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Published by Golffy Kung
CFD
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Published by: Golffy Kung on May 26, 2014
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MESO-SCALE STRUCTURE A CHALLENGE OF COMPUTATIONAL FLUID DYNAMICS FOR CIRCULATING FLUIDIZED BED RISERS
 Wei Ge*, Wei Wang*, Weigang Dong, Junwu Wang, Bona Lu, Qingang Xiong and Jinghai Li*
State Key Laboratory of Multi-Phase Complex Systems,  Institute of Process Engineering, Chinese Academy of Sciences  P. O. Box 353, Beijing 100080, China * Email: jhli@home.ipe.ac.cn
Abstract
- Multi-scale heterogeneous structures are characteristic of the concurrent-up gas-solid flow in circulating fluidized bed (CFB) risers, which stand for a grand challenge to accurate simulation of industrial-scale CFB risers with reasonable computational cost. Coarse-grid simulations using traditional two-fluid models (TFM), although efficient, are not accurate enough for the purpose of design and control of industrial units, while direct numerical simulations (DNS) starting from below the Kolmogorov scale and particle scale are currently unrealistic for this purpose. Coarse-grid simulations with proper sub-grid scale (SGS) models are expected to provide both reasonable accuracy and efficiency, but the closure of SGS models has been a long-lasting controversial issue. In this presentation, we review our attempts in  providing such a closure with specific stability condition for flows in CFB risers on the grid scale, that is, the so-called analytical multi-scale approach and its later improvements and extensions. The resultant SGS model has been incorporated into commercial software and applied in the simulation of industrial CFB risers with various sizes and bed materials. Further extension of the model to mass transfer processes shows that superficial Reynolds number is insufficient for correlating mass transfer rate as multi-scale heterogeneity is not reflected in this criterion. The presentation will be concluded by prospects in multi-scale computational fluid dynamics of multiphase systems.
 
1. MULTI-SCALE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE HETEROGENEOUS FLOW STRUCTURES IN CFB RISERS
 
Gas-solid fluidization is typically aggregative (Wilhelm & Kwauk, 1948), and thereby displaying remarkable multi-scale heterogeneity. In general, the heterogeneity can be identified on three scales with spatio-temporal characteristics: On the micro-scale, the difference between gas and solid phases presents the intrinsic heterogeneity in the system, although their interfaces are normally clear-cut, they are by no means simple or regular. The solid  particles in natural or industrial processes are usually irregular in shape, for example, most catalyst particles are porous, and complex contacting and non-contacting forces may present between these particles. On the meso-scale, heterogeneity of solid particle distribution in CFB risers can be observed in the form of dynamic dense clusters immersed in dilute “broth”, which deform, interact, split and merge constantly. Conventionally, they are also called dense and dilute “phases”, but their interface is not so distinct. In fact,  big controversy still remains on how to define a cluster, as they are in continuous deformation. Although the maximum gradient of solids concentration has provided a reasonable criterion for the phase-interface (Werther et al, 1996), the difficulty remains on how to measure local and transient solids concentration in  physical experiments and computer simulations. Anyway, such heterogeneity has definite and also strong impact on the hydrodynamics and transport behaviors, as will be detailed in the next section. On the macro-scale, because of the presence of boundaries and the effect of inlets and outlets, the characteristics of meso-scale structures also vary considerably in space and in time. For CFB risers, we can identify a top “dilute” zone and a bottom “dense” zone axially and a so-called core-annulus structure laterally.
 
The local mean solids concentrations in the bottom “dense” zone and in the annulus area are relatively higher,  but dense clusters also present in the top “dilute” zone and in the core area, though with relatively lower  probability. Besides solids concentration distribution, which is most evident in observation and in measurements, the flow velocities in the two phases are also highly heterogeneous. The slip velocity in dense clusters is much lower than that in the dilute “broth”, and the difference between their gas velocities is even higher as the gas flow always bypasses the cluster for less resistance. It is rather difficult, in itself, to describe the heterogeneous flow structure embedded on each scale, and the correlation among different scales is the focus of this complexity (Li et al., 2004). For example, net backflow of solid particles can be observed in the annulus area due to meso-scale particle clustering and macro-scale wall effects, while gas phase turbulence dominates and is also affected by the particle distribution in the core area, with its energy dissipated by eddies and inter-particle collisions over a wide range of scales. All such factors add complexity to the flow structure of CFB risers, and bring about significant errors in both experiments and simulations if they are not properly accounted for, as illustrated in Fig. 1.
 
a) Experiment b) Simulation
 Fig. 1: The effect of heterogeneous structure on the results of experiment and simulation in gas-solid flow: (a)  Measuring the same structure with different probes gives different results (Reh & Li, 1991); (b) Simulating the same  system by different models gives different results (air-FCC system in the bottom section of a semi-industrial turbulent  fluidized bed, I.D=0.71m, height=16m, U 
 g 
=0.945m/s, d 
 p
=7.5×10
-5
m,
 ρ 
 p
=1503kg/m
3
 ).
 
