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# Absorption Design Calculation

BGHiggins/UCDavis/Feb2_ 08

Problem Statement
An air stream containing acetone is passed through a counter current absorption cascade shown in Figure 1. The acetone is to be
absorbed into a water stream. Each mixing unit in the cascade is assumed to be an equilibrium stage. The molar flow rate of the
gas mixture entering the cascade is V = 30 kgmol/hr. The molar flow rate of the water stream is L = 90 kgmol/hr . The mole
fraction of acetone in the entering gas stream is yN+1 = 0.01. We are required to determine the number of equilibrium stages
required so that 90% of the acetone is removed from the gas stream. For your calculation you may assume that the molar flow
rates of the liquid and gas streams are effectively constant across the cascade, and that only the acetone is miscible in the two
phases. The equilibrium relation for the acetone is
yi = K xi ,

K = 2.53

(1)

Sequential Analysis
We begin our analysis by selecting a control volume (CV1) that encompasses all N stages of the absorption cascade ( See Figure
2)

Figure 2 : Control Volume 1
At steady state the macroscopic species balance for CV1 is
‡ xA C v ÿ n „ A = 0
Ae

(2)

The acetone balance becomes
Acetone :

L x0 + V yN+1 = V y1 + L xN

We are told that 90% of the acetone that enters the cascade must be absorbed. Thus

(3)

1 yN+1 = H0.1 V yN+1 (4) Substituting this expression into the acetone species balance and solving for xN gives xN = x0 + V L H1 .53L 90 = 1.001 (7) Next we select a control volume that encompasses the first n stages out of a cascade of N stages (see Figure 3) Figure 3 : Control Volume 2 The acetone species balance for the first n stages is L x0 + V yn+1 = V y1 + L xn Acetone : (8) We solve for yn+1 to get the “operating line“ for the cascade L yn+1 = V L xn + y1 - x0 V (9) To determine the number of stages we need to meet the desired design specifications.00218577 (13) (14) For stage 3 we have (15) .1L yN+1 = x0 + V L 0.18577 y2 = H2.18577L H0. (4) we can determine y1 : y1 = 0.01L = 0.01L = 0. we get xN = 30 90 H0.01.9L H0.0.001L = 0.nb V y1 = 0.1L H0. then we have the relation y1 = K x1 Thus Eq.2 AdsorptionDesignCalc. (10) becomes y2 = HA + 1L y1 (11) (12) where A is the absorption factor given by A= Solving for y2 we get L VK = H30 L H2.9 yN+1 (5) Noting that x0 = 0. (9) to Stage 1 we get y2 = L V x1 + y1 - L V x0 (10) For our particular problem we are told that x0 = 0 and since each stage is an equilibrium stage.003 (6) And from Eq. we do a series of sequential calculations starting with Stage 1 in the cascade: Applying Eq. and yN+1 = 0.

Thus for this calculation we would need at least 6 equilibrium stages so that yN+1 º 0. The dashed steps represent the sequential calculations for each equilibrium stage. The red lines define the design specifications for the N th equilibrium stage.00207869 (17) = 0. yN+1 = 0.000863941 = 0.00286166 = 0.001L = 0.003.AdsorptionDesignCalc.00141969 = 0.03 The location for the 4th stage is indicated on the plot.53 = 0.00378656 = 0.001 2.000395257 = 0.00359182 Repeated calculations give y4 = IA3 + A2 + A + 1M y1 = 0.00488538 Our design objective is to have xN º 0.01 (18) From the above calculations it follows that we need more than 5 but less than 6 stages for the desired separation.nb 3 y3 = IA2 + A + 1M y1 = I1.00525908 y5 = IA4 + A3 + A2 + A + 1M y1 = 0.18577 + 1M H0. (15) .01and xN = 0.01236 And from the equilibrium relationship we have x1 = x2 = x3 = x4 = x5 = x6 = x7 = y1 K y2 K y3 K y4 K y5 K y6 K y7 K = 0.185772 + 1. Graphical Analysis The following plot shows the graphical analysis.00958 (16) y7 = IA6 + A5 + A4 + A3 + A2 + A + 1M y1 = 0.00724 y6 = IA5 + A4 + A3 + A2 + A + 1M y1 = 0.

