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Demystifying Condensable Particulate Matter: What You Need to Know

July 20th, 2023

In everyday scenarios, we often encounter situations where exhaust emissions raise questions about the performance of pollution control devices, such as diesel particulate filters. This article delves into the concept of condensable particulate matter and its significance in understanding emissions from various sources, including vehicles, stoves, and industrial processes.

Defining Condensable Particulate Matter

Condensable particulate matter refers to substances that exist in gaseous form when exposed to high temperatures, as in the exhaust pipes of vehicles, chimneys, or ovens. However, when these gases cool down to ambient temperatures, they undergo a phase change, condensing into liquid or solid particles. Notable examples include diesel fuel, fats and oils present in food, and wood tars like creosote.

Crucially, condensable particulate matter cannot be captured using filters at the process temperature because it initially exists in gaseous form, which readily passes through filters. In contrast, “filterable particulate matter” represents substances that can be trapped by filters at elevated temperatures. When you combine condensable particulate matter with filterable particulate matter, you get the total particulate matter.

Regulatory Distinctions

Air quality regulations and standards often differentiate between total particulate matter and other categories, like organic gaseous compounds (OGC). In Europe, regulations for wood stoves and boilers primarily define particulates as those that are filterable at elevated temperatures. This distinction influences how emissions are monitored and controlled in various sectors.

Abating Condensable Particulate Matter

Understanding the nature of condensable particulate matter is crucial when developing strategies to mitigate its emissions. Technologies relying solely on filtration are ineffective unless the gases are sufficiently cooled before filtration occurs. Presently, the most effective technology for reducing condensable particulate matter is the oxidation catalytic converter. This device oxidises organic gases into carbon dioxide and water before they have a chance to cool and condense.

Application in Woodstoves and Cooking

Many woodstoves emit a higher proportion of condensable particulate matter compared to the filterable kind. In cooking, nearly all emitted particulate matter falls into the condensable category. Therefore, deploying flue gas after treatment technology, specifically designed to abate condensable particulate matter, proves to be the most effective approach for improving local air quality in situations where cooking and biomass heating are predominant sources of emissions.

Condensable particulate matter is a critical consideration in addressing emissions from a variety of sources. By comprehending its nature and employing appropriate abatement technologies, we can take significant steps toward enhancing air quality in our communities, particularly in situations where condensable particulate matter is a dominant contributor to pollution.