Clogged Spray Nozzle


As you sit in front of the hair stylist or barber, he or she may pull out a spray bottle to apply product for your stylish new look. Occasionally, the sprayer will just stop working, leaving the stylist frustrated. We had a stylist provide us with a nozzle that wasn’t working.  Using micro-CT imaging, we performed a failure analysis investigation on the clogged spray nozzle.

Why do we care about a spray nozzle?

A spray nozzle is a common devise that has a wide variety of applications from household cleaning to industrial coating solutions. Although there are a variety of styles and designs, the basic spray nozzle anatomy includes a basic pump system with a spring, gasket, actuator, and spring cup. When the actuator is pressed, a spring cup drops below the gasket allowing the pressurized fluid to fill the air space. The liquid travels up the small diameter tube and gets sprayed out through the small hole at the front of the sprayer. A basic sample is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Simple demonstration of how a nozzle works. By Knulclunk at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

As water or other fluid passes through the small tubing, contaminants can build up over time at the narrowing of the nozzle, completely blocking the flow of fluid. Unfortunately, this prevents further use of the sprayer. Using micro-CT imaging we can identify the location of the clog, giving manufacturers a tool to designing an improved nozzle.

Micro-CT of the Spray Nozzle

A spray nozzle was located which was no longer emitted any product.  The nozzle was scanned using a 40micron pixel size with a scan time of one hour and ten minutes on the Bruker/SkyScan 1173 system. After completing the scan, the axial slice images were analyzed and compared to the structure in figure 1 of the spray nozzle. The investigation revealed a region of higher density material in an area where there is usually air (see Figure 2). The customer can now use these images to determine possible ways to remove the clog or find an alternate design that will prevent the clogging of the product.

Figure 2. Identification of what looks to be higher density material (more white in color) in the spray tube and possibly a reason for the clog (in red).

This is an example of how Micro-CT imaging is well suited for use in failure analysis investigations. If you have an application you would like tested or are interested in providing a sample for the next image of the month feel free to e-mail: or call 610-366-7103.

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