Title page for ETD etd-02162005-085324

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Van der Merwe, Werner
Email werner.vandermerwe@tuks.co.za
URN etd-02162005-085324
Document Title The Morphology of Trickle Flow Liquid Holdup
Degree MEng
Department Chemical Engineering
Advisor Name Title
Prof W Nicol
  • pressure drop hysteresis
  • trickle flow
  • hydrodynamics
  • residual liquid holdup
Date 2005-02-10
Availability restricted
Gravity driven trickle flow of a liquid over a fixed bed in the presence of a gaseous phase is widely encountered throughout the process industry. It is one of the most common ways of contacting multi-phase fluids for reaction or mass transfer purposes. The presence of three phases greatly complicates the mathematical modelling of trickle-bed reactors and makes a description from first principles difficult.

Trickle flow performance is usually characterized in terms of hydrodynamic parameters. One such parameter is the liquid holdup. The value and morphology (shape or texture) of the holdup influences the catalyst contacting, wetting, mass transfer characteristics and ultimately the performance of the trickle flow unit.

This study is limited to the air-water-glass spheres system with no gas flow. It is partitioned into three sections. An investigation into the nature of the residual liquid holdup in beds of spherical particles revealed that the general assumption that all residual liquid is held in the form of pendular rings at particle contact points proves to be untrue. Instead, indication is that 48 % of the residual holdup is present in the form of agglomerated liquid globules in interstices of low local porosity. Theoretical residual liquid holdup models and residual liquid holdup-based mass transfer models should include this phenomenon.

In a subsequent section, the influence of the prewetting procedure on the operating holdup is investigated. Three distinct limiting cases are identified: Kan-wetted, Levec-wetted and non-wetted. A volumetric utilization coefficient that describes the extent to which the bed is irrigated is developed. It indicates that large fractions of the bed remain non-irrigated in the Levec- and non-wetted modes. A momentum balance-based model is adopted to predict the Kan-wetted mode holdup. This model was successfully extended to predicting the holdup in the Levec- and non-wetted modes by simple incorporation of the volumetric utilization coefficient. The predictive capability of this model is highly satisfactory, especially in light of it using only the classical Ergun constants and no fitted parameters (AARE = 9.6 %). The differences in the hysteresis behaviour of holdup and pressure drop in the different modes are attributed to differences in the morphology of the operating holdup.

The existence of the three limiting prewetted modes is confirmed by residence time distribution (RTD) analysis of the stimulus-response behaviour of the system. This behaviour was quantified using a NaCl tracer and conductivity measurements at both the inlet and outlet of a bench scale bed. The analyses show that:

There are large fractions of the holdup that is inaccessible to the tracer in the Levec-wetted and non-wetted modes.

The mixedness in the three prewetted modes differ appreciably, with the Kan-wetted mode clearly less mixed than the Levec-wetted mode.

The RTD analyses also confirm the existence of the three prewetting modes in a porous system (spherical a-alumina), with a large fraction of the holdup being inaccessible to the tracer in the Levec-wetted mode.

This study emphasizes the role of the morphology of the various types of liquid holdup on the hydrodynamic performance of a trickle flow unit. It is apparent that aspects of the morphology depend strongly on phenomena like globule formation, hysteresis and flow and prewetting history that have not been adequately recognized to date. The visualization of the various modes of trickle flow is an intellectual platform from which future studies may be directed.

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