A comprehensive experimental study of gas holdup in bubble columns of varying diameters, fitted with different distributor types, using several liquids is presented. Air was used as the gas phase. Experiments to test the influence of gas density were also carried out with He, Ar, and SF6. A generalization of the two-phase model for gas–solid fluidized beds was used to interpret the experimental data where the “dilute” phase is identified with the “large” bubble population and the “dense” phase with the liquid phase where the “small” bubble population is entrained. Gas holdups in dilute and dense phases were determined from dynamic gas disengagement experiments.
In the churn-turbulent regime of operation, voidage of the gas in the dense phase was independent of the superficial gas velocity. Reilly et al.'s correlations for the gas holdup and superficial gas velocity at the regime transition point estimate the gas voidage of the dense phase and the superficial gas velocity well through this phase. Corresponding correlations of Wilkinson et al. significantly underpredict dense-phase parameters. The experiment showed that the dilute phase or large bubble holdup in bubble columns, operating at superficial gas velocities > 0.1 m/s, is independent of liquid properties, how the gas is distributed and the density of the gas phase. But it is affected significantly by the column diameter. Relying on hydrodynamic analogies with a gas–solid–fluid bed, a simple correlation was developed that is considerably more accurate than the Wilkinson correlation that significantly overpredicts large bubble holdup.