Cooling tower drift can have negative effects on the tower, nearby equipment and the surrounding environment. As the water that is emitted along with the exhaust air of a cooling tower, drift carries with it whatever soluble constituents are present in the circulating water, unlike the evaporated water, which is pure. Preventing the dissemination of contaminants such as minerals, water treatment chemicals and biological organisms via drift elimination is an important part of cooling tower operation.

The primary means of controlling drift are drift eliminators. While modern designs are capable in eliminating fine drift particles, the characteristics of the tower water can influence how effective they are. Although surfactants have many beneficial uses, they have an adverse effect on preventing cooling tower drift, notes Brentwood Industries in a white paper.

“When surfactants are added to the circulating water, reduced surface tension increases the population of very small droplets produced by the air-water interaction within a cooling tower. The smallest of these droplets can pass largely unimpeded through the drift eliminators,” the company notes.

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