Real-time monitoring of the moisture content of filter cakes in vacuum filters by a novel soft sensor

Manu Huttunen, Lauri Nygren, Teemu Kinnarinen, Bjarne Ekberg, Tuomo Lindh, Vesa Karvonen, Jero Ahola, Antti Häkkinen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


The moisture content of filter cakes is probably the most important characteristic that should be kept at a desired level in industrial cake filtration applications to maintain consistent product quality and minimize energy consumption. Most of the currently applied methods for contactless real-time monitoring of the moisture content are based for example on x-ray or microwave techniques, and therefore, the equipment for the purpose is highly specialized. This paper introduces a novel soft sensor for filter cake moisture estimation that uses machine learning algorithms and data collected with basic process instrumentation. The method is primarily based on the cooling effect observed in the cake and air, caused by evaporation of liquid from the cake during the dewatering period, and it can be supported by other process data. The specific energy consumption of vacuum filtration and the subsequent thermal drying to zero moisture is also analyzed. The results of pilot-scale experiments with calcite slurry and a horizontal belt vacuum filter show that in order to minimize the specific energy consumption of vacuum filtration, it is crucial to find the right combination of slurry concentration, vacuum level, and mass of filter cake per unit area. The proposed method for estimating the filter cake moisture content is especially suitable for real-time monitoring and control, enabling also considerable reduction in the energy consumption of the overall process. When applying the proposed soft sensor method in a pilot-scale process, the mean absolute error of the estimated moisture content of the filter cake is ∼0.4 percentage points when the temperature of air at the vacuum pump inlet and the vacuum pump air flow rate are included in the input variables.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)282-291
Number of pages10
JournalSeparation and Purification Technology
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Dewatering
  • Moisture content prediction
  • Soft sensor
  • Thermodynamics
  • Vacuum filtration


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