Modelling of Mass Transfer Phenomena in Chemical and Biochemical Reactor Systems using Computational Fluid Dynamics

Hilde Kristina Larsson

Research output: Book/ReportPh.D. thesisResearch

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Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) is the application of numerical methods to solve systems of partial differential equations related to fluid dynamics. The continuity and the momentum equations are the most commonly applied equations within CFD, and together they can be used to calculate the velocity and pressure distributions in a fluid. CFD also enables the modelling of several fluids simultaneously, e.g. gas bubbles in a liquid, as well as the presence of turbulence and dissolved chemicals in a fluid, and many other phenomena. This makes CFD an appreciated tool for studying flow structures, mixing, and other mass transfer phenomena in chemical and biochemical reactor systems.

In this project, four selected case studies are investigated in order to explore the capabilities of CFD. The selected cases are a 1 ml stirred microbioreactor, an 8 ml magnetically stirred reactor, a Rushton impeller stirred pilot plant reactor, and a rotating bed reactor filled with catalytic porous material. A selection of the simulated phenomena includes the velocities and turbulent quantities in the reactors, as well as the distribution of the gas and liquid phases in them. Mixing times, oxygen transfer rates and an ion-exchange reaction are also modelled and compared to experimental data.

The thesis includes a comprehensive overview of the fundamentals behind a CFD software, as well as a more detailed review of the fluid dynamic phenomena investigated in this project. The momentum and continuity equations are presented as well as the theory behind the SST and the k-ε turbulence models. Modelling of additional variables, porous materials and twophase flows are also introduced. The two-phase flows are modelled using the Euler-Euler method, and both dispersed and free-surface flows are simulated.

The importance of mass transfer with a focus on mixing, gas-liquid transfer of oxygen, and heterogeneous reactor systems is reviewed and mathematical models for these applications are presented. A review of how these mass transfer phenomena have been modelled in the scientific literature is also included.

The models are subsequently evaluated based on their applicability in the four case studies. The evaluations especially focus on the impact of the choice of turbulence model and other modelling decisions made by the user. The conclusion is that CFD is a highly valuable tool for modelling several important parameters in chemical and biochemical reactors but that the user must be well aware of the shortcomings with the applied models.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationKgs. Lyngby
PublisherDanmarks Tekniske Universitet (DTU)
Number of pages216
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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