Impinging Streams by Yuan Wu by Yuan Wu - Read Online

Book Preview

Impinging Streams - Yuan Wu

You've reached the end of this preview. Sign up to read more!
Page 1 of 1




Heat and mass transfer, especially mass transfer, in multiphase systems are problems commonly encountered in processing units in the chemical, petrochemical, and many other process industries. Because transfer rates significantly affect the efficiencies and technical-economic indexes of the processes, the enhancement of transfer has been a continuing topic of interest in chemical engineering since the late 1930s. A vast number of theoretical and experimental investigations have been carried out in the search for new methods of enhancing transfer between phases.

According to the theory of transfer rates, the amount of heat or mass transferred per unit time can be expressed by


Therefore one, or a combination, of the following measures can be used to increase the amount to be transferred per unit time: (1) Enhancing driving force; (2) Increasing interface area; and (3) Reducing specific resistance. All three measures are, of course, effective in principle. However, their potential to enhance transfer and the degree of difficulty in carrying them out are quite different in practice.

The driving forces of heat and mass transfer are temperature and concentration gradients, respectively. To a considerable extent, they are limited by the characteristics of the specific processes involved, such as stocks, heat sources, and equipment materials, etc. In most cases only a limited increasing magnitude is permitted.

Relatively, increasing the interface area, i.e., enhancing the dispersal of a liquid or a solid, is a measure that can be employed widely, and, in fact, has been applied successfully in a number processes, such as spray drying and cooling etc. However, it is also limited to an extent. For example, spray drying can only be applied in the production of powdery products, and excessive dispersion may give rise to difficulties in powder collection etc; while spray cooling is only applicable to the cases where moisture increase is permitted. On the other hand, in common equipment systems, the maximum relative velocity between phases is mostly just equal to the terminal velocity, ur which decreases sharply as the particle/droplet size reduces. This may partially offset the effect of the increase in interface area for enhancing overall transfer rate.

In comparison, the reduction of specific resistance is an effective way of enhancing transfer between phases and has great potential.

It is generally considered that there exist three resistances in series in transfer processes of gas–solid, gas–liquid, liquid–liquid, and liquid–solid systems: gas or liquid side resistance, the so-called external resistance, interface resistance, and internal resistance of particle/droplet. The interface resistance possibly results from the accumulation of impurities on the interface. Reduction of any one of these three types of resistance can enhance transfer processes.

The overall specific resistance for heat or mass transfer is the reciprocal of the heat or mass transfer coefficient, U or K, where U and K are the common parameters characterizing heat and mass transfer rates, respectively, defined as



They represent heat and mass fluxes with unit gradients of temperature and concentration, respectively, and so can be considered as specific heat and mass transfer rates.

In the last few decades, the results of a large number of investigations into drying, absorption, cooling, combustion etc, have shown that, apart from the natures of the systems involved, including dispersion degree, the major factor influencing heat and mass transfer coefficients is the relative velocity between phases, ur. An increase in the relative velocity results in enhanced turbulence and reduced thickness of the boundary layer, and also favors surface renewing of the liquid side. As a result, the transfer resistance of the gas or liquid side is reduced.

Synthesizing existing experimental results of various unit operations, it can be concluded that transfer coefficients are exponential functions of the relative velocity:

Depending on the substance systems involved, the types of equipment and the operating conditions, the exponent, n′ or n, varies approximately in the range from 1/3 to 4/5. For example, for particles of spherical form, Ranz-Marshall [1] obtained the following relationship for prediction of the film heat transfer coefficient:


For bubbles or suspended particles smaller than 2.5 mm in size, the Levich empirical equation below was recommended by Calderbank and Moo-Yong [2] for prediction of the heat transfer coefficient:


All the results mentioned above lead to a simple and clear conclusion: increasing the relative velocity between phases is one of the most effective approaches to enhance transfer processes.

In traditional processing devices, increase in relative velocity is limited by various factors. For example, in column equipment the operating velocity must be smaller than that of liquid-flooding; the limitation of relative velocity in common gas-solid or liquid-solid suspensions is the terminal velocity, etc. It seems that other approaches must be found in order to raise the relative velocity between phases to higher levels.

The efforts to search for approaches to raising relative velocity between phases has led to the development and/or application of impinging stream contactors, and also some other devices.

