In industrial usage, a precipitator is a device that uses electric fields to remove particles from the air.
Electric currents are run through coils to ionize the air. The ionized particles in the air, such as dust, are then attracted to nearby metal plates. The particles are statically stuck to the metal plates and the now cleansed air can pass along. Occasionally, large hammers hit the plates in order to knock off the accumulated particles to prevent build up.
Pre*cip"i*ta`tor (?), n. [L. praecipitator an overthrower.]
One who precipitates, or urges on with vehemence or rashness.
© Webster 1913.
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