2. THE CHALLENGE THEREBY PROPOSED FOR SIMULATIONS OF CFB RISER FLOWS
Computer capacity has been increasing dramatically, while the development of computation capability is comparatively slow. Then, it is natural to ask: what is the reason for such a difference? Our belief is that the meso-scale heterogeneity and the interdependence between scales described above present a grand challenge to the development of computer simulation, that is, how to balance between the two ends of computational accuracy and efficiency? Two approaches standing for high accuracy or high efficiency are usually referred to in literature, i.e., the direct numerical simulations (DNS) for accuracy and the coarse grid simulations for efficiency. In what follows we will discuss these two approaches with regard to CFB risers.
 
2.1 How expensive is direct numerical simulation?
At present, theoretically rigorous simulation of gas-solid flow should go down below the scale of solid  particles and that of the dissipative eddies in the turbulent gas phase, which is typically on the orders of
microns to millimeters
. On such scales, the Navier-Stokes equation for fluid flow can be applied directly, and the particles can be treated individually with their interactions described in classical Newton mechanics.
Crossed Probe Parallel Probe
 
Although such a description requires details of particle-particle interactions as inputs, which are not easily obtained in experiments, DNS is generally believed to be able to predict the hydrodynamics of well-defined systems reasonably. However, the computational cost involved in DNS is tremendous. In fact, to our knowledge, the largest DNS of gas-solid suspension to date involves only thousands of particles (Ma et al., 2006), and for computationally less demanding liquid-solid systems, the number is still limited to tens of thousands (Nguyen and Ladd, 2005), while for industrial units with dimensions in meters or even ten meters, the number of particles are in the range of 10
10
~10
15
 and the number of numerical elements needed would reach 10
12
~10
20
. In terms of temporal evolution, the time step of the DNS simulations are typically finer than microseconds and the computational time for one step can hardly reach milliseconds even for well  parallelized code on state-of-the-art high performance computing (HPC) systems, therefore, an reasonable estimate is “days (computational) for seconds (physical)”. Further development of HPC technology is likely to expand the size of the simulated systems dramatically, but reducing the ratio of computational to physical time will be much more difficult because of the strong barriers in the frequency of chips.
 In short, we may  say that conventional DNS of industrial CFB units is yet impossible or at least not economical in the  foreseeable future, unless certain breakthrough specially designed for parallelization can be made in both  software and hardware.
 
2.2 How accurate is coarse grid simulations?
For reasonable computational cost and timely response, most practical simulations on industrial units have used two-fluid model (TFM) with coarse grids on the scale of several
millimeters to centimeters
. However, as reported by many researchers (Andrews IV et al., 2005; Jiradilok et al., 2006; Lu et al., 2005; Qi et al., 2007; Qi et al., 2000; Sundaresan, 2000; Yang et al., 2003a, 2003b), the accuracy of such simulations is not satisfactory. For example, the solids circulating rates are significantly over-predicted and the meso-scale heterogeneity is considerably smoothed, as discussed in the literature (Yang et al., 2003a). The accuracy of a numerical simulation depends on the rationality of the physical model, the numerical scheme and the grid size used. Assuming that a TFM is reasonable on the scale its averaging procedures are taken, its best solutions can be approached when the grid size is much smaller than this scale, since a smooth and linear change can usually be secured then. When coarser grids are used, the numerical solution will gradually deviate from the analytical solution of the model and the physical picture, at rates largely dependent on the nature of the model and the system simulated. When significant sub-grid scale (SGS) heterogeneity displays in the system, the linear and smooth variation of the flow variable assumed in the numerical solution loses completely, so that the discrepancy between coarse-grid simulations and the picture really described by TFM could be very large, as reported by Sundaresan (2000) and shown in Fig. 2. The calculation of drag coefficient in TFM can serve as a good example where correlations from seemingly uniform suspensions or fixed beds (Wen & Yu, 1966; Ergun, 1952) are routinely used. As previously estimated (Ge, 1998; Li, 2000; Yang et al., 2003b), these correlations may give predictions even with wrong order of magnitude if typical cluster-broth two-phase structures present under the grid scale. This effect can  be demonstrated more precisely by Fig. 3 for a suspension of mono-sized 2D particles under different configurations, where the slip velocity induced by a given pressure drop with constant solids concentration is obtained from DNS using macro-scale particle methods (Ma et al., 2006; 2007) with Lagrangian descriptions for both particles and fluid. The naturally developed heterogeneous suspension, though not as significant as in real gas-solid systems owing to the limitation of the number of particles, has quite different slip velocities from that for fixed hexagonal (most uniform) suspension and the ratio of the highest to the lowest drag coefficient is about 6. The simulation also suggests that the form of the heterogeneity, for example, the orientation of the voidage gradient relative to the fluid flow, have great influence on the resistance characteristics of the suspension. Therefore, mean voidage and slip velocity alone are insufficient to define

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