The original conception of impinging streams (IS) is to bring two solid-in-gas suspension streams to flow in opposite directions at a considerably high velocity and impinge against each other, yielding extremely high relative velocity at the instant of impingement, and thus greatly enhance transfer between phases. As a scientific concept, IS was first proposed by Elperin [3] in 1961; while its application can be traced back to the development and application of the Koppers–Totzek gasifier in the early 1950s [4], although the term impinging streams was not used at that time. In the period from the 1960s to the early 1970s, a large number of theoretical and experimental investigations on impinging streams were carried out, mainly by Elperin and his group. On the death of Elperin, the research core was moved to Israel. Tamir [5] carried on for over 20 years from 1974 until the 1990s, and his researches extended over almost all the unit operations in chemical engineering. All the results of investigations involving transfer processes show that impinging streams can increase transfer coefficients by large amplitudes. For instance, the heat transfer coefficient obtained by Elperin [6] from the experiments of wet particles drying is as high as 5800 W·m–2·K–1; while that calculated with the assumption of relative velocity being of the order of fluidizing velocity is only of the value of 470 W·m–2·K–1.

Another kind of device that efficiently enhances transfer processes in gas (vapor)– liquid systems is the rotating packed bed (RPB), also called HIGEE, presented in the 1960s [7, 8]. The basic idea for RPB design is that extremely high relative velocity can be employed with the action of centrifugal force produced by rotating the packed bed at high speed to enhance strongly the transfer between phases. In comparison, in traditional column equipments, such as packed tower and sieve plate column etc, the permitted operating relative velocities are bounded to low levels due to the limitation of liquid-flooding.

There is yet another method which also enhances transfer very efficiently, in which a stream is induced to impact a fixed wall surface, i.e., the impinging jet (IJ). Obviously, the flow configuration and the action of stream impingement of IJ are totally different from the impinging streams, although it uses also the term impinging [9]. The impinging jet has important applications in rapid heating and cooling, drying of coating layer, reaction, and surface cleaning etc, and investigations in that field are also very active; but it is beyond the scope of the present book.

All the researches, developments, and applications of IS, RPB, and IJ show the extreme importance of increasing relative velocity for enhancing transfer between phases.


As mentioned above, the original concept of impinging streams presented by Elperin [3] is to bring two equal solid-in-gas suspension streams formed after fully accelerating solid particles by gas to flow in opposite directions at a considerably high velocity and impinge against each other at the middle point between the two accelerating tubes, as shown in Fig. 1. The gas velocity at the outlet of the accelerating tubes can be as high as 20 m·s–1 or even higher, and the particles can theoretically be accelerated to a velocity near that of gas. The impingement between the two-phase streams causes an impingement zone of high turbulence with the highest concentration of particles [5], which provides excellent conditions for heat and mass transfer. In the case where the difference in densities of the two phases, e.g., in a solid-in-gas suspension, particles would penetrate from one stream into the opposing one, and, just at the instant of penetration into the opposite stream, the relative velocity between particles and gas flow achieves a maximum value. After that, particles are decelerated due to the friction force of the opposing gas flow until particles achieve zero velocity. Thereafter, particles are accelerated by that gas flow in the opposite direction towards the impinging plane, and then penetrate into the stream that the particles originally existed in. After several repetitions of penetration to and fro between the opposing streams, particles gradually lose their axial velocity due to dynamic energy consumption, and are finally carried by the radial gas flow to leave the impingement zone.

Figure 1 Basic configuration and principles of impinging streams.

The phenomena of penetration to and fro between the opposing streams can occur even in a homogeneous gas system. Bley et al [10] observed experimentally that, when a gaseous He stream impinges against another co-axial stream of a mixture of He and SF6, SF6, molecules penetrate deeply into the pure He stream. In the impinging streams of solid-in-liquid suspensions, penetration phenomena may occur theoretically. However, because of low operating impinging velocity and large friction resistance of the opposed stream, perceiving the penetration of particles is difficult.

Elperin and Tamir considered that, in impinging streams with gas as the continuous phase, transfer between phases is enhanced by the factors below:

(1) Relative velocity between particles and the opposite gas flow is greatly increased. The relative velocity round the impinging plane, ur, may be calculated roughly by


where the velocity of gas, ug, can be considered approximately as constant, while that of particles, up, varies from time to time during penetration. At the exact instant the particles penetrate the opposite stream, the relative velocity achieves a maximum value, and, in the idealized case of particles being accelerated up to a value equal to the velocity of gas flow, then the maximum relative velocity can be twice that of the gas velocity (see Fig. 1). At all other instants during penetration, the relative velocity between particles and the opposite gas flow are larger than the gas velocity. In impinging stream devices for gas-solid systems, the operating velocity of gas flow inside the accelerating tubes is usually higher than 10 m·s–l or, sometimes, even above 20 m·s–1. Obviously, the relative velocities in the traditional column devices can never be comparable with that in gas-solid impinging streams.

(2) The penetration of particles to and fro between the opposing streams lengthens their residence time in the region active for transfer, i.e. the impingement zone, so that, to an extent, the conditions for enhancing transfer can continue for longer. Elperin [6] observed 5 to 8 times of particle penetration to and fro between the opposing streams in his experiments. For instant processes, such as combustion of powdery coal or fine droplets of oil, such an amplitude of residence time increase is of very great significance. The resulting global behavior of the residence time increase of particles is that the concentration of particles (or droplets) within the impingement zone is much higher than in any other regions. This implies that the impingement zone has much a larger interface area per unit volume for heat and mass transfer.

