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1

e-mail: mdeza@iastate.edu

Francine Battaglia

Department of Mechanical Engineering,

Virginia Tech,

Blacksburg, VA 24061

A CFD Study of Pressure

Fluctuations to Determine

Fluidization Regimes

in Gas–Solid Beds

Reliable computational methods can provide valuable insight into gas–solid ﬂow proc-

esses and can be used as a design tool. Of particular interest in this study is the hydrody-

namics of a binary mixture of sand–biomass in a ﬂuidized bed. Biomass particulates vary

in size, shape, and density, which inevitably alter how well the particles ﬂuidize. Our

study will use computational ﬂuid dynamics (CFD) to interpret the hydrodynamic states

of a ﬂuidized bed by analyzing the local pressure ﬂuctuations of beds of sand and a bi-

nary mixture of cotton stalks and sand over long time periods. Standard deviation of pres-

sure ﬂuctuations will be compared with experimental data to determine different

ﬂuidization regimes at inlet gas velocities ranging from two to nine times the minimum

ﬂuidization velocity. We will use Bode plots to present the pressure spectra and reveal

characteristic frequencies that describe the bed hydrodynamics for different ﬂuidization

regimes. This work will present CFD as a useful tool to perform that analysis. Other

important contributions include the study of pressure ﬂuctuations of a ﬂuidized bed in

bubbling, slugging, and turbulent regimes, and the analysis of a binary mixture using

CFD. [DOI: 10.1115/1.4024750]

1 Introduction

Gas–solid ﬂuidized beds are widely used in many industrial

applications, e.g., coal and/or biomass gasiﬁcation to produce pro-

cess heat because the gas–solid contact results in rapid heating

and mass transfer, and fast chemical reactions [1]. However, the

hydrodynamics of gas–solid ﬂuidized beds require further

research in order to improve existing processes and scale up new

processes. Reliable computational methods can provide valuable

insight into gas–solid ﬂow processes and can be used as a design

tool. Of particular interest in this study is the hydrodynamics of a

binary mixture of sand–biomass in a ﬂuidized bed. Biomass par-

ticulates vary in size, shape, and density, which inevitably alter

how well the particles ﬂuidize [2]. Deza and Battaglia previously

used a two-ﬂuid Eulerian–Eulerian model to simulate biomass ﬂu-

idization and validated the computational models using experi-

mental data [3,4]. A recent study by Pepiot and Desjardins [5]

used an Euler–Lagrange approach to demonstrate the viability of

representing the solids phase as discrete particles in large scale

simulations of a biomass ﬂuidized bed reactor. The current study

continues with interpreting the hydrodynamic states of a biomass

ﬂuidizing bed by analyzing the local pressure ﬂuctuations and

compare with that reported in the literature.

Pressure ﬂuctuation data obtained from ﬂuidized bed combus-

tors and gasiﬁers are a rich source of information on the hydrody-

namic states of these systems [6,7]. The resulting time series data

can be analyzed by a number of different methods, including

standard deviation, probability density functions, autocorrelation

analysis, and power spectral density (PSD) analysis [8–10]. One

of the most common pressure ﬂuctuation analyses is standard

deviation. It has often been used to identify different regimes in

ﬂuidized beds, where a maximum value with respect to inlet gas

velocity is associated with the transition from a bubbling to turbu-

lent ﬂuidization regime. Standard deviation has also been used to

determine minimum ﬂuidization velocity [11–14] and to detect

the onset of deﬂuidization in operating ﬂuidized beds [15]. Bi and

Grace [16] and Bi et al. [17–19] extensively studied the use of

standard deviation to determine the transition to a turbulent ﬂuid-

ization regime. Two velocities were identiﬁed as delimiters for re-

gime transition and will be discussed further in Sec. 2.3. Recently,

Zhang et al. [20,21] used standard deviation to study the transition

from a bubbling to a turbulent regime in cotton stalk–sand ﬂuid-

ized beds of different mass ratios and this work will be discussed

later.

Another tool for studying pressure data is frequency domain

analysis, which is performed using a Fourier transform. A method

for obtaining the frequencies associated with a system is a power

spectral density approach. The objective is to determine dominant

frequencies in the time-series and relate them to physical phenom-

ena [22]. Other authors, such as Brue and Brown [7] and Nicastro

and Glicksman [23] have used PSD to validate dynamic similitude

and scale-up by comparing spectra of models, prototypes, and

full-scale units. Using a Gaussian curve, Parise et al. [24] ﬁtted

power spectra to detect deﬂuidization of a bed using changes in

the average and the standard deviation. Brown and Brue [6] re-

vised the sampling techniques commonly used for scaling beds.

They determined that sampling of at least 20 min and as long as

60 min was necessary to capture important low-frequency dynam-

ical information. They also determined that at least 15 periodo-

grams had to be averaged for an accurate estimate of the PSD.

Another ﬁnding was that bubbling as well as circulating ﬂuidized

beds behaved as multiple second-order dynamical systems and

that unique peaks were identiﬁed by the PSD analysis caused by

different operation conditions.

