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Home / Blog / Grain Dust: Characteristics, Composition, and Safe Gas Cleaning

Grain Dust: Characteristics, Composition, and Safe Gas Cleaning

Grain dust is a substance formed during production processes related to handling and storage. It consists of tiny particles of straw, husks, and weed seeds. The main cause is friction. The primary danger is its highly combustible nature.

Sources of pollution: elevators, mills, cereal processing plants, feed mills, silos, as well as seed production enterprises.

Health Effects

Grain dust exposure can pose various health risks and negatively impact respiratory health. When people breathe it, especially in large amounts or over prolonged periods, it can cause several adverse effects on the lungs. Allergy symptoms related to gas pollution may include respiratory issues, such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. The pollutants can also irritate the skin, leading to the development of a rash or other allergic reactions. In certain instances, can contain toxins or contaminants that may result in poisoning if ingested or absorbed through the skin. Regular use of protective equipment, such as masks and gloves, can help reduce the risks.

Safe Storage

A grain dust fire is a potential hazard that can occur in industries involved in its processing and storage. Therefore, it is crucial to observe safety measures during the storage, transportation, and processing of crops.

The rules for storage are regulated by regulatory acts, considering the classification of grain dust, where it is categorized as Class II, Group G.

Based on the research on the causes of detonations and fires in cereal processing plants, the main causes are the lack of systems for blast containment, proper ventilation, fire suppression systems and lightweight construction designs in bunkers and silos.

This is not surprising, as these facilities were often built without considering detonation safety standards, especially in older buildings. However, even in modern large-scale cereal processing plants, storage facilities, as well as in baking and brewing plants, similar accidents can occur.
Grain Processing
Grain Processing
Currently, there are two types of technologies in use. The first option is oiling, which helps neutralize the friction effect and reduces the likelihood of suspended contaminants in the air. However, the more commonly used method is aspiration. The corresponding systems collect air directly from the source and purify it using inertial forces or filtration. By employing this method, the concentration of contaminants is significantly reduced, thereby minimizing the probability of ignition.

Purification of Gas from Cereal Airborne Particles

Dry gas cleaning is considered one of the most practical methods. It includes several techniques:
  • Particle settling by gravity relies on the force of gravity. Under its influence, particulates settle without altering the direction of the gas flow.
  • Inertial systems, where suspended particulates try to maintain their direction of motion while the gas flow changes
  • Centrifugal method — it utilizes the appropriate force generated by the rotation of specific equipment parts. Such equipment is called a grain cyclone dust collector.
  • There is also the method of mechanical filtration.
The selection of the cleaning method considers factors such as the airborne particles' properties, particle sizes, and facility air temperature, while also accounting for the specific demands of grain dust collection.
Air Purification System
Air Purification System

Dust Collection Systems

The principle of operation of aspiration systems involves extracting dusty air at the source of contaminants generation. Subsequently, the air is purified using either inertia forces (up to 70%) or filtration elements, achieving a level of gas purification of up to 99%. These systems are powered by a fan that draws air from the source through the filter and releases it into the atmosphere. Aspiration units can be designed either to remove pollutants from the production process (as used in feed mills and elevators) or to return them to the gas flow to retain product mass (mainly applied in cereal terminals).

Grain dust collection systems are vital for maintaining a safe working environment. Several types of systems are commonly used:
  • Cyclone separators employ centrifugal force to effectively separate suspended particulate matter from the gas stream. The heavier ones are collected in a container, while the cleaned air is discharged.
  • Baghouse filters: These systems consist of fabric filter bags that capture suspended pollutants as the air passes through. Periodic cleaning of the bags ensures continuous filtration efficiency. They are suitable for operation in highly contaminated conditions, filtering both dry coarse and fine particulate. With high efficiency, they can purify the air from pollutants up to 99.9%.
  • Wet scrubbers: These systems use water or a liquid mist to capture and remove contaminants from the air. The pollutants-laden gas is passed through the scrubbing liquid, which absorbs the particulates. Wet systems are primarily used in cases where there is a need to capture large quantities of finely dispersed contaminants.
By implementing effective grain dust collectors, facilities can minimize airborne pollutants levels, reduce the risk of explosions, and promote a healthier working environment for employees.

