

Centrifugal separators consist of a spinning vessel or rotor, which imparts a centrifugal force on the mixture. The mixture is introduced into the rotor, where the rotational motion causes the denser components to move towards the outer walls, while the lighter components move towards the center.

To optimize separation, centrifugal separators often incorporate additional features such as cones, vanes, or cyclones. These components help in enhancing the separation efficiency by providing further barriers for the lighter components to escape towards the center.


Centrifugal separators find wide applications in industries that deal with particulate solids, such as mining, chemical processing, and powder handling. They are commonly used for solid-liquid separation, gas-liquid separation, and liquid-liquid separation. For example, in the mining industry, centrifugal separators are used to separate valuable minerals from the ore.

Advantages and Limitations

Centrifugal separators offer several advantages over gravitational separators. Firstly, they can achieve higher separation efficiency, especially when dealing with smaller particle sizes or components with similar densities. Centrifugal separators also have a compact design, allowing for easy integration into existing process systems.

However, centrifugal separators also have certain limitations. They require high rotational speeds, which can increase energy consumption and maintenance requirements. Additionally, their efficiency may be affected by variations in the feed composition and flow rate.

Comparison and Selection

To select the most suitable separator for a specific application, various factors need to be considered. Gravitational separators are generally preferred when handling large volumes of fluids and when there is a significant density difference between the components. They are also suitable for applications where cost-effectiveness and simplicity of operation are critical.

On the other hand, centrifugal separators are often chosen when higher separation efficiency is required, particularly for smaller particle sizes or components with similar densities. They are commonly used in industries that deal with fine particles or where adequate settling time is not feasible.


Separators play a crucial role in various industrial processes by facilitating the efficient separation of components. Gravitational separators utilize gravity to separate different phases based on their density differences, while centrifugal separators exploit the centrifugal force generated by high-speed rotation. Each type of separator has its own advantages and limitations, making them suitable for different applications.

Gravitational separators, such as settling tanks, find applications in wastewater treatment, oil refining, and mining industries. They offer simplicity, cost-effectiveness, and versatility. However, they may have limitations in separating smaller or similar density particles.

Centrifugal separators, including cyclones and centrifuges, are widely used in industries dealing with particulate solids. They provide higher separation efficiency and are suitable for fine particles or components with similar densities. However, they require higher energy and maintenance requirements.

The selection of the appropriate separator depends on factors such as flow rate, density difference, particle size, and desired separation efficiency. By understanding the working principles and characteristics of gravitational and centrifugal separators, industries can make informed decisions to optimize their separation processes.


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