Johnsson et al. [25] analyzed a circulating ﬂuidized bed (CFB)

at different ambient conditions and ﬂuidization regimes. Using

PSD, they identiﬁed three regions: one macrostructure due to bub-

ble ﬂow and two other regions at high frequency due to ﬁner

structures. Van der Schaaf et al. [26] determined bubble, gas slug,

and cluster length scales from pressure ﬂuctuation data measured

in the bed and the plenum. Gou et al. [27] compared the dynamic

behavior of a ﬂuidized bed at high temperatures (1000

C) for

three different size ash particles using PSD, wavelet, and chaos

1

Corresponding author.

Contributed by the Fluids Engineering Division of ASME for publication in the

JOURNAL OF FLUIDS ENGINEERING. Manuscript received August 27, 2012; ﬁnal

manuscript received May 20, 2013; published online August 6, 2013. Assoc. Editor:

Michael G. Olsen.

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2013 by ASME

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analysis. They found that PSD peaks coincided with the bubble

formation frequency based on the other two methods of analysis.

Shou and Leu [28] compared standard deviation with PSD and

wavelet analysis to ﬁnd the critical gas velocities for ﬂuidization

regime transition and found good agreement between the methods

used to analyze the dynamics of the bed.

The ﬁrst CFD studies to predict pressure ﬂuctuations were per-

formed by Wachem et al. [29] and Benyahia et al. [30]. They both

used a 2D Eulerian–Eulerian model and reported reasonable

agreement with experiments. PSD of pressure ﬂuctuations using

CFD predictions of slugging and turbulent regimes have only

been studied in spouted ﬂuidized beds by van Wachem et al. [29].

Van der Lee et al. [31] and Chandrasekaran et al. [32] used a 2D

Eulerian–Eulerian approach to investigate the behavior of linear

low density polyethylene (LLDP) particles in a ﬂuidized bed and

compared their results with experimental data obtained with X-

ray tomography. They studied the pressure ﬂuctuation and bubble

properties and the effects of bubble velocities, superﬁcial gas ve-

locity, and initial bed height on the hydrodynamics of the bed.

Polyethylene is a particle with nonideal characteristics of shape

and size distribution, and therefore, the numerical model was not

in good agreement with the experiments. It was suggested that the

coefﬁcient of restitution and angle of internal friction be deter-

mined experimentally and to properly develop a formulation for

modeling the solid-phase stress tensor.

Johansson et al. [33] tested different closure models, compressi-

bility, and inﬂow modes. They determined that modeling particle

behavior using kinetic theory of granular ﬂow compared well with

experimental data and compressibility did not have a signiﬁcant

effect on the results. On the contrary, the air feeding system was

crucial for predicting the overall dynamic behavior of the bed.

This conclusion was also reported by Sasic et al. [34] when they

found that under certain conditions, a strong interaction between

the inlet supply system and the gas–solid ﬂuidized bed in the form

of pressure waves was propagated.

A rectangular bed with a single jet operating in a bubbling ﬂu-

idization regime was studied by Utikar and Ranade [35] using

glass and polypropylene as bed material. The dominant PSD fre-

quency near the sparger was greater for the simulations than for

experiments but compared well at higher locations in the bed.

They suggested quantifying sensitivity of solids viscosity, coefﬁ-

cient of restitution, and frictional stresses to improve the model.

Most recently, Mansourpour et al. [36] used a Lagrangian–-

Eulerian method to model a bubbling ﬂuidized bed of polyethyl-

ene particles. They investigated the inﬂuence of pressure on

bubble characteristics (rise velocity, size, breakup rate) and found

that pressurizing the bed promoted more uniform bed expansion.

Wang et al. [37] concluded that pressure ﬂuctuations originated

above the distributor when a pulse of gas was injected in the bed.

They also found that the amplitude of pressure ﬂuctuation

increased with the inlet velocity for bubbling ﬂuidized beds,

where two peaks were identiﬁed in the spectrum. Acosta-Iborra

et al. [38] found that using a 3D domain was necessary to model a

bubbling ﬂuidized bed to obtain good predictions for power spec-

tra and bubble behavior compared to the experiments. Using a 2D

Eulerian–Eulerian model to compare simulations with experimen-

tal pressure ﬂuctuation and acoustic emission energy, Sun et al.

[39] studied a bubbling bed of LLPD particles. PSD for simula-

tions using the Syamlal–O’Brien drag model compared better

with results obtained from experimental pressure ﬂuctuations.

In this work, the hydrodynamics of a ﬂuidized bed will be stud-

ied by analyzing the local pressure ﬂuctuations above the inlet for

beds of sand and a binary mixture of cotton stalks and sand.

Standard deviation of pressure ﬂuctuations will be compared with

experimental data [20,21] to determine different ﬂuidization

regimes at inlet gas velocities ranging from two to nine times the

minimum ﬂuidization velocity. Pressure spectra using Bode plots

will also be used to identify ﬂuidized beds as second-order dy-

namical systems and to reveal characteristic frequencies that

describe the bed hydrodynamics for different ﬂuidization regimes.