We are a manufacturer of air purification equipment. We design and supply gas cleaning systems, including the necessary collectors. Feel free to reach out to us, and we will be glad to assist you!

Grain Cyclones

Grain dust cyclones are considered the most popular and efficient type of aspiration equipment. These devices combine inertial and gravitational cleaning methods. The following algorithm is implemented in the systems:
  1. Pollutant-laden gas enters the unit through the inlet located at the top.
  2. The apparatus creates a rotating gas flow downward towards the conical section.
  3. Due to the inertial force, particulates exit the flow and settle on the cyclone walls.
  4. They are picked up by a secondary gas flow and carried down to a hopper.
  5. The purified air exits upwards and is discharged from the apparatus through a special pipe.
The efficiency of the equipment is determined by the air entry velocity, cyclone diameter, as well as the inlet and outlet ducts.
Cyclone Bag Filter
Cyclone Bag Filter

Advantages of cyclone

Grain dust control systems are implemented to effectively manage and reduce the presence of pollutants.
  • Highly efficient removal of gas pollutants.
  • Reliability and long service life.
  • Ease of operation and maintenance.
  • High productivity.
  • Safety due to the absence of moving parts.
  • Wide temperature range of operation.
  • Resistance to high pressure.
  • Stability of hydraulic resistance.
An undeniable advantage is the equipment's ability to maintain all functions even at high concentrations of suspended pollutants.

Another advantage is the extensive selection of devices based on characteristics and purpose. The devices are available in right and left versions with various sizes. They also vary in technical parameters.

Dust Suppression

Grain dust suppression systems encompass various methods and practices aimed at reducing or controlling the generation and dispersal of contaminants. Here are some common techniques used:
  1. Maintaining proper moisture levels in storage areas can help reduce the generation of atmospheric pollution. This can be achieved through appropriate conditioning and storage techniques.
  2. Implementing measures such as enclosing equipment, using special curtains or shields, and sealing openings can help contain particulate matter within specific areas, preventing its spread.
  3. Applying surfactants to product surfaces can help reduce the formation of airborne pollutants.
  4. Utilizing local exhaust ventilation systems and contaminant filtration near emitting processes can effectively reduce the release of harmful substances into the air.
  5. Regular cleaning of equipment, machinery, and storage areas can prevent pollutants buildup and minimize the chances of pollutants becoming airborne.

Probability of Explosion and Ignition

Cereal airborne particles are highly flammable and can instantly ignite when exposed to increased temperature or even a small spark. A detonation takes place, and seldom is it a solitary occurrence. They can propagate in a chain reaction to other areas and even to connected facilities through technological communication channels.

Primary ignitions often occur in storage containers such as bunkers and silos. Particulate matter that accumulates in corners is particularly hazardous. The shockwave lifts it upward, turning it into fuel for secondary detonations.

During the initial explosion, it is possible to mitigate the pressure build-up by opening windows and doors. However, during secondary and subsequent detonations, the pressure becomes so intense that this method no longer works.

In terms of destructive force, it surpasses dynamite and, in enclosed spaces, leads to the generation of excessive pressure that significantly exceeds the structural capacity of reinforced concrete.

According to grain dust explosion statistics, as reported by a source in West Lafayette, Indiana, the United States experienced a total of nine incidents in 2022, demonstrating an increase from the seven incidents reported in 2021. These figures also indicate that the average number of explosions per year over the past decade stands at 7.8. These statistics highlight the ongoing concern and need for preventive measures in the industry to mitigate the risks associated with grain dust explosions.

