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Keywords:

  • airlift loop reactor;
  • oscillation operation;
  • CFD;
  • gas holdup;
  • mass transfer coefficient

Abstract

BACKGROUND: The classical airlift loop reactor (ALR) has been widely used in petrochemical, biochemical, energy and environmental processes due to such advantages as simple structure, without motional mechanism, easy sealing and low energy consumption. A novel ALR has been designed using forced periodic reversible ventilation, termed an airlift reversible loop reactor (ARLR).

RESULTS: Using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation and experimental validation, the mass transfer characteristics of the ARLR were studied. The simulation results predicted the experimental data well, especially at low ventilation capacity. The oscillation period had significant effects on gas holdup and the mass transfer coefficient of the ARLR. When ventilation capacity was increased from 0.22 to 3.49 vvm, compared with central airlift and annular airlift reactors, ARLR increased the mass transfer coefficient by 9–31% and 10–58%, respectively, according to simulation results, and by 11–25% and 14–58%, respectively, according to experimental data.

CONCLUSION: The results showed that the ARLR could significantly enhance gas holdup and mass transfer coefficient compared with traditional central airlift and annular airlift reactors. Results indicated that the optimum oscillation period decreased with increase of ventilation capacity. ARLR has the potential for application in aerobic fermentation. © 2012 Society of Chemical Industry