The simulations will be performed using the software Multiphase

Flow with Interphase EXCHANGES (MFIX) [40] and will be quantita-

tively compared with published experiments for pressure drop and

standard deviation of pressure. In addition, established correla-

tions for the natural frequency for bubbling beds will be compared

to the simulations in this work.

2 Numerical Theory and Models

2.1 Governing Equations. A multiﬂuid Eulerian–Eulerian

model is employed in MFIX [40] and assumes that each phase

behaves as interpenetrating continua with its own physical proper-

ties. Volume fractions are introduced to track the fraction each

phase occupies. The solids phase is described with an effective

particle diameter d

p

and characteristic material properties. Conti-

nuity and momentum equations are solved for both the gas phase

and the solids phases and have been presented in [40]. The mo-

mentum equations include terms to describe the net rate of mo-

mentum increase and the net rate of momentum transfer by

convection. The interaction force in the momentum equations

accounts for the gas–solids momentum transfer, which is

expressed as the product of the coefﬁcient for the interphase drag

force between the gas and solids phases and the slip velocity

between the two phases. The work herein has employed the

Gidaspow model for the interphase drag force [41] and previous

studies by Xie et al. [42], Deza et al. [3], and Hosseini et al. [43]

have shown the validity of using the model. Further validation of

the Gidaspow drag model for polydispersed mixtures have been

performed by Gera et al. [44], England [45], and Kanholy et al.

[46]. An equation for the granular temperature of the solids phase

is employed to model the speciﬁc kinetic energy of the random

ﬂuctuating component of the particle velocity. Kinetic theory for

granular ﬂow is used to calculate the solids stress tensor and

solid–solids interaction force in the rapid granular ﬂow regime.

Further details related to the constitutive relations can be found in

Ref. [40] and have previously been presented in detail by the

authors in Ref. [4].

2.2 Numerical Methodology. To discretize the governing

equations in MFIX, a ﬁnite volume approach for a staggered grid is

used to reduce numerical instabilities and ensure global conserva-

tion of mass and momentum [47]. Discretization of time deriva-

tives are ﬁrst order, and a variable time-stepping scheme is used

to assist with convergence. Convection terms are discretized using

the second-order MUSCL scheme to prevent numerical diffusion

that typically occurs with ﬁrst-order schemes such as the upwind

method. If ﬁrst-order schemes are used to simulate a bubbling ﬂu-

idized bed, the predicted bubbles appear as a pointed shape

[48,49]. A modiﬁcation of the SIMPLE algorithm is used to solve

the governing equations that incorporate the solids volume frac-

tion and solids pressure [47]. Further details of the numerical

model can be found in Ref. [40].

2.3 Standard Deviation. As previously mentioned, standard

deviation has often been used to identify different ﬂuidization

regimes in ﬂuidized beds. The method of analysis has been widely

used by many researchers [16–19]. Two velocities, U

C

and U

K

,

are identiﬁed as delimiters for regime transition. U

C

marks the tran-

sition from a bubbling to turbulent ﬂuidization regime and occurs

when the standard deviation reaches its maximum. The transition is

also known as the slugging regime. U

K

marks the transition from a

turbulent to a fast ﬂuidization regime, where the standard deviation

remains approximately constant. The standard deviation (r) for a

time-series of pressure data, P

i

ði ¼ 1; 2; :::; NÞ, is:

r ¼

ﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ

1

N À1

X

N

i¼1

ðP

i

À

PÞ

2

v

u

u

t

(1)

where

P is the average pressure for N time realizations.

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2.4 Power Spectral Density. Power spectral density is

another method to analyze pressure data and the frequencies asso-

ciated with a system can be related to physical phenomena [22]. A

complete formulation of spectral analysis for random processes

can be found in Ref. [50] and a summary of the main equations is

shown in this work. The power spectral density function (S

yy

) can

be deﬁned as the Fourier transform of the autocorrelation function

(R

yy

) of a continuous time series (y(t)):

S

yy

ðixÞ ¼

ð

þ1

À1

R

yy

ðsÞ exp

ðÀixsÞ

ds (2)

R

yy

ðsÞ ¼ lim

T!1

1

T

ð

þT=2

ÀT=2

yðtÞyðt þsÞdt (3)

where x is the angular frequency, s is a time shift, and T is the

total length of the data set. However, time series are ﬁnite and an

estimate can be obtained using the Fourier transform (=ðixÞ) of

the continuous time series y(t):

S

yy

ðixÞ ¼ lim

T!1

E

1

2T

j=ðixÞj

2

(4)

=ðixÞ ¼

ð

þ1

À1

yðtÞ exp

ðixsÞ

dt (5)

where E is the expected operator and the quantity ð1=2TÞj=ðixÞj

2

is the periodogram of the time series y(t). To accuartely estimate a

PSD, several periodograms will be required for averaging.

