Mass transfer studies were conducted in a stable liquid foam reactor under various operating conditions to evaluate gas holdup, effective interfacial area, liquid-phase mass transfer coefficient and a modified interfacial mass transfer coefficient to include the surface-active agents employed. Gas holdup and effective interfacial area were evaluated experimentally. The interfacial mass transfer coefficient was evaluated semitheoretically, by considering the interfacial region as a separate phase and using the experimental data developed for mass transfer accompanied by a fast first-order chemical reaction. The liquid-phase mass transfer coefficient was also evaluated semitheoretically, using Danckwert's theory for the liquid phase and the experimental data on mass transfer accompanied by a slow pseudofirst-order chemical reaction.
An experimental unit was set up to provide a stable flowing foam column, simulating the foam reactor. Mass transfer rates were studied for superfacial gas velocities in the range from 1.5 × 10−2 m/s to 5 × 10−2 m/s, giving gas residence times in the range from 20 to 55 seconds. A cationic and nonionic surface-active agent and three different wire mesh sizes, giving bubble size distributions in the range from 2.2 to 5.4 mm Sauter mean diameters, were employed.
It is observed that gas holdup is insensitive to the type of surface-active agent; it is however, dependent on wire mesh size and gas velocity. The bubble diameter and, hence, the interfacial area are found to be insensitive to gas velocity in the range studied; they are, however, strong functions of wire mesh size. The liquid-phase mass transfer coefficient increases with increase in gas velocity. The surface-active agent introduces additional resistance to mass transfer in both reaction cases, this being the controlling one in the case of the fast reaction. A comparison with conventional packed bed contactors indicates the mass transfer rates to be about 8 times lower for the foam reactor, for the fast reaction case; for slow reactions, the foam reactor has mass transfer rates approximately 2-4 times higher than those for conventional packed bed contactors.