The dual effect of viscosity on bubble column hydrodynamics

Research paper by Giorgio Besagni, Fabio Inzoli, Giorgia De Guido, Laura Annamaria Pellegrini

Indexed on: 09 Nov '16Published on: 05 Nov '16Published in: Chemical Engineering Science


Some authors, in the last decades, have observed the dual effect of viscosity on gas holdup and flow regime transition in small-diameter and small-scale bubble columns. This work concerns the experimental investigation of the dual effect of viscosity on gas holdup and flow regime transition as well as bubble size distributions in a large-diameter and large-scale bubble column. The bubble column is 5.3 m in height, has an inner diameter of 0.24 m, and can be operated with gas superficial velocities in the range of 0.004–0.20 m/s. Air was used as the dispersed phase, and various water-monoethylene glycol solutions were employed as the liquid phase. The water-monoethylene glycol solutions that were tested correspond to a viscosity between 0.9 mPa s and 7.97 mPa s, a density between 997.086 kg/m3 and 1094.801 kg/m3, a surface tension between 0.0715 N/m and 0.0502 N/m, and log10(Mo) between −10.77 and −6.55 (where Mo is the Morton number). Gas holdup measurements were used to investigate the global fluid dynamics and the flow regime transition between the homogeneous flow regime and the transition flow regime. An image analysis method was used to investigate the bubble size distributions and shapes for different gas superficial velocities, for different solutions of water-monoethylene glycol. In addition, based on the experimental data from the image analysis, a correlation between the bubble equivalent diameter and the bubble aspect ratio was proposed. The dual effect of viscosity, previously verified in smaller bubble columns, was confirmed not only with respect to the gas holdup and flow regime transition, but also for the bubble size distributions. Low viscosities stabilize the homogeneous flow regime and increase the gas holdup, and are characterized by a larger number of small bubbles. Conversely, higher viscosities destabilize the homogeneous flow regime and decrease the gas holdup, and the bubble size distribution moves toward large bubbles. The experimental results suggest that the stabilization/destabilization of the homogeneous regime is related to the changes in the bubble size distributions and a simple approach, based on the lift force, was proposed to explain this relationship. Finally, the experimental results were compared to the dual effect of organic compounds and inorganic compounds: future studies should propose a comprehensive theory to explain all the dual effects observed.

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