A ﬂuidized bed can be described as a dynamical system, where

the response, y(t), can be studied with linear system identiﬁcation

techniques for small inputs, x(t) [51]. The dynamics of a system

can be represented by the linear relationship of the Laplace trans-

form of the input and output time series, X(s) and Y(s), respec-

tively, known as the transfer function (G(s)) that is related to the

PSD functions of the input and output

GðsÞ ¼

YðsÞ

XðsÞ

(6)

S

yy

ðixÞ ¼ jGðixÞj

2

S

xx

ðixÞ (7)

When the input is dominated by white noise, the PSD of the input

signal (S

xx

) can be found by calculating its statistical variance (r

2

)

and Eq. (7) can be rewritten using the variance

S

xx

ðixÞ ¼ r

2

(8)

10 log S

yy

ðixÞ ¼ 20 log jGðixÞj À20 log r (9)

The transfer function can be conveniently represented by plotting

10 log S

yy

ðixÞ versus log x and the representation is called the

Bode plot. For a second-order transfer function

GðixÞ ¼

1

ð1 Àx

2

=x

2

n

Þ þi2xðn=x

n

Þ

(10)

where x

n

is the characteristic frequency and n is the damping fac-

tor with a high-frequency roll-off of À40 dB/decade. The Bode

plot will help determine x at the intersection of low and high fre-

quency asymptotes and n will be noted in the trend of the plot

around x

n

. The value of n is greater than unity for overdamped

systems, which can be identiﬁed by a gradual decrease in the PSD

as the frequency increases and a noticeable resonance at x

n

. For

underdamped systems, n is less than unity and the PSD in the

Bode plot will show a sharp decrease as the frequency increases.

For a recorded data set, the PSD is calculated as the average

PSD of a series of overlapping segments. A way to compute the

discrete Fourier transform for a segment of N

s

data points is by

using the fast Fourier transform (FFT) algorithm

FFTðnÞ ¼

X

NsÀ1

k¼0

yðkÞe

Ài2pk

n

Ns

(11)

for n ¼ 0; 1; 2; :::; N

s

À1. FFT is applicable for N

s

¼ 2

m

, where m

is an integer greater than unity. A PSD periodogram can be calcu-

lated as follows:

PSDðnÞ ¼

1

2T

E jFTTðnÞj

2

h i

¼

1

2T

E FTTðnÞFTT

Ã

ðnÞ ½ (12)

where FTT*(n) is the complex conjugate of the FTT(n). The

resulting PSD constitutes the frequency spectrum from zero to

N

s

/2. FTT can be expressed in terms of frequency (f) by

f ¼

n

N

s

p (13)

where p is the sampling frequency. Notice that a conversion from

x to f can also be obtained by

f ¼

x

2p

(14)

Similar to Eq. (9), the magnitude (M(n)) of a Bode plot can be cal-

culated as follows:

MðnÞ ¼ 10 log PSDðnÞ (15)

where M(n) is expressed in decibels (dB).

3 Results and Discussion

3.1 Problem Description. The rectangular ﬂuidized bed ge-

ometry used in this study is based on the work of Zhang et al.

[20,21]. The lower section of the geometry is modeled in the nu-

merical simulations and pressure measurements at locations (1)

and (2), as denoted in Fig. 1, are taken to record the pressure drop

ﬂuctuations for all cases. Fluidizing air supplied through 48

equally spaced holes in a tuyere distributor plate is modeled as

uniform ﬂow at the inlet. A single bed of sand and a binary bed of

Fig. 1 Schematic of the 3D rectangular cylinder representing

the experiments by Zhang et al. [20,21]

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cotton stalks and sand are used in this study and their properties

are shown in Table 1. For the sand-only simulations, the initial

void fraction is 0.423. Simulations of the binary mixture consid-

ered sand and cotton stalks to be initially mixed with an initial

void fraction of 0.392. Initial void fractions are calculated using

the Ergun equation [52] with particle properties and minimum ﬂu-

idization velocity from the mentioned experiments. The cylindri-

cal cotton stalks are simulated as spheres using the Sauter mean

diameter d

p

[53], whose volume-to-surface area ratio is the same

as the nonspherical particle of interest

V

p

A

p

¼

4

3

pðd

p

=2Þ

3

4pðd

p

=2Þ

2

(16)

Therefore, the Sauter mean diameter is

d

p

¼ 6

V

p

A

p

(17)

Sphericity (w) is deﬁned as the ratio of the surface area of a sphere

with the same volume as the given particle to the surface area of

the particle [54]

w ¼

p

1

3

ð6V

p

Þ

2

3

A

p

(18)

