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A simple guide to: Air permeability testing

2023-10-07 14:19

Air permeability testing is a common procedure used to determine the breathability and air resistance of various materials such as fabrics, membranes, and filters. The test measures the ease with which air passes through a material, providing valuable information about its performance and suitability for specific applications. In this guide, we will walk you through the key steps involved in conducting an air permeability test.

Step 1: Understanding Air Permeability Testing

Before we dive into the testing process, let's gain a clear understanding of air permeability. Air permeability is defined as the volume of air that passes through a material under a given pressure and time. It is typically expressed in units such as cubic centimeters per second (cm³/s) or liters per minute per square meter (L/min/m²). The higher the air permeability value, the more breathable the material is.

Step 2: Test Equipment and Setup

To conduct an air permeability test, you will need a specialized testing apparatus. The two most commonly used instruments are the Bally permeability tester and the Gurley permeability tester. These apparatuses consist of a specially designed chamber or cell, a pressure source, and a flow measurement system.

Ensure that the testing apparatus is properly set up according to the manufacturer's instructions. This includes assembling the components, checking for any leaks or malfunctions, and calibrating the instrument if necessary.

Step 3: Sample Preparation

Next, prepare your sample for testing. Depending on the material being tested, you may need to cut it into a specific shape or size. Most commonly, samples are circular or square with a defined surface area.

It is essential to ensure that the sample is representative of the material being tested. Avoid any defects or inconsistencies that may affect the test results. If required, condition the sample under standardized temperature and humidity conditions to simulate real-world applications.

Step 4: Conducting the Test

Now it's time to perform the air permeability test. Here's a step-by-step procedure:

1. Place the prepared sample over the testing area of the apparatus, making sure it is flat and wrinkle-free.

2. Seal the edges of the sample to prevent air leakage around the sides. This can be done using adhesive tape or clamping mechanisms, depending on the specific apparatus.

3. Set the desired pressure drop across the sample. The pressure drop is the difference in pressure between the air inlet and outlet of the apparatus. It determines the driving force for airflow through the material.

4. Start the airflow through the sample by activating the apparatus.

5. Allow the test to run for the specified duration, typically a few seconds to a few minutes. The testing time depends on the material being tested and the specific testing standard or procedure you are following.

Step 5: Measurement and Calculation

Once the test is complete, it's time to measure and calculate the air permeability of the material. Follow these steps:

1. Stop the airflow and carefully remove the sample from the apparatus.

2. Measure the pressure drop across the sample using a pressure gauge or manometer. Record this value in units of pressure (e.g., pascals or millimeters of water column).

3. Next, measure the airflow rate through the sample. This can be done using a flowmeter or by measuring the time it takes for a specific volume of air to pass through the material.

4. Calculate the air permeability using the following formula:

    Air Permeability = (Flow Rate * Sample Area) / Pressure Drop

    Make sure to use consistent units for all variables in the equation.

Step 6: Data Analysis and Interpretation

Once you have obtained the air permeability value, it's time to analyze and interpret the results. Consider the intended application of the material and compare the measured value with any relevant industry standards or requirements. Higher air permeability values indicate better breathability, while lower values suggest higher air resistance.

Remember that air permeability is just one of many factors influencing the performance of a material. Consider other characteristics such as filtration efficiency, moisture management, and mechanical durability when evaluating its overall suitability for a specific application.

Step 7: Safety Precautions and Cleanup

Throughout the testing process, ensure that you follow proper safety precautions. This may include wearing appropriate protective equipment such as gloves, goggles, or lab coats. Adhere to any specific safety guidelines provided by the manufacturer or testing standards.

After completing the test, clean the testing apparatus according to the manufacturer's instructions. Proper cleanup and maintenance ensure accurate and reliable results for future testing.


Air permeability testing is a valuable technique for evaluating the breathability and air resistance of materials. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can conduct an air permeability test efficiently and accurately. Remember to consult the specific testing standard or procedure relevant to your material for detailed instructions and to ensure consistent and reliable results.

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