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International Science Congress Association 39

Numerical study of fluid flow and effect of inlet pipe angle In catalytic

converter using CFD

Thundil Karuppa Raj R. and Ramsai R.

School of Mechanical and Building Sciences, VIT University, Vellore 632 014, Tamil Nadu, INDIA

Available online at: www.isca.in

(Received 27

th

March 2012, revised 5

th

April 2012, accepted 9

th

April 2012)

Abstract

Catalytic converter has become a necessity to achieve low emissions in all the vehicles. The design of catalytic converter has

become critical which requires a thorough understanding of fluid flow inside the catalytic converter. In this paper, an attempt

has been made to study the effect of fluid flow due to geometry changes using commercial CFD tool. The study has been

conducted assuming the fluid to be air. A section of catalytic converter has been solved for analysis due do its rotational

symmetry. The substrate region is modeled as a porous medium. The governing equations namely conservation of mass,

momentum will be solved for analysis. The predicted numerical results are validated with those available in literature. The

analysis involved determining back pressure across the converter system for mass flow rates and inlet pipe angle. The

numerical results were used determine the optimum geometry required to have a uniform velocity profile at the inlet to the

substrate.

Keywords: Catalytic converter, rotational symmetry, CFD.

Introduction

As global automotive emission standards become more

stringent, several efforts have been taken to determine the

source of emissions and development of new technologies for

controlling regulated and non-regulated emissions. An

Automotive catalytic converter usually consists of a round, or

oval shaped, monolith reactor encased in a metallic shell, and

connected to the exhaust system through inlet and outlet cones.

Mainly, NOx,CO, and unburned hydrocarbons (HC). Significant

effort has been invested into the design of a converter that will

lead to maximum use of the catalyst volume. It is known that

this maximum utilization of the catalyst volume would be

achieved by having a uniform flow distribution through the

monolith substrate.

Therefore, most modern catalytic converters have long, tapered

inlet and outlet headers to smooth the flow between sections of

different cross-sectional areas. This tapered header provides a

uniform flow distribution across the monolith inlet face. A non-

uniform flow across the substrate leads to uneven residence time

distribution and non-uniform poison accumulation during the

catalyst aging.

In the past, some papers have studied the flow in round cross-

section monolith converters with conical inlet and outlet

headers. The study found that the monolith flow field to be

extremely maldistributed

1

. The effect of truncating the inlet and

outlet diffusers of a monolith catalytic converter was found in to

be insignificant

2

. Another study, confirmed these findings

through water-visualization tests on full-scale transparent model

of a double-brick converter with tapered inlet and outlet

headers

3

. An experimental work has shown that dynamic flow

characteristics were different from those under steady flow

conditions in the catalytic converter

4

. Other researchers have

looked at the effect of engine operating conditions on the

converter temperature

5,

. Several recent studies, have

investigated the effect of the flow on chemical reactions using

one-dimensional unsteady models three-dimensional transient

models

6,7

. Others have studied the effect of the substrate cell

size and shape

8,9

.

An experimental optimization of the design parameters of a

catalytic converter is extremely expensive and time consuming.

The design process involves building several prototypes with

different geometries for experimental testing

10,11

. These models

must be absolutely exact, since the flow inside a catalytic

converter is extremely sensitive to geometric deviations. Stereo-

lithographic manufacturing of plastic models from CAD data

has proved to be an exact method and a useful tool for

experimental investigation of internal flow devices. However, it

is also an expensive and time-consuming method. Hence, a

computational approach to the design optimization of catalytic

converters is more feasible

12,13

.

This paper involves numerical study to perform three-

dimensional calculations of turbulent flow in an inlet pipe, inlet

cone, catalyst substrate (porous medium), outlet cone, and outlet

pipe using computational fluid dynamics (CFD). Very often, the

designer may have to resort to offset inlet and outlet cones, or

angled inlet pipes due to space limitations. Hence, it is very

difficult to achieve a good flow distribution at the inlet cross

section of the catalyst substrate

14

. Therefore, it is important to

study the effect of the geometry of the catalytic converter on

flow uniformity in the substrate.

Research Journal of Recent Sciences ______________________________________________________________ ISSN 2277-2502

Vol. 1(7), 39-44, July (2012) Res. J. Recent Sci.

International Science Congress Association 40

Material and Methods

Experimental Work: The catalytic converter geometry

considered for study is shown in figure-1. The dimensions are

shown in table- 1.The straight section of the system contains the

monolith (catalyst) substrate. A typical catalytic converter

consists of a catalyst substrate, mat-insulation material, and an

outer metallic shell. The monolith substrate consists of a large

number of small channels with 350 cells per square inch or cpsi.

The cells are originally square ducts. However, after a washcoat

is applied, the cells cross section becomes more circular. The

experimental work includes using hotwire anemometry to

measure the velocity profile at the outlet of the catalyst

substrate, and pressure drop measurements across the system

using air as working fluid at 873K

10

. table-2 shows the plot of

superficial velocity and pressure drop for different mass flow

rates.

Figure-1

Catalytic converter

Table-1

Catalytic converter dimensions

Inlet pipe diameter 1.875 in.