For these simulations, a uniform inlet air velocity is speciﬁed at

the bottom of the domain equal to the superﬁcial gas velocity U

g

and atmospheric pressure is speciﬁed at the exit. The no-slip con-

dition is used to model the gas–wall interactions and a partial-slip

condition for the particle–wall interactions by Johnson and Jack-

son [55]. Inlet gas velocities range from U

g

¼0.4 to 1.8 m/s; the

lowest velocity corresponds to 2U

mf

and represents a mild bub-

bling bed and the highest velocity corresponds to 9U

mf

and repre-

sents a ﬂuidized bed in the turbulent regime. A grid resolution of

40 Â200 is used for the 2D domain and 40 Â200 Â40 for the 3D

domain corresponding to square and cubic cells of 1 cm per side,

respectively. The number of grid cells were found after being

compared with a coarser grid of 2 cm per cell side and ﬁner grid

of 0.5 cm per cell side. The grid resolution study was performed

for the pressure drop of sand ﬂuidized bed for inlet velocities

between 0.05 and 0.3 m/s. The pressure drop for the three grid res-

olutions is compared with experiments of Zhang et al. [20] and

shown in Fig. 2. The numerical uncertainty due to discretization is

estimated by analyzing the grid convergence index (GCI) as

reported by Celik et al. [56]. The GCI values for the predicted

pressure drop is presented in Table 2. The GCI at low ﬂow rates

for the unﬂuidized bed is the highest, with an uncertainty between

3 and 5%; for the other ﬂow rates, corresponding to the ﬂuidized

bed, the GCI is less than 2%. Moreover, the approximate relative

error (e

a

) is less than 3% for unﬂuidized beds and less than 2% for

ﬂuidized beds. We are conﬁdent that the use of the medium grid

(40 Â200 Â40) provides results that are not sensitive to the grid

resolution. Computational time was also taken into consideration,

especially for 3D simulations, which required approximately 100

days to simulate 200 s using 16 processors in an Apple G5 with

64 bit, 2.3 GHz IBM (PPC970) dual processors.

3.2 Pressure Drop Analysis. Initially, a bed of sand is used

to conﬁrm that the CFD modeling predicts the same pressure drop

through the bed using a two-dimensional domain. The pressure

drop across the sand ﬂuidized bed versus the inlet gas velocity is

shown in Fig. 3, comparing the experimental measurements [20]

to those predicted using MFIX. Once the bed is ﬂuidized around

U

mf

¼0.19 m/s, the measured pressure drop is approximately con-

stant at 4.5 kPa, which also corresponds to the theoretical pressure

drop. The predicted pressure drop is approximately 4.5 kPa and is

in very close agreement with the experimental and theoretical

values.

A bed of cotton stalks–sand

2

mixture is also simulated using a

two-dimensional domain and compared with experiments [21].

Given the low mass ratio of cotton to sand (1%), it was of interest

to compare simulations of the pressure drop for the binary mixture

with the sand-only data. The motivation is to continue with the

study of pressure ﬂuctuations with sand-only simulations to

decrease the amount of time needed when 3D simulations are nec-

essary. Figure 4 shows pressure drop for a bed of sand and

cotton–sand for both 2D and 3D simulations. For inlet gas veloc-

ities higher than 0.8 m/s, the pressure drop predicted with 2D

slightly decreases to approximately 4.3 kPa, while predictions

using 3D are approximately 4.5 kPa.

Table 1 Sand (S) and cotton stalks (CS) particle properties

S CS

d

p

(cm) 0.045 0.655

q

p

(g/cm

3

) 2.650 0.385

q

b,M

(g/cm

3

) 1.508 0.015

W (–) 0.9 0.5

m (g) 73,500 735

e (–) 0.9 0.9

Fig. 2 Pressure drop versus inlet gas velocity comparing

experiments [20] and simulations of a sand ﬂuidized bed for

three different grid sizes

Table 2 Grid convergence index (GCI) and approximate rela-

tive error (e

a

) for pressure drop

U

g

(m/s) GCI (%) e

a

(%)

0.05 4.81 2.56

0.10 3.97 2.91

0.15 1.63 2.35

0.20 1.85 2.11

0.25 0.14 2.07

0.30 1.25 1.20

2

For the remainder of the discussion, the word “cotton” will refer to “cotton

stalks.”

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3.3 Standard Deviation Analysis. The next step is to com-

pare standard deviation of pressure drop for inlet gas velocities

ranging from 1 – 9U

mf

. Standard deviation for sand and cotton–

sand ﬂuidized beds are similar and follow the same trend, as

shown in Fig. 5. A steadily increasing trend in standard deviation

shows that for velocities greater than 0.8 m/s (4U

mf

), using a 2D

domain is no longer appropriate. Taking into consideration that

inlet velocities are high (up to 9U

mf

), the use a of turbulence

model and a 3D domain is considered next for the ﬂuidized bed

simulations.

The sand and cotton–sand ﬂuidized beds are shown in Fig. 6

with a best curve ﬁt as a second-order polynomial for both 2D and

3D simulations. Simulations using the Ahmadi turbulence model

[57] are able to capture the trends reported in the experiments, as

seen in Fig. 6. Standard deviation shows a peak at 1.2 m/s

(6U

mf

), which according to numerous studies by Bi et al.