0403 for the given flow rate.004 0. The following plot shows that the slope of the operating line decreases. The following plot illustrates this behavior graphically.000 0. xN = 0.010 L = 90 kgmolêhr Operating Line Ø à yN+1 y 0.002  Equilibrium Line 0. which results in an infinite number of equilibrium stages as the pinch point is approached. and the concentration of acetone in the exit liquid stream has increased to xN = 0.00385L = 0.006 y4 x4 0.0403 .006 0.008 Operating Line Ø y 0.003L = 0. In this case we need about 18 stages such that yN+1 º 0. Consequently.004  4th Stage 0.27 kgmol ê hr (19) 0. Note that the pinch point occurs at x p < xN = 0.002 x 0.004 Figure 5 : Graphical Analysis for L = 70 When we reduce the water flow rate further to L = 67 kgmol/hr. yN+1 = 0. This means we have a pinch point within the absorption cascade. i.000 0. it is impossible to reach the desired design specifications for the cascade.00385.000 á xN 0.27 kgmol ê hr L = 70 kgmol ê hr : L xN = H70L H0. For the given liquid flow rate the overall acetone balance gives an exit concentration of xN = 0.4 AdsorptionDesignCalc.010 L = 70 kgmolêhr 0. resulting in more equilibrium stages to achieve the desired design specifications for the absorber. the overall molar flow rate of acetone leaving in the liquid stream is the same: L = 90 kgmol ê hr : L xN = H90L H0.003 0. Of course.nb 0.001 0.002  Equilibrium Line 0.01.003 0.01.000 0.002 x 0.012 0.0036.e.001 0.008 0. the following plot shows that the equilibrium line and operating line intersect at a value of x º 0.0403.004 Figure 4 : Graphical Analysis for L = 90 Let us examine next what happens when we reduce the water flow rate from 90 to 70 kgmol/hr.

002  Equilibrium Line 0.004 0. the following plot shows that the equilibrium line and operating line intersect at a value of x º 0.0403 0.004  4th Stage 0.002 0.AdsorptionDesignCalc.012 L = 67 kgmolêhr 0.005 x Figure 5 : Graphical Analysis for L = 67 To determine the minimum liquid flow rate Lmin we need to find the coordinates where the operating line intersects the equilibrium line such that y = yN+1 = 0. For the given liquid flow rate the overall acetone balance gives an exit concentration of xN = 0.01. yN+1 = 0. This means we have a pinch point within the absorption cascade.31 kgmol ê hr (21) and the coordinates of the pinch point at the minimum liquid flow rate are yN+1 = 0. xN = 0. Consequently. That is we set up the system of equations and solve the system all at once.nb 5 When we reduce the water flow rate further to L = 67 kgmol/hr.003 0.0403.006 Operating Line Ø 0. i. A material balance over the solute about the nth stage gives . we determined the compositions of each equilibrium stage by performing a sequential calculation.001 0. The following plot illustrates this behavior graphically.01.010 à yN+1 Pinch Point xP Ø y 0. xN.min = 0. it is impossible to reach the desired design specifications for the cascade. Note that the pinch point occurs at x p < xN = 0.000 0. The calculations give LMin = 68. We start with Stage 1 and compute all its stream and then proceed to Stage 2 etc.003952 (22) Global Analysis In the previous calculations.e.000 á xN 0. Hence we need to solve the following set of equations: yN+1 = Lmin V x + y1 - Lmin V x0 (20) yN+1 = K x with yN+1 = 0.01.01.0036.008 0. which results in an infinite number of equilibrium stages as the pinch point is approached. An alternative approach is to perform a global analysis.0403 for the given flow rate.

y1 V (27) where x0 is the mole fraction of solute in the entering liquid stream. 5.53 x1 x2 x3 x4 x5 x6 = -0.LV 0 0 0 I LV + KM - 0 L V I LV x1 x2 x3 x4 x5 x6 -K L V = + KM x0 . yn+1 The result is L xn-1 + V K xn+1 = L xn + V K xn = HL + V KL xn (24) Dividing through by V.LV I LV + KM 0 0 0 .53 5. (25)-(26).001 0 0 0 0 0.y1 0 0 0 0 (28) yN+1 Note if we sum these equations we get the overall balance y1 + L V x6 = yN+1 + L v x0 ï V y1 + L x6 = V yN+1 + L x0 (29) Substituting in the values L = 90. we can force K x1 = y1 and thus write the first of Eq.6 AdsorptionDesignCalc. does not ensure that y1 is in equilibrium with x1 .01 We can solve this linear system of equations bu Gaussian elimination to obtain xi . x0 = 0.K x2 = L V x0 (26) L V + K x6 - L V x5 = yN+1 Note that solving the set of equations given by Eq.LV I LV + KM 0 0 . V = 30.53 5.53 -3 0 0 0 0 -2.53 5. Then we can use the equilibrium relation for the nth and nth + 1 stage to eliminate yn . …. yN+1 = 0. 3. In order to ensure that the exit vapor stream has a composition y1 .K x2 = x0 . The result is (30) . 26 as L V L x1 . For the first and last stage ( n=1 and n=6) the equations are L V + K x1 . this equation can be expressed as L -K xn+1 + V L + K xn - V xn-1 = 0 (25) This equation holds for n = 2.53 5.01. y1 = 0.53 -3 0 0 0 0 -2.nb L xn-1 + V yn+1 = L xn + V yn (23) We will assume that the equilibrium relation for the nth stage is given by yn = K xn and that K is a constant.53 -3 0 0 0 0 -2.001 we get 3 -3 0 0 0 0 -2. These equations can be put into matrix form by organizing the equations as follows: I LV M - L V I LV -K + KM 0 0 0 0 -K 0 0 0 -K 0 0 -K 0 0 .53 5. and yN+1 is the mole fraction of the solute in the entering gas stream.53 -3 0 0 0 0 -2.

