• anaerobic digester;
  • computational fluid dynamics;
  • large eddy simulation;
  • non-Newtonian fluid;
  • mechanical mixing


A comprehensive study of anaerobic digestion requires an advanced turbulence model technique to accurately predict mixing flow patterns because the digestion process that involves mass transfer between anaerobes and their substrates is primarily dependent on detailed information about the fine structure of turbulence in the digesters. This study presents a large eddy simulation (LES) of mechanical agitation of non-Newtonian fluids in anaerobic digesters, in which the sliding mesh method is used to characterize the impeller rotation. The three subgrid scale (SGS) models investigated are: (i) Smagorinsky–Lilly model, (ii) wall-adapting local eddy-viscosity model, and (iii) kinetic energy transport (KET) model. The simulation results show that the three SGS models produce very similar flow fields. A comparison of the simulated and measured axial velocities indicates that the LES profile shapes are in general agreement with the experimental data but they differ markedly in velocity magnitudes. A check of impeller power and flow numbers demonstrates that all the SGS models give excellent predictions, with the KET model performing the best. Moreover, the performance of six Reynolds-averaged Navier–Stokes turbulence models are assessed and compared with the LES results. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2012; 109:804–812. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.