[16–19], correlates to the transition from a bubbling to slugging

ﬂuidization regime. The peak is captured with the CFD simula-

tions for the sand-only ﬂuidized bed. Standard deviation of the

cotton–sand bed, however, shows a lower value and is most

likely due to difﬁculty in predicting the complex binary mixture

transitioning ﬂow. However, an important conclusion is that the

turbulence model is only necessary for velocities greater than

6U

mf

, when the regime transitions to turbulent ﬂow and the

standard deviation starts decreasing. Furthermore, it has been

Fig. 3 Pressure drop versus inlet gas velocity comparing

experiments [20] and 2D simulations of a sand ﬂuidized bed

Fig. 4 Pressure drop versus inlet gas velocity comparing

experiments [20] and 2D and 3D simulations of sand and

cotton–sand ﬂuidized beds

Fig. 5 Standard deviation of pressure drop comparing experi-

ments [21] and 2D simulations of sand and cotton–sand ﬂuid-

ized bed versus inlet gas velocity

Fig. 6 Best ﬁt of standard deviation of pressure drop for sand

and cotton–sand ﬂuidized beds compared with experiments

[21]

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shown that 2D simulations are valid for U

g

4U

mf

, which is the

bubbling ﬂuidization regime.

Some additional cases were considered between 9 and 10U

mf

to

test the model capability to identify the transition to a fast ﬂuid-

ization regime as explained in Sec. 2.3. Both cotton–sand and

sand-only ﬂuidized beds were simulated in three dimensions and

the values for r

DP

are shown in Fig. 6. Standard deviation of pres-

sure ﬂuctuation beyond 1.8 m/s slightly increases and remains rel-

atively constant, showing agreement with the reported general

trend [58]. The fast ﬂuidization regime is out of the scope of this

study; however, it is encouraging that the numerical model can

predict a fast ﬂuidization regime.

It is clear from the comparison shown in Fig. 6 that the sand-

only ﬂuidized bed can predict standard deviations of the cotton–-

sand bed for a mass ratio of 1%. The 3D simulations using a sand

bed closely resemble predictions of the hydrodynamic behavior of

cotton–sand beds, as shown in the time-averaged contour plots of

void fractions of Fig. 7. The slices correspond to a central vertical

plane and only Z ¼0 À80 cm is shown because no ﬂuidization

occurs beyond that height in the freeboard. Each set of subﬁgures

7(a), 7(b), and 7(c) corresponds to the bubbling, slugging, and tur-

bulent ﬂuidization regimes represented by U

g

¼0.8, 1.2, and

1.6 m/s, respectively. Gas–solids distributions and bed heights for

sand (top row) and cotton–sand (bottom row) are in very close

agreement. Figure 7(d) represents the time-averaged void fraction

horizontally-averaged across the rectangular cross section of the

domain (x–y plane), and is useful for identifying bed expansion. It

can be seen that for both sand and cotton–sand, the bed expansion

for the bubbling ﬂuidization regime is around 40 cm. However,

the bed surface is not well deﬁned for the slugging and turbulent

ﬂuidization regimes.

In order to further identify salient features of each of the ﬂuid-

ization regimes, instantaneous void fraction contours at three time

intervals with Dt ¼0.1 s are shown in Fig. 8. The slices correspond

to a central vertical plane and only 80 cm. The bubbling ﬂuidized

bed (top row) shows small bubbles coalescing as they rise. A

well-deﬁned bed surface can also be visualized, consistent with

the time-averaged void fraction horizontally-averaged in Fig.

7(d). Void fractions for a slugging regime (middle row) show a

coalesced large bubble rising to the bed surface. The bed surface

is not well deﬁned due to the slugging bubble rising periodically

and exploding at the surface. The turbulent ﬂuidization regime

(bottom row) shows irregular voids and changing bed surface as

gas is released and this fact is also evident in Fig. 7(d).

3.4 Power Spectral Density Analysis. PSD analysis has

been performed in sand and cotton–sand ﬂuidized beds for pres-

sure drop ﬂuctuations. Before analyzing results using PSD, some

parameters such as data sampling frequency, number of overlap-

ping segments for signal averaging, and time range were deter-

mined for the available data sets. These parameters were tested

Fig. 7 Time-averaged void fraction of sand (top row) and cotton–sand (bottom row) ﬂuidized beds using a 3D domain with inlet

velocities of (a) U

g

50.8m/s, (b) U

g

51.2m/s, (c) U

g

51.6m/s, and (d) x–y average void fraction for the three cases

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according to recommended values by Brue and Brown [6] for low

frequency sampling rates with long sampling intervals. They

noted that a sampling frequency of 20–100 Hz did not show any

difference in the high frequency of the PSD. To ﬁnd an accurate

approximation of the PSD, data should be partitioned into a num-

ber of overlapping segments that will be transformed into periodo-

grams. The number of segments will depend on the amount of

data collected. Brue and Brown [6] recommended collecting at

least 1200 s of data to capture phenomena occurring at low fre-

quencies. A parametric study on a 2D case of the sand ﬂuidized

bed at 2U

mf

(0.4 m/s) was simulated for 1205 s and the ﬁrst 5 s

were not considered in the analysis to remove initial transients.

