I am planning on building a simple electrostatic air filter, from scratch. From what I understand, the dust in the air is given a charge as it flows through an inlet section and is collected by mesh of opposite charge as the air flows out through an outlet region.

I am wondering how exactly is the dust imparted a charge?

I didn't get what I wanted from google, possibly because I couldn't phrase it properly.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ If you are wanting to build the electronics for a system you are at the right place. If you just want to understand the physics of it then you should check out physics.stackexchange \$\endgroup\$
    – Kellenjb
    Jan 18, 2012 at 14:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the ambitious project. But maybe it's better to ask in the physics session as Kellenjb says, just because there should be more expert people. \$\endgroup\$
    – clabacchio
    Jan 18, 2012 at 14:35

2 Answers 2


The normal method is to use a corona discharge to charge the dust particles. See wikipedia extract below.

I'd imagine that using a DIY negative ion generator would essentially accomplish the same result - and there are many designs avilable on-web.

Many negative ion generaotors here including circuits.

eg Here is an off mains diode / capacitor voltage multiplier.
This will kill you if you let it.
From here

enter image description here

This one starts from 12V. It can still kill you.
From ere

enter image description here

Very practical looking DIY page here

Bad hair day - ion emission head.

enter image description here

Lots of detail

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Smalle than it looks above:

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Wikipedia says:

  • The plate precipitator

    The most basic precipitator contains a row of thin vertical wires, and followed by a stack of large flat metal plates oriented vertically, with the plates typically spaced about 1 cm to 18 cm apart, depending on the application. The air or gas stream flows horizontally through the spaces between the wires, and then passes through the stack of plates.

    A negative voltage of several thousand volts is applied between wire and plate. If the applied voltage is high enough an electric (corona) discharge ionizes the gas around the electrodes. Negative ions flow to the plates and charge the gas-flow particles.

    The ionized particles, following the negative electric field created by the power supply, move to the grounded plates. Particles build up on the collection plates and form a layer. The layer does not collapse, thanks to electrostatic pressure (given from layer resistivity, electric field, and current flowing in the collected layer).

Wikipedia ref here - press Esc when page appears to prevent the black screen of SOPAR.


Take a look at powder coating. It's similar, charge a particle and make it stick electrostatically to something.


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