What is the difference between a tubular centrifuge and a decanter?



Centrifuges are essential equipment in various industries, enabling the separation and clarification of different substances. In the field of centrifugation, two commonly used types are tubular centrifuges and decanters. While both serve similar purposes, there are notable differences between them in terms of design, operation, and applications. In this article, we will delve into the dissimilarities and intricacies of tubular centrifuges and decanters, shedding light on their unique features and functionalities.

Tubular Centrifuges: A Detailed Overview

The tubular centrifuge is a compact and robust device designed to handle a wide range of liquid-solid separation applications. It operates on the principle of rapid rotation, generating centrifugal force that drives the separation process. This force causes the denser particles or phases to move towards the periphery of the rotating bowl while the less dense or lighter phases settle towards the center.

The Design and Operation:

Tubular centrifuges, as the name suggests, consist of a cylindrical rotor or bowl with a layer of liquid outside the tube. The tube, also known as the rotor, is positioned inside the bowl, and the liquid to be separated flows through it. The high-speed rotation of the rotor generates centrifugal force, which drives the separation process.

The Applications:

Tubular centrifuges find applications in various industries due to their versatility and efficiency. One prominent use is in the pharmaceutical industry, where they are utilized for the separation of cell culture broths, purification of therapeutic proteins, and vaccine production. In the biotechnology sector, tubular centrifuges are employed for the separation of blood components, such as platelets, white blood cells, and plasma. Additionally, these centrifuges are widely used in the food and beverage industry for the clarification of fruit juices, separation of edible oils, and the removal of impurities from dairy products.

Advantages and Limitations:

Tubular centrifuges offer several advantages. Their design allows for continuous operation, making them suitable for large-scale industrial processes. They provide high separation efficiency and are capable of achieving a high degree of clarity in the separated phases. Tubular centrifuges are also known for their ability to handle delicate or shear-sensitive materials without compromising the integrity of the separated products.

However, there are certain limitations to consider. Tubular centrifuges may have lower capacities compared to other types due to the restricted volume inside the rotor. Additionally, the flow rates for continuous feed may be limited by the requirement for a narrow residence time distribution. Despite these limitations, tubular centrifuges remain an essential tool for many separation applications.

Decanters: An In-depth Look

Decanters, also known as sedimentation centrifuges, operate on the principle of sedimentation and utilize gravity to separate solid and liquid phases. Unlike other types of centrifuges that use a rotating bowl, decanters employ a scroll conveyor system to control the separation process. The scroll conveyor moves the solids towards the conical end of the decanter while the clarified liquid overflows at the opposite end, allowing for continuous separation.

The Design and Operation:

Decanters consist of a horizontally placed cylindrical bowl equipped with a scroll conveyor. The scroll conveyor rotates at a slightly different speed than the bowl, ensuring controlled movement of the solids towards the conical section. As the mixture enters the decanter, the solids settle under gravity while the liquid flows towards the opposite end. The scroll conveyor continuously transports the settled solids towards the conical end for discharge.

The Applications:

Decanters find extensive use in industries where a high degree of clarification is required along with continuous operation. One such industry is wastewater treatment, where decanters are utilized for sludge dewatering, separating the liquid from the solid waste. These centrifuges are also employed in the oil and gas industry for the separation of drilling mud, recovery of barite, and dewatering of oil sludge. Additionally, decanters are used in the food industry for the separation of fruit juices, clarification of wine, and extraction of edible oils.

Advantages and Limitations:

Decanters offer several advantages in terms of efficiency and continuous operation. Their design allows for high throughput and long operating times without the need for frequent intervention or manual handling. They can handle a wide range of feed materials, including those with high solid content. Decanters are particularly effective in achieving a high degree of clarification, making them suitable for applications where stringent separation criteria must be met.

However, it is essential to consider certain limitations when using decanters. The presence of fine particles or materials with low settling velocities may significantly impact the separation efficiency. Additionally, the energy consumption associated with decanters can be relatively high due to the horizontal setup and continuous operation. Nevertheless, the benefits offered by decanters make them an indispensable tool in several industries.

Comparing Tubular Centrifuges and Decanters

While tubular centrifuges and decanters serve similar purposes, there are distinct differences between the two. Understanding these differences is crucial in determining the most suitable choice for specific applications.

Design and Operation:

Tubular centrifuges utilize high-speed rotation to generate centrifugal force for separation. They have a compact design, with the liquid to be separated flowing through a tube placed inside a rotating bowl. In contrast, decanters rely on horizontal sedimentation using a scroll conveyor system. The solids settle under gravity, while the clarified liquid overflows at the opposite end. Decanters operate in a continuous manner, while tubular centrifuges can be operated in both batch and continuous modes.


Tubular centrifuges find extensive use in pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and food industries, among others, for various separation processes. They are well-suited for applications requiring high separation efficiency and the ability to handle shear-sensitive materials. On the other hand, decanters are commonly used in wastewater treatment, oil and gas, and food industries for continuous separation and high clarity of the liquid phase.

Advantages and Limitations:

Tubular centrifuges offer advantages such as continuous operation, high separation efficiency, and suitability for delicate materials. However, their limitations include lower capacity and limited flow rates for continuous feed. Decanters excel in offering continuous operation, high throughput, and excellent clarification. Nevertheless, the presence of fine particles and relatively high energy consumption are factors to consider.

In Summary

Tubular centrifuges and decanters are both valuable tools in the field of liquid-solid separation, each with its unique benefits and drawbacks. Tubular centrifuges utilize rapid rotation to achieve separation, making them suitable for various applications, including pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. Decanters, on the other hand, rely on sedimentation and gravity, finding extensive use in wastewater treatment and oil and gas industries.

While the choice between the two depends on specific requirements, considering factors such as separation efficiency, capacity, and continuous operation can help determine the most suitable option. By understanding the intricacies of tubular centrifuges and decanters, industries can make informed decisions and optimize their separation processes for enhanced productivity and efficiency.


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