Data was recorded at 25, 50, and 100 Hz frequencies. As a result,

it was found that 200 s with a sampling frequency of 50 Hz and 10

overlapping segments was sufﬁcient. Further details can be found

in Deza [59].

Fig. 8 Instantaneous void fraction of a sand ﬂuidized bed at an inlet velocity U

g

50.8 m/s (top

row), U

g

51.2 m/s (middle row), and U

g

51.6 m/s (bottom row) at three different times

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Continuing with the analysis performed for standard deviation,

the same three cases are used to study PSD. The cases represent

bubbling, slugging, and turbulent ﬂuidization regimes at inlet

velocities U

g

¼0.8, 1.2, and 1.6 m/s, and correspond to 4, 6, and

8U

mf

, respectively. Simulations using the 3D domain and sand

as the bed material are analyzed with data collected for 195 s.

Table 3 shows the number of processors and the CPU time in days

to simulate 200 s of the cases analyzed. CPU time for 20 s of

cotton–sand bed simulations have been included in the table to

show how computationally expensive these simulations can be.

Having conﬁdence in the similarity of results between a ﬂuidized

bed of cotton–sand and sand, the following study will be per-

formed using sand only.

Pressure data is presented in Figs. 9–11 using standard devia-

tions of pressure ﬂuctuations, PSD, and Bode plots to identify dis-

tinct features for each ﬂuidization regime. In Figs. 9(a), 10(a), and

11(a), pressure drop for a 25 s time period is shown to demon-

strate how the pressure drop ﬂuctuates with time. Pressure drop

for all the cases have been shifted to zero to help quantify the ﬂuc-

tuation around the mean value by

DP

Ã

¼ DP À

P

For Figs. 9(b), 10(b), and 11(b), the PSD is shown for data col-

lected over 195 s and the corresponding Bode plots are shown in

Figs. 9(c), 10(c), and 11(c). The pressure drop has a minimum and

maximum of approximately 61 kPa for the bubbling ﬂuidization

regime (Fig. 9(a)), but for other ﬂuidization regimes (Figs. 10(a),

11(a)) the pressure drop ﬂuctuations are more pronounced.

PSD has commonly been used to ﬁnd the dominant frequency

in the dynamic system; however, their Bode plot representation

offers an advantage in the identiﬁcation of additional frequencies

and in determining the order of the dynamic system. As we com-

pare Bode plots for each regime, it is evident that the dynamic

system for all three cases is of the second order with a roll-off of

À40 dB/decade for high frequencies. On the other hand, there are

noticeable differences in the peak intensity and distribution among

all regimes, which is also evident in the PSD.

PSD and Bode plots for the bubbling regime (Figs. 9(b) and

9(c)) show a series of peaks, which can be described as a broad

peak between 2 and 4 Hz, with a maximum at f

B

¼2.6 Hz, where

the subscript B denotes the bubbling ﬂuidization regime. A similar

trend for the PSD was obtained from the experiments of Johnson

et al. [25] for a ﬂuidized bed in the bubbling regime. Brue [60]

showed the same trend for PSD as well as Bode plots in many of

his bubbling ﬂuidized bed cases.

The slugging ﬂuidization regime PSD and Bode plots

(Figs. 10(b) and 10(c)) show two broad peaks at lower frequencies

over a range of 1.5 to 5 Hz, with a peak f

S,1

¼2 Hz and another

peak at f

S,2

¼3.5 Hz, where the subscript S denotes the slugging

ﬂuidization regime. However, the magnitudes of these peaks are

lower than the peak in the bubbling regime (Fig. 9). These distinc-

tive broad peaks correspond to previous observations of two peaks

at low frequencies, which were identiﬁed as characteristics of the

slugging regime spectrum by van der Schaaf et al. [61].

For beds in the turbulent ﬂuidization regime, one peak at

approximately f

T,1

¼2 Hz and a broader peak at f

T,2

¼4.5 Hz are

identiﬁed in the PSD and Bode plots (Figs. 11(b) and 11(c)). Brue

[60] found that with increasing inlet velocity, the frequencies cor-

responding to the higher peaks will decrease. For these cases, the

Table 3 Computational time for simulations using sand (S)

and cotton–sand (CS) beds in CPU (days) (Note: 2 processors

for 2D and 16 processors for 3D simulations)

2D 3D

U

g

(m/s) S CS S CS

0.8 4 22 102 45

a

1.2 — — 92 49

a

1.6 — — 101 45

a

a

For 20 s of simulation.

Fig. 9 Pressure drop ﬂuctuation (a) with time, (b) as a PSD

analysis, and (c) as a Bode plot for a sand ﬂuidized bed with

inlet velocity of 0.8m/s using a 3D domain

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lower frequency peak has a greater magnitude. The existence of

two peaks in the spectrum of a turbulent ﬂuidized bed have also

been reported by Brue and Brown [6].