x3 = 0.1 (38) and for the N=1 and N.nb x1 = 0. Thus for the nth stage we have the following set of equations L xn-1 + V yn+1 = L xn + V yn . x4 = 0.00286. However. x6 = 0.AdsorptionDesignCalc.001174. …. x2 = 0. yn = K xn .LV I LV + KM 0 0 0 0 .001702.0000597.3 (37) Finally let us set up the system of equations so that we do not implicitly assume we have an equilibrium stage.00379 (36) This solution does not satisfy the overall acetone balance as V K x1 + L x6 = 0.3711 ≠ 0. and the system of equations becomes yN = K xN .003 7 (31) Note that liquid stream leaving stage 1 is NOT in equilibrium with the gas stream. Suppose instead we did not require that y1 = 0.000864.001. x5 = 0.000466. Let us take N=6. x5 = 0.00142. y1 = K x1 (39) L xN-1 + V yN+1 = L xN + V yN . 3. we have L x0 + V y2 = L x1 + V y1 . x3 = 0.002329. x2 = 0. x5 = 0.001519. N .002197.LV I LV + KM 0 0 0 .000395. x6 = 0. Hence our algorithm computes weighted values xi such that the overall mass balance is satisfied.000352. namely V y1 + L x6 = V yN+1 + L x0 (32) using the calculated value for x6 . (32) with Eq.3 or V y1 + L x6 = 0. x6 = 0. n = 2.379 ≠ 0. x4 = 0. the overall mass balance is satisfied.003072 (34) If we sum the equations in (33) we get the overall balance in terms of xi ‘ s V K x1 + L x6 = V yN+1 + L x0 (35) A simple check shows that the above solution does satisfy the overall acetone balance In contrast our sequential calculation (see previous section) gave x1 = 0.000728.LV I LV + KM 0 . (28)) I LV + KM -K 0 0 0 0 -K 0 0 0 -K 0 0 -K 0 .0009478. x3 = 0.LV -K I LV + KM x1 x2 x3 x4 x5 x6 L V = x0 0 0 0 0 (33) yN+1 The solution for this system of equations is x1 = 0. that is y1 ≠ K x1 . x4 = 0. then the system of equations we would need to solve are (Compare Eq.00208.LV I LV + KM 0 0 . x2 = 0.

00306365 (41) y1 = 0.8 AdsorptionDesignCalc. These are the N acetone balance equations for the N stages and the N equilibrium relations.000809058.000864. y5 = 0. Final Comments The sequential balance does not require us to solve a system of algebraic equations and for this reason it is convenient method for getting an approximate solution.00585439. x3 = 0.00775103 In this case both forms of the overall balance are satisfied: V K x1 + L x6 = V yN+1 + L x0 and V y1 + L x6 = V yN+1 + L x0 (42) Finally we compare the above global solution to our sequential calculation (see previous section) gave x1 = 0.003 (44) which we found by doing an overall balance for an arbitrary number of stages. x4 = 0.00114861.00168178. . x3 = 0. y3 = 0. x5 = 0.000319786.00176842.0042549. MN+1 Thus we have 2N equations for the 2N unknown molar flow rates. that allows us to estimate the number of equilibrium stages. This would be determined from the calculation We can use Gaussian elimination to solve this system of equation to find x1 = 0.00379 (43) The reason the solutions are different is because in the global solution we do not force the end conditions to hold: y1 = 0. x6 = 0. and x6 = 0. y2 = 0. y4 = 0. The down side to this approach is that the approximate solution does not satisfy the overall balance. x5 = 0.000395.000698978.00142. x6 = 0. y6 = 0.nb L 0 0 0 0 0 V -V 0 0 0 0 -L L 0 0 0 0 0 V -V 0 0 0 0 -L L 0 0 0 0 0 V -V 0 0 0 0 -L L 0 0 0 0 0 V -V 0 0 0 0 -L L 0 0 0 0 0 V -V 0 0 0 0 -L L 0 0 0 0 0 V K 0 0 0 0 0 -1 0 0 0 0 0 0 K 0 0 0 0 0 -1 0 0 0 0 0 0 K 0 0 0 0 0 -1 0 0 0 0 0 0 K 0 0 0 0 0 -1 0 0 0 0 0 0 K 0 0 0 0 0 -1 0 0 0 0 0 0 K 0 0 0 0 0 -1 x1 x2 x3 x4 x5 x6 y1 y2 y3 y4 y5 y6 L x0 = 0 0 0 0 V yN+1 0 0 0 0 0 0 (40) Note we have not specified y1 or x6 . A degree of freedom analysis confirms we have a well posed problem. A more accurate method is to solve the complete system of equations. as illustrated below Number of variables for N equilbrium stages : 2 N + 2 acetone molar flow rates Number of independent eqns : N equilibrium relations Number of specifications : N acetone balances Hone per stageL.00286.00208.00290599. x4 = 0. x2 = 0. .00231399. x2 = 0. ° M0 .001.

AdsorptionDesignCalc. 9 .nb Thus we have 2N equations for the 2N unknown molar flow rates.