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Abstract

A single-pellet reactor has been used to investigate the impact of partial external wetting on catalyst performance in a multiphase reaction system. The novel design simulates the local environment within a trickle-bed reactor, and permits the direct measurement of the degree of wetting under reaction conditions. Experimental data of the hydrogenation of α-methylstyrene (AMS) over a Pd/Al2O3 pellet provide unequivocal evidence of effectiveness enhancement by partial wetting, a predicted single-pellet phenomenon (e.g., Harold and Ng, 1987; Funk et al., 1988, 1989). The overall reaction rate is an increasing (decreasing) function of the degree of wetting if the overall limiting reactant is more effectively supplied through the wetted (nonwetted) part of the surface. A maximum in the reaction rate can occur at an intermediate degree of wetting, signaling a transition from an overall AMS-limited to hydrogen-limited reaction. The dependence of the degree of wetting on the liquid flow rate for low reaction rates is consistent with a simple rivulet flow model. At higher reaction rates the degree of wetting decreases, with all other conditions fixed. Possible mechanisms for this interesting link between the degree of wetting and reaction are discussed.