It is interesting to compare the frequency predictions (both 2D

and 3D) with correlations found in the literature for the bubbling

ﬂuidization regime (U

g

4U

mf

). Correlations were developed to

predict natural frequency of a second-order system in bubbling

ﬂuidized beds by Hiby [62], Verloop and Heertjes [63], Baskakov

et al. [64], and Brue [60]. They found that natural frequencies will

coincide with the frequency at which the spectra shows a peak.

Fig. 10 Pressure drop ﬂuctuation (a) with time, (b) as a PSD

analysis, and (c) as a Bode plot for a sand ﬂuidized bed with

inlet velocity of 1.2m/s using a 3D domain

Fig. 11 Pressure drop ﬂuctuation (a) with time, (b) as a PSD

analysis, and (c) as a Bode plot for a sand ﬂuidized bed with

inlet velocity of 1.6m/s using a 3D domain

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Table 4 presents the natural frequency calculated using correla-

tions with the 2D and 3D simulations. When comparing 2D versus

3D domains for sand-only ﬂuidized beds, it can be seen that the

PSD for the 2D case has a peak at f

B

¼1.4 Hz and is low com-

pared with the 3D case (f

B

¼2.6 Hz) and the correlations. It is

encouraging that the 3D case predicts a natural frequency that is

in good agreement with the correlations by Hiby [62] and Brue

[60]. The comparison suggests that using a 2D domain may under-

predict the characteristic peak for a bubbling ﬂuidization regime,

which was also suggested by Acosta-Iborra et al. [38].

The corresponding frequency of the peak for a bed of cotton–-

sand using a 3D domain is determined based on a 20 s time range

since the use of a 3D domain will take too long to simulate (see

Table 3). To determine if these simpliﬁcations are appropriate,

dominant frequencies using 20 and 200 s for the 2D simulation

were compared, resulting in similar frequencies of 2.7 Hz for 20 s

of simulation and 2.6 Hz for 200 s of simulation. Both results

show the same power spectra features. Therefore, the predicted

dominant frequency for a bubbling bed of cotton–sand using a 3D

domain is approximately 2.8 Hz, which is in close agreement with

the correlations by Hiby [62] and Brue [60].

The peak for a cotton–sand ﬂuidized bed at 4U

mf

using a 2D do-

main also shows a low frequency value of f

B

¼1.5 Hz. The results

of this comparison corroborate that using a 3D domain will appro-

priately predict the hydrodynamic behavior of both sand-only

and cotton–sand ﬂuidized beds, while using a 2D domain will

underpredict the dominant frequencies. They also conﬁrm that a

sand-only ﬂuidized beds can predict the behavior of cotton–sand

ﬂuidized beds with a low cotton-to-sand mass ratio (1%).

4 Conclusions

Simulations have been validated for a cotton–sand ﬂuidized bed

operating at inlet velocities ranging from 1– 9U

mf

with experimen-

tal results of Zhang et al. [20,21]. Fluidization regimes for these

cases fall in the bubbling, slugging, and turbulent regimes. The

hydrodynamic features of ﬂuidized beds in this study have been

mainly analyzed by means of pressure ﬂuctuation analysis. Plots

of variations of pressure with time, standard deviation of pressure

drop, and power spectrum with frequency have been used to char-

acterize ﬂuidized beds at different inlet velocities for a single bed

material and a binary mixture.

Initially pressure drop for sand and cotton–sand beds were

tested using a 2D domain model, and were in very close agree-

ment with those reported in the experiments of Zhang et al.

[20,21]. Standard deviation of pressure drop was overpredicted

for inlet velocities greater than 4U

mf

when using a 2D domain;

therefore, modeling with a 3D domain as well as the use of a tur-

bulence model for higher velocities was studied. It was deter-

mined that the ﬂuidized bed can be appropriately modeled by

using MUSCL discretization and the Ahmadi turbulence model

for velocities equal to and greater than 6U

mf

, which corresponded

to the peak of standard deviation of pressure drop.

Three cases at 4, 6, and 8U

mf

were chosen to represent bub-

bling, slugging, and turbulent regimes. Both PSD and Bode plots

were compared for all the cases studied. Fluidized beds for all the

regimes behaved as second-order dynamic systems. Bubbling ﬂu-

idized beds showed one peak while slugging and turbulent beds

showed two distinct peaks. It was observed that the peak at low

frequency increased in magnitude as the ﬂow transitioned from

slugging to turbulent ﬂuidization regimes. Comparisons of the

predicted frequency for a bubbling bed with correlations by Hiby

[62] and Brue [60] were in very good agreement. CFD simulations

of ﬂuidized beds with the purpose of studying pressure ﬂuctua-

tions have demonstrated to be a useful tool to obtain hydrody-

namic information that will help determine the ﬂuidization

regime. Furthermore, this was the ﬁrst CFD study to predict slug-

ging and turbulent regimes in a constant diameter (rectangular)

ﬂuidized bed. Therefore, the predictions reported in this study rep-

resent an important advantage when designing a reactor and eval-

uating different operation conditions without the need to test them

in a pilot plant or prototype.

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