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Written by Don on Friday, 20 December 2013. Posted in Primasonics Blog

In March 2008 I wrote my first blog post about soot blowers. At that time, particularly within the power generation industry, steam soot blowers were the most common means by which plant engineers endeavoured to keep boiler soot and ash build-up under control. 

As I wrote at the time, steam soot blowers were not without their problems, however, and acoustic cleaning presented a better alternative.

Five and a half years on, I am delighted to report that the perception of power plant operators has changed and there has been a massive swing in favour of adopting acoustic cleaning technology in preference to traditional steam soot blowers.


Ineffective steam soot blower (on left) installed into boiler Acoustic cleaner (on right) subsequently installed to improve boiler efficiency

So what would account for such a radical change? Well, because steam soot blowers rely on high pressure, boiler tube erosion can occur. This in turn reduces the boiler's efficiency and incurs repair cost. Also, the jet of steam and air generated by the soot blower is limited in the amount of surface area it can reach so build-up of soot and ash can take place in other areas.

Here is a YouTube video clip we came across which shows a steam soot blower working. For anyone unfamiliar with steam soot blowing, you could be forgiven for thinking that nothing is happening when you first watch the video. Then at around 50 seconds you can hear the steam.

The principle of the idea is to clean the boiler so that the boiler, in turn, can make steam and send it to a turbine where it is converted into rotational movement and then into electricity and then of course into money. Looking at what is happening through our 'technical' eyes, we see two issues at play here, neither of which is good for the power plant:

  1. For the soot blower to work, valuable steam generated by the plant has to be diverted to it and away from the money making equipment.
  2. When you hear the steam in the video you can actually see it leaking out of the seals and being wasted. The steam should be going off to serve a useful purpose but here it's the opposite, going back into the gas path.

With acoustic cleaners, no steam is required for their operation, there's no risk of tube erosion or corrosion and a greater surface area of cleaning can be covered. Plant engineers, to their credit, seem to have finally woken up to the reality of savings both financially and in terms of downtime that can be achieved using acoustic cleaning systems. The future of boiler cleaning in power plants can therefore look to a much brighter and efficient future.

My passion for the science of acoustics, however, is not limited to cleaning power plant boilers. It encompasses many things, one in particular being Jazz music which I have written about on this blog several times before. Here is a video that our Technical Director Alex Bergus came across which demonstrates what makes acoustics so fascinating.

You might at first think this is in slow motion but it's not. It was filmed using a camera with a high shutter speed.

Here is how Alex describes the clip ....

"Look at the lovely wave forms ... if you knew the distance between the bridge and where the string was being held down, then from some of the shots not only could you calculate the note but also the number of harmonics!"

How we love the science of acoustics 



I am a truly innovative and affable Irishman who has over 35 years experience in a wide range of dry process and storage industries with particular disciplines in project engineering and consultancy.

Faced with a range of material flow and storage problems throughout my career my ambition was to find an affordable innovative and simple solution to prevent material blockages and build up and improve material flow within a wide range of dry process & storage industries.