As the pharmaceutical industry continues to grow and expand, ensuring the safety and quality of medicines is of paramount importance. A critical aspect of this process is the selection and implementation of appropriate filters in various pharmaceutical manufacturing processes.

Filter Types for the Pharmaceutical Industry

There are many filter types on the market, the most commonly used filter types for the pharmaceutical industry are depth filters, cartridge filters, and membrane filters. We will provide an in-depth overview of the different filtration systems and filter types commonly used in the pharmaceutical industry.

Different Filtration Systems

In order to capture and contain pollutants and other debris while allowing desired fluids to pass through, filtration systems are used to assist purify media. The pharmaceutical industry uses a variety of conventional filtering technologies, including surface filtration, depth filtration, and ultrafiltration, each of which serves a particular purpose. Every filtration system has unique benefits when in operation.

Surface Filtration

Surface filtration systems refer to the retention of particles on the surface of the material being filtered. The filtration process is ongoing, and over time these particles will accumulate, forming a layer of solid material on the surface, which is the “filter cake layer”. This greatly contributes to the increased efficiency of the filter as it is formed.

Typically, the surface filter’s initial filtration rate is around 55%. However, once the filter cake layer has formed, the filtration rate will rise to 100%. After extensive use, contaminants will build up in the surface filtration process and the flow rate will decrease, necessitating prompt maintenance and treatment.

Depth Filtration

In the depth filtration system, there are many different filter layers that can filter the fluid layer by layer to remove particles, soluble substances, and colloidal substances in the fluid. In the initial filter layer, larger particles will be removed first, and then as they go further through the filter layer, smaller and smaller particles will be filtered out one by one.

The depth filtration system mainly uses backflow for cleaning, so that the flow of the medium is reversed, which can dredge the pores in the filter. Depth filtration systems cost more than surface filtration, but also last longer.

Water filtration


Another of the more common filtration systems used in pharmaceutical industry processes is the ultrafiltration system. These methods are often employed when filter holes are smaller than 0.01 microns. Among these systems, the permeate refers to the substance passing through the filter membrane. Retained material refers to the material that is removed and filtered out.

In addition to eliminating microscopic particles from the material flow, ultrafiltration also gets rid of certain viruses and potentially harmful bacteria, protozoa, and other microorganisms that might be there.

Different Filter Types

Filters are available in a variety of different industrial applications. For the choice of filter type, it is also necessary to consider multiple factors from different dimensions. There are several types of filters widely used in the pharmaceutical industry to choose from. Of course, different filter types have different advantages and disadvantages, which reminds us that we must understand the filter type and its working principle before choosing a filter.

Magnetic Filters

Magnetic filtration is not a widely utilized form of filtering, although it has many advantages and can be employed in several industries, including the pharmaceutical industry. Its operation involves using magnetic force to extract iron and heavy metals from water. Magnetic filtration offers a cost-effective solution with recyclable filter material.

In addition, the magnetic filter will not affect the water flow and can work quickly and continuously. And the magnetic filter does not need to use any energy, which can obviously save costs and improve sustainable development.

Magnetic filters are just one step in the filtration process in most pharmaceutical applications. After all, not all pollutants can be removed, and similar metal substances are the parts that other filters cannot remove. At this time, magnetic filtration is a good choice.

Bag Filters

The Bag filter is a low-cost filter to purify water compared to other filters. As water flows through the filter, the filter bags capture and hold up contaminant impurities, somewhat similar to membrane-based filtration such as reverse osmosis.

bag filters

The capacity of the bag filter is very large and it is one of the best choices for handling large volumes of water. Since they last a few cycles before needing to be replaced, they are extremely cost-effective, and filter bag replacements are not expensive.

The pore size of bag filters varies widely, and it is up to the pharmaceutical company to have a good understanding of the required filter size. These systems generally cannot filter out the smallest contaminants, so this filter is better suited as the first step in more filtration process.

Self-Cleaning Filters

Filters tend to build up contaminants over time and require regular cleaning in order to function properly and efficiently. Self-cleaning filters are ideal for high-efficiency standard pharmaceutical manufacturing applications.

Because the self-cleaning filter is not strictly a filtering technology, but an additional functional device. They exist in many forms, from bag filters to nanofiltration filters. There are two main types of self-cleaning filters: direct flushing and backwashing.

A direct flush system is one in which water is sprayed directly onto the filter, flushing the contaminants from the filter. Backwashing, on the other hand, removes impurities from the filter by reversing the normal flow of the system, using the same technique that pushed the contaminated water through it in the first place.

Self-Cleaning Filters

Different Filter Membranes

Another direction of choosing filtration systems is membrane filtration. There are three main types of filtration membranes: reverse osmosis, ultrafiltration, and nanofiltration. In the pharmaceutical industry, membranes are used for the sterilization and deionization of water. The use of membranes in various systems should be selected according to the characteristics of the membranes.

Reverse Osmosis

One of the more common filter types in the pharmaceutical industry is reverse osmosis, which removes impurities by passing water through a microporous membrane. The process mostly uses finer membranes to remove more pollutants, often involving multiple stages.

As one of the most effective filtration technologies, reverse osmosis can remove up to 99.5% of pollutants in water. Additionally, some essential minerals are removed, which may not be good for drinking water but is perfect for pharmaceuticals.

Although reverse osmosis is very efficient, it can be pricey. This sophisticated equipment has steep up-front expenditures, and maintenance can be challenging as well. However, labs that can handle and afford it will benefit greatly from these technologies.

Reverse Osmosis membrane


Nanofiltration is mainly used to remove various pollutants in water (organic molecules, viruses, organic matter, salts, etc.), and the pore size of the nanofiltration membrane is about 0.001 microns.

Nanofiltration can also be used to soften hard water, which can remove divalent ions in water that are prone to hard water.

Since nanofiltration doesn’t require much pressure or movement, it doesn’t involve much energy compared to many other technologies. It is helping pharmaceutical companies to be more sustainable and cost-effective.


Systems that need to filter particles 0.01 microns or larger use ultrafiltration. Ultrafiltration eliminates germs from water or other materials and is frequently used prior to nanofiltration or reverse osmosis.

The ultrafiltration procedure also eliminates certain viruses and larger particles. However, ultrafiltration cannot get rid of dissolved materials present in the medium.

The primary draw of UF is its capacity to continuously concentrate, isolate, and purify target macromolecules. By adding pressure to the solution stream, UF does this.

Ultrafiltration membrane


In different areas of pharmaceutical production, a variety of filtration systems and filtration technologies are involved. Each application has a unique set of filters and methods for producing the desired results(final product).

The standards of the pharmaceutical industry are very high, and now it is more about combining multiple filtration technologies or equipment to obtain the best results. Brother Filtration provides various types of pharmaceutical filters and professional technical guidance for the pharmaceutical industry. Contact us for more product information and a quote.

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