Substrate diameter 3 in.

Substrate length 4.5 in.

Cone angle 45 degrees

Pipe length 1.24 in.

Table-2

Superficial velocity and pressure drop for different mass

flow rates

10

Flow rate(g/s)

Superficial

Velocity(m/s)

Pressure

drop(Pa)

10 5.4 690

20 10.77 1400

40 21.38 2900

80 42.1 6160

110 57.16 8800

150 76.59 12550

190 95.27 16500

220 108.8 19560

250 121.9 22700

Computational modeling and grid generation: The 3-D

model is modelled in ICEM CFD pre-processing tool. A 90

degree sector of catalytic converter is modelled for analysis

using ICEM CFD due to its rotational symmetry. In order to

capture both the thermal and velocity boundary layers the entire

model is discretized using hexahedral mesh elements which are

more accurate and involve less computation effort. Fine control

on the hexahedral mesh near the wall surface allows capturing

the boundary layer gradient accurately. The catalytic converter

is divided into four domains inletpipe, inlet cone, substrate and

outlet for the sake of parameters study. The discretized model is

checked to have a minimum angle of 22and min determinant

quality of 65 %. The fluid domains are shown in figure-2.

Governing equations and boundary conditions: The 3-

dimensional heat flow through the cylinder and fins are

simulated by solving the appropriate governing

equations viz.

conservation of mass, momentum using ANSYS CFX code. The

equations are shown in equations 1,2, 3 and 4 respectively. The

simulations are conducted in a three-dimensional geometry

under steady-state flow conditions. Convergence of the solution

is achieved when the normalized absolute residual sum drops

below a user-specified value, typically 10

-4

. Heat transfer from

the fluid is not considered and hence the fluid is considered to

be isothermal. Turbulent flow is assumed in the inlet and outlet

pipes and cones. The hydraulic diameter of a channel is of the

order of 1.167mm for 350 cpsi, respectively, the corresponding

Reynolds number results in a laminar flow in the channels. The

linear and quadratic resistances are found using the Darcys

relation from the experimental data shown in figure-3. p is the

pressure drop across the substrate. U is the superficial velocity.

L is the length of the substrate. It was used as input for porous

medium.

The standard k-epsilon turbulence model is selected to calculate

the turbulent flow. The monolith substrate, though it consists of

a large number of channels, is modeled as a porous medium to

simplify the geometric model and numerical calculations.

Conservation of mass: ( ) 0 V =

ur

(1)

Conservation of x-momentum:

( )

x y x x x z

u V g

x x y z

= + + + +

ur

(2)

Conservation of y-momentum:

( )

x y y y y z

u V g

y x y z

= + + + +

ur

(3)

Conservation of z-momentum:

( )

y z

x z zz

uV g

z x y z

= + + + +

ur

(4)

The walls are assumed to have smooth surface. For the analysis,

buoyancy and radiation effects are neglected. Grid

independence study started with a coarse mesh and gradually

refined to finer mesh. Number of nodes used is around

4,50,000. Figure-4 shows the catalytic converter created in

ANSYS CFX 12.1 pre processor tool after applying the

boundary conditions.

Research Journal of Recent Sciences ______________________________________________________________ ISSN 2277-2502

Vol. 1(7), 39-44, July (2012) Res. J. Recent Sci.

International Science Congress Association 41

Figure-2

90 deg sector after discretisation

Figure- 3

Plot of p/LU vs U

Research Journal of Recent Sciences ______________________________________________________________ ISSN 2277-2502

Vol. 1(7), 39-44, July (2012) Res. J. Recent Sci.

International Science Congress Association 42

Figure-4

Velocity distribution on the substrate inlet for 0 degree angle inlet pipe

Results and Discussion

For the validation, the pressure drop across the substrate is

measured for different mass flow rates. The model showed a

good conformance with the experimental results with the

maximum deviation around 7%.The numerical results are shown

in table-3. Thus numerical model is used for the study purpose.

Table-3

Numerical pressure drop for different mass flow rates

Flow rate(g/s) Pressure drop(Pa)

10 710

20 1508

80 6566

150 13370

The velocity distribution on the inlet of substrate is shown in

figure-5.The velocity is less near the walls. The velocity is

gradually increases and reaches maximum and again drops.

There is also a patch of low velocity section in between the

substrate layers. This is a indication of misdistribution. This

makes the flow in the substrate non-uniform. This can be

corrected by changing the cone angle, diameter of inlet pipe and

angle of inlet pipe. Since the designer has to confront space

constraints, the study is conducted for fixed inlet diameter and

cone angles. The velocity profile is studied for different inlet

pipe angles. The inlet pipe angles used are 30,45 and 60

degrees. The discretized model with 45 degree inlet pipe is

shown in figure-4.

The mass flow rate considered for study is 150 g/s. The velocity

distribution for 30degree inlet pipe is shown in figure-6.The

velocity is highly non uniform on the substrate inlet.

The velocity distribution for 45 degree inlet pipe is shown in

figure-6.The velocity distribution is uniform on the substrate

inlet. Since the cone angle is also 45 degrees, it guides the fluid

to the substrate. The peak velocity of air is moderate.