(3) In the impinging streams of gas-liquid systems, high relative velocity between phases and collision between droplets favor surface renewing of droplets, resulting in reduced liquid film resistance and thus increased overall mass transfer coefficient.

(4) Impingement between the flows of continuous phase in the opposing streams, plus the oscillation movement of particle penetration, leads to strong mixing in the impingement zone, resulting in homogenization of temperature and composition. In some cases, this favors an increase in the average driving forces of heat and mass transfer and thus promotes the transfer processes. The problems related to mixing will be discussed further in later chapters of this book.

It can be seen that impingement between the streams shown in Fig. 1 is of a soft nature. As stated above, its flow configuration and impingement action are totally different from the impinging jet impacting on a fixed wall surface, which is a rigid impingement.


As mentioned before, in his early investigation on drying of wet particles, Elperin [6] obtained powerful evidence that impinging streams enhance heat transfer. He determined the heat transfer coefficient is as high as 5800 W·m–2·K–l, while, in comparison, that calculated by the general empirical relationship, assuming the relative velocity to be of the order of the fluidizing velocity, is only about 470 W·m–2 K–1. In addition, the relationships of heat transfer coefficient and pressure drop versus relative velocity obtained by interpretation of experimental data are h u¹.⁹ and Δp u², respectively; while, by other technical methods, usually h u⁰.⁸³. This suggests that the employment of impinging streams will yield much higher efficiency. Tamir [5] tested the effectiveness of impinging streams in enhancing heat transfer by introducing a partition between the two opposing streams, which separates the impinging stream dryer into two non-interacting components. The results showed that the partition causes a significant reduction in heat transfer coefficient, h. The values for h in the case without partition are larger than those with partition by 1 to 2 times where the other conditions are the same. In their investigation on circulative impinging stream drying of PVC, Huang et al. [11] measured experimentally the value for the specific volumetric evaporation coefficient to be 16×10–4 kg·s–1·m–3·K–1, which is about 10 times that in spray dryers, and a conclusion is also obtained similar to that by Elperin according to the heat transfer coefficient predicted from the evaporation coefficient just described above.

On the enhancement of mass transfer, Tamir [5] studied the absorption of acetone into water with a similar method, i.e. using a partition. The results they obtained were: under suitable operating conditions and with appropriate structural parameters, the runs without partition yield absorption rates higher than those with partition by over 4 times.

The experiments on combustion of powdery coal carried out by Ziv et al. [12] are another instance that shows impinging streams enhancing transfer. They measured the temperature profiles along the direction of flame length in the two cases with and without partition, and the results showed obviously higher temperature profiles in the case without partition than with partition, suggesting that impinging streams enhancing heat and mass transfer leads to stronger combustion.

It should be noted that, in all the comparative experiments made by Tamir and his group, the cases without impingement are imitated by using a partition between the two opposing streams. In those cases each stream impinges on one side of the partition, which actually plays the role of a fixed wall surface. Thus, each piece of experimental equipment used with partition is equivalent to two impinging jets. As mentioned in Section 1, impinging jets also enhance transfer between phases very efficiently. Therefore the results of their comparative experiments could not reflect fully the influence of impinging streams on heat and mass transfer. This may account for the fact that the degree of enhancing heat transfer by impinging streams Tamir obtained in the study on drying (1 to 2 times) is much lower than those by Elperin (more than 10 times).

There is still much more experimental evidence for impinging streams enhancing transfer. All the evidence, both that mentioned above and that not mentioned, supports the following conclusion: impinging streams are very efficient in enhancing transfer between phases, especially those controlled by diffusion through gas-film. Because transfer phenomena are widely encountered in various processing industries, the method of impinging streams undoubtedly has great potential application.


Impinging streams were first suggested for enhancing transfer between gas and solid phases; however, the results of a large number of investigations have shown that, as well as this effect, the method of impinging streams has many other functions valuable for application; of course, at the same time, it also has some disadvantages, unbeneficial to application [9].