Why does grain dust explode? Agricultural contaminants can explode under certain conditions due to their combustible nature and the presence of a spark or open flame. When it is processed or handled, fine particles are generated and become suspended in the air. If the airborne particle concentration reaches a critical level and encounters an ignition source (sparks, open flames, or electrical equipment), it can cause an explosion. That's why grain dust is so explosive.
Note: A particle concentration of 40 g/m3 is considered an indicator of explosive potential.

Let's list the explosive properties of grain dust. Particles have a large surface area that enhances their combustibility. This creates a potentially explosive mixture. Oxygen is crucial for combustion, and if the concentration of suspended particulate matter reaches a critical level and encounters sparks or open flames, it can lead to a rapid and destructive ignition.

Important Indicators of Explosivity


MIE (Minimum Ignition Energy) refers to the lowest amount of energy required to ignite particulate matter. Determining the MIE of grain dust is essential in assessing its potential explosibility and establishing appropriate safety measures.

Below are the MIE values of contaminants, representing the minimum energy required for ignition.

The Minimum Explosive Concentration of Grain Dust

The MEC is the minimum particulate concentration required for a combustible mixture. It varies for airborne particles based on factors such as type, moisture content, size, and the presence of other combustible materials.

The MEC range for suspended particulate matter is approximately 50-150 grams per cubic meter.

Deflagration Index Kst

The grain dust Kst, also known as the Deflagration Index, has been determined to be 89 bar m/sec based on thorough detonation testing. It indicates the rate at which an explosion can propagate once ignited.

Explosion Control

Grain dust explosion prevention is of utmost importance in industries involved in its processing and storage. Implementing effective preventive measures can significantly reduce the risk of detonations. Regular cleaning and maintenance of equipment and storage facilities help minimize the accumulation of combustible pollutants in the atmosphere. Proper ventilation systems ensure the removal of airborne particulate matter, preventing its concentration. Employing explosion-proof electrical systems and equipment reduces the potential sources of sparks or flames. Conducting training programs and promoting awareness among workers about the hazards of grain dust and the importance of safety protocols further contribute to prevention efforts.
Cereal Dust Explosion at the Elevator
Cereal Dust Explosion at the Elevator


The particulate calculation is based on data regarding its quantity in 1 m^3 of exhaust air. A value of 30-50 mg/m³ is considered acceptable. An alternative calculation can be made based on the concentration of the substance in the working area of the elevator.

The explosiveness is assessed based on the following factors:
  • Concentration: Particulates need to be in close proximity for some of them to ignite others, raising their temperature above the kindling point.
  • The size of the particles influences the amount of heat generated by each of them. This characteristic is dependent on the type and composition of these particulates. Decreasing their size leads to more intense contact and a stronger explosion.
  • Typically, the composition of the contaminants is identical to the product present in the storage facility. However, each particle contains various types of molecules with different combustion heat. The chemical composition of pollutants determines both the minimum ignition temperature and the energy required.
  • Moist contaminants first dissipate energy to increase their temperature and then expend it on converting water into steam and releasing it. Consequently, the higher the moisture content, the lower the risk of sparking.
  • Surrounding conditions: Gas temperature and humidity play a role. In high ambient temperatures and humidity, the particle moisture content also increases. The vapor enhances heat conduction, improves heat transfer between particulates, and increases atmospheric electroconductivity. Under such circumstances, the dissipation of static electricity is accelerated.
The detonation of agricultural contaminants is possible when several factors are combined, including the mixture with air, sufficient particle concentration, the presence of an ignition source, and a minimum of 8% oxygen.

Understanding what makes grain dust explosion is crucial in ensuring safety.


Dust poses a significant hazard, and it is crucial to follow proper aspiration and safety protocols.

Our company, Torch-Air, specializes in manufacturing filters for air purification, addressing all types of contaminants. We offer free calculations, equipment selection, and expert consultations. With our advanced solutions, we ensure clean and safe air environments. Our team of professionals is dedicated to providing tailored recommendations and assisting you throughout the process. Experience the efficiency and reliability of our filtration systems and breathe easy with Torch-Air. Contact us today for personalized gas purification solutions.
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Vladimir Nikulin
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