The velocity distribution for 60 degree inlet pipe is shown in

figure-7. The velocity distribution is uniform than 60 degree.

But the peak velocity is very high. This local peak velocity will

be detrimental for the substrate. Also, in this case an extra back

pressure is observed as the higher angle acts as a flow

restriction. The non-uniformity increases in the substrate with

the increase in mass flow.

Conclusion

The procedure of modeling the catalyst substrate as a porous

medium in ANSYS CFX was successful. The numerical

simulations performed on the catalytic converter internal flow

agree with the experimental values of pressure drop across the

substrate. The results show that the converter geometry has a

significant effect on flow distribution in the monolith substrate.

Moreover, the flow in the catalytic converter with appears to be

less uniform for lower angles. The flow tends to create some

additional backpressure for higher angles. The flow tends to be

Research Journal of Recent Sciences ______________________________________________________________ ISSN 2277-2502

Vol. 1(7), 39-44, July (2012) Res. J. Recent Sci.

International Science Congress Association 43

more uniform if the angles are closer to inlet cone angles. The

results show an increase in flow non-uniformity in the substrate

with an increase in mass flow rate. These results will aid the

designer when using truncated and angled inlet and outlet cones.

References

1. Howitt J.S. and Sekella T.C., Flow Effects in Monolithic

automotive Catalytic Converters, SAE paper 740244,

(1974)

2. Wendland D.W., and Matthes W.R., Effect of Head

Truncation on Monolith Converter Emission-Control

Performance, SAE paper 922340, (1992)

3. Hwang K., Lee K., Mueller J., Stuecken T., Schock H. and

Lee J.C., Dynamic Flow Study in a Catalytic Converter

Using LDV and High Speed Flow Visualization, SAE

paper 950786, (1995)

4. Lee S., Bae C., Lee Y. and Han T., Effects of Engine

Operating Conditions on Catalytic Converter Temperature

in an SI Engine, SAE paper 2002-10-1677, (2002)

5. Cho Y.S., Lee Y.S., Kim D.S., Jung S.Y. and Ohm I.Y.,

An Alternative Method for Fast Light-Off of Catalysts

Cranking Exhaust Gas Ignition, SAE paper 2002-01-1678,

(2002)

6. Gregory D., Read M., Campbell B., Inman G., Nice G.,

Hims R., Rabinowitz H., Tauster S., and Collin T.,

Emissions Implications of a Twin Close Coupled Catalyst

System Designed for Improved Engine Performance on an

In-line 4 Cylinder Engine, SAE paper 2001-01-1092,

(2002)

7. Onorati A., Ferrari G., and Derrico G., 1 D Unsteady

Flows with Chemical Reactions in the Exhaust Duct-

System of SI Engines: Predictions and Experiments, SAE

paper 2001-01-0939, (2001)

8. Jeong S.J., and Kim W.S., Three-Dimensional Numerical

Study on the Use of Warm-up Catalyst to Improve Light-

Off Performance, SAE paper 2000-01-0207, (2000)

9. Jinke Gong, Longyu Cai, Weiling Peng and Jingwu Liu,

Yunqing Liu, Hao Cai and Jiaqiang E, Analysis to the

Impact of Monolith Geometric Parameters on Emission

Conversion performance Based on an Improved Three-

way Catalytic Converter Simulation Model, SAE paper

2006-32-0089 (2006)

10. Bassem H. Ramadan and Philip C.

Lundberg,Characterization of a Catalytic Converter

Internal Flow, SAE paper, 2007-01-4024 (2007)

11. Karthikeyan S., Hariganesh R., Sathyanandan M.,

Krishnan S., Computational and Experimental

Investigation on After-Treament Systems to Meet Future

Emission Norms for Truck Applications, International

Journal of Engineering Science and Technology, 3(4),

3314-3326 (2011)

12. Kumar Krishan and Aggarwal M.L., A Finite Element

Approach for Analysis of a Multi Leaf Spring using CAE

Tools, Research Journal of Recent Sciences, 1(2), 92-96,

(2012)

13. Dev Nikhil, Attri Rajesh, Mittal Vijay, Kumar Sandeep,

Mohit, Satyapal and Kumar Pardeep, Thermodynamic

Analysis of a Combined Heat and Power System, Research

Journal of Recent Sciences, 1(3),76-79 (2012)

14. Wu Guojiang,Tan Song, CFD Simulation Of The Effect Of

Upstream Flow Distribution on the Light-Off Performance

of a Catalytic Converter, Elsevier, 46(13), (2005)

Figure-5

Catalytic converter with 45 degree inlet pipe

Research Journal of Recent Sciences ______________________________________________________________ ISSN 2277-2502

Vol. 1(7), 39-44, July (2012) Res. J. Recent Sci.

International Science Congress Association 44

Figure 6

Velocity distribution on the substrate inlet for 30 degree angle

inlet pipe

Figure -7

Velocity distribution on the substrate inlet for 45 degree

angle inlet pipe

Figure-8

Velocity distribution on the substrate inlet for 60 degree angle inlet pipe

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