For the processes occurring in liquid phase or multiphase systems with a liquid as the continuous phase, the mixing status has significant effects on the efficiencies. The results of investigations since the 1990s showed that impinging streams have excellent performance for mixing. The most remarkable is that, because of the special flow configuration of the two opposing streams impinging against each other, impinging streams promote micromixing very efficiently [13]. In addition, the results of investigations by the author of the present book show that in liquid-continuous impinging streams there exists a pressure fluctuation of multi frequency in the range of sub-sonic waves, and the maximum amplitude can be as large as over 1 kPa. The details will be discussed in Chapter 11 of this book. Most likely, such pressure fluctuation is one of major reasons for impinging streams promoting micromixing efficiently. Yet, the pressure fluctuation favors kinetic processes, and this has also been proved by experiments. The phenomena of impinging streams promoting micromixing and the existence of the pressure fluctuation in liquid-continuous impinging streams had not been fully considered, and had not even been discovered in the investigations on impinging streams before the early 1990s. Consequently, the application potential of impinging streams for the processes of reactions and precipitation etc. received little attention, although the stagnation jet mixer developed by Brauer [14] was mentioned in Ref. [5]. In practice, since many processes are carried out at the molecular scale, the features of impinging streams promoting micromixing and the existence of pressure fluctuation are of very great value for application. In a number of researches and developments carried out in recent years [15–19], various impinging stream reactors of different structures were used for liquid reactions, reaction-precipitation or reaction crystallization etc. of various systems, and have performed well. Among the applications mentioned, the preparation of nano or sub-micrometer materials by impinging stream reaction-precipitation is an area of great potential.

The milling effect resulting from strong collisions between particles in gas-solid impinging streams is another important feature of value for application. The most outstanding advantage of this technology of milling is that no milling material is needed, so that the substance being milled can be protected effectively from pollution. In addition, because milling proceeds in gas flows at high velocity, the phenomenon of overheating is also avoided so that the technology is applicable especially to substances of thermal sensitivity. Impinging stream milling technology was applied industrially as early as the 1970s. A typical example is the Trost Jet Mill [20]. The results of a large number of investigations and applications have shown that ultrafine products of the order of sub-micrometer can be produced by such a technology.

As stated by the author of this book in the section Translation Illustration of the Chinese translation of Ref. [5] (The Chemical Industry Press of China, Beijing, 1996), as a technical method impinging streams cannot be a universal tool. It also has some disadvantages which limit its application. The most obvious problem is the very short residence time of the material in the active region of the impinging stream device. As will be discussed later, in gas-solid impinging streams the average residence time of solid particles is only about 1 s. On the other hand, the flow configuration of an impinging stream device is relatively more complex so that it becomes difficult to arrange a multistage system, such as in column devices. Tamir proposed several structures of multistage impinging stream contactors (refer to Fig. 3.2 in Ref. [5]). However, from the point of view of industrial application, they are obviously impractical. Most processes of industrial interest, such as drying materials containing porous moisture and/or combined water etc., need considerably longer time, even if they are carried out under conditions of significantly enhanced heat and mass transfer. Very short residence time, plus the difficulty of arranging multistage systems, significantly limits the fields in which impinging streams alone can be applied. For the processes restricted by equilibrium, single stage impinging streams can enhance heat and mass transfer to yield higher rates although it is difficult to ensure that the requested processing degree can be achieved. For example, the final absorption fraction or reaction conversion etc. may not achieve the level expected.

Nevertheless, impinging streams, as a novel technical method, has a number of superior properties, among which the features of gas-continuous impinging streams enhancing transfer between phases and liquid-continuous impinging streams promoting micromixing have considerable value for application, and have found, and are finding, more and more applications.


Figure 1 represents the basic principles of gas-solid impinging streams, and also its essential structure as originally designed. On the basis of the essential structure, various devices can be constructed by extending the idea of impinging streams. Two extension schemes of IS have been proposed: extension of the flow configuration and extension of the phase conditions of the substance systems involved, as described below.

5.1 Extension in flow configuration

Starting with the elements necessarily included, the concept of impinging streams can be extended to include various flow configurations. Tamir et al. [5] investigated a number of impinging stream contactors with different flow configurations; and the structures of some of the contactors they studied are shown in Fig. 2.

Figure 2 Impinging stream contactors of various configurations [5]. (a) Coaxial horizontal two impinging streams; (b) Horizontal three impinging streams; (c) Coaxial-vertical two impinging streams; (d) Curvilinear two impinging streams; (e) Curvilinear four impinging streams; (f) Four impinging streams. A–air; P–particles; W–water.

In addition to those shown in Fig. 2, there are many other different structures. Different impinging stream devices may have different flow configurations, although all of them contain the same essential elements: (1) the streams flow in opposite directions and impinge against each other, and (2) each stream contains at least one continuous phase.

Impinging stream equipment contains two types of part: (1) Accelerating tubes, which are also the conduits for feeding fluid of continuous phase; and (2) Equipment body with separate outlet ports for continuous and dispersed phases, respectively. Referring to Tamir’s work, the following classification according to various features may be applicable for various impinging stream devices with different flow configurations:

Flow of the continuous phase

Parallel: the streamlines are parallel to the axis of flow, e.g. (a), (b) and (c) in Fig. 2.

Rotational: the streamlines are helicoids with respect to the axis of flow, e.g. (d), (e) and (f) in Fig.