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Separation and Purication Technology 73 (2010) 302309

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Modeling of a two-phase countercurrent pulsed sieve plate extraction

columnA hybrid CFD and radiotracer RTD analysis approach
Ghiyas Ud Din a,c, , Imran Raq Chughtai b , Mansoor Hameed Inayat b ,
Iqbal Hussain Khan c , Nasrullah Khan Qazi d
Department of Nuclear Engineering, Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences [PIEAS], P.O. Nilore, Islamabad, Pakistan
Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences [PIEAS], P.O. Nilore, Islamabad, Pakistan
Isotope Application Division, Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology [PINSTECH], P.O. Nilore, Islamabad, Pakistan
Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology [PINSTECH], P.O. Nilore, Islamabad, Pakistan

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: A Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) based model of a two-phase countercurrent pulsed sieve plate
Received 19 February 2010 extraction column has been developed. EulerEuler multiphase ow model and standard k turbulence
Received in revised form 14 April 2010 model for multiphase ow were used. Sieve plates in the column were modeled using the porous media
Accepted 15 April 2010
formulation. The coefcients of porous media were evaluated using radiotracer RTD analysis data. A pulse
generation model was developed and incorporated to simulate the effect of pulses in the system. The
developed simulation approach has been proved successful and it provided the possibility of modeling
Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD)
the subject system with lesser computational resources. The models used for CFD simulation of the system
Residence Time Distribution (RTD)
were suitable and simulation results were found 72.17% of the radiotracer experiment.
Liquidliquid extraction 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction involved. Pulsed sieve plate extraction column, which is the subject
of this paper, nds a great deal of applications in the eld of haz-
Liquidliquid extraction is a process of separation of con- ardous materials due to the absence of mechanical moving parts
stituents of a liquid phase by contacting it with another immiscible inside the column and facility of having the pulsing mechanism
liquid phase. Petroleum, nuclear, chemical, metallurgical, phar- away from the column. The pulsation of uids inside the sieve tray
maceutical, food processing and bio-processing industries are the column produces shearing and turbulence causing the breakage
major beneciaries of this technology. Two major categories of of droplets and as a consequence, the interfacial area required for
liquidliquid extraction equipments are single-stage and multi- mass transfer operation is increased. Also, phases in such columns
stage extractors [1]. Single-stage equipments provide one stage are subject to ow counter currently to achieve high concentration
contact in a single or a combination of devices. A mixer-settler is a gradients for efcient mass transfer.
typical example of these kinds of equipments. In multi-stage equip- The design of a pulsed sieve plate extraction column is generally
ments, many stages or their equivalents may be incorporated into based on HTUNTU concept in which ow models such as mixers in
a single device. Centrifugal extractors and column type contactors series with back mixing and axial dispersion model are employed.
are typical examples of multi-stage equipments. The column type But these models are too simple to describe the real hydrodynamics
contactors are commonly used in chemical industries. These can be of such systems, as they are not capable of visualizing the ow pat-
classied as static columns (e.g. sieve tray, randomly packed and tern inside the system. Detailed experimental investigations have
structure packed columns) and agitated columns (e.g. rotating disk been reported with reference to the hydrodynamic characteristics
contactor, Scheibel column, Kuhni column, Karr column and pulsed of a pulsed sieve plate extraction column as a function of operating
column). Van Dijck [2] introduced the concept of pulsed columns. parameters using radiotracer technology [35].
He classied them as reciprocating perforated plate column and In this modern era, industry is looking for more predictive tech-
liquid pulsed column depending upon the mechanism of pulsing niques and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) is a relatively new
but more powerful approach that provides detailed spatial distri-
bution of ow elds. It can provide three-dimensional visualization
of a system by creating maps of velocity vectors, streamlines or iso-
Corresponding author at: Department of Nuclear Engineering, Pakistan Institute
value contours, etc. The exciting CFD results are being questioned
of Engineering and Applied Sciences [PIEAS], P.O. Nilore, Islamabad 45650, Pakistan.
Tel.: +92 51 2207381; fax: +92 51 2208070. by industries about reliability due to the lack of experimental data
E-mail addresses:, (G.U. Din). for model verication and validation. This is the reason why CFD

1383-5866/$ see front matter 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
G.U. Din et al. / Separation and Purication Technology 73 (2010) 302309 303

models have to be veried and validated by experimental tech- Table 1

Specication of the pulsed sieve plate extraction column and geometric parameters
niques and the trend is to combine experimental techniques and
of the simplied model for CFD simulation.
CFD in order to obtain reliable quantitative results for complex
industrial processes. Internal diameter of the column (m) 5 102
Height of the column (m) 2
The history of interest in the CFD simulation of pulsed columns
Number of sieve plates 38
started somewhere in early 1990s. Hydrodynamic parameters of Plate spacing (m) 5 102
such columns have been investigated using the numerical approach Diameter of hole in sieve plate (m) 2 103
by various researchers. The ow patterns generated in a disc and Average number of holes in sieve plate 140
doughnut pulsed column for the steady and turbulent case were Average free area in a sieve plate (%) 25
Diameter of central rod (m) 0.8 102
simulated [6]. Some design parameter issues for single-phase ow
Number of separating chambers 2
in a disc and doughnut pulsed extraction column were reported Diameter of separating chamber (m) 9.4 102
and a correlation for the axial mixing as a function of geometrical Number of feed vessels 2
parameters and pulsation conditions was developed by numer- Number of collection vessels 2
Diameter of the piston of pulsing unit (m) 6.62 102
ical experiments [7,8]. Mathematical description and numerical
Height of the column for CFD simulation (m) 0.25
simulation for the ow structure, velocity elds and ow energy Number of sieve plates for CFD simulation 4
parameters of single-phase pulsed turbulent ow in a pulsed Height of separating chamber for CFD simulation (m) 0.286
extraction column with discs and doughnut were presented [9].
This study was extended to two-phase ow and Lagrangian simula-
tion strategy was evaluated to measure the RTD of droplets [10,11].
The simulation results were compared to the single drop video
ture in the upper separating chamber and overows into the light
experiments that were found around 20% in agreement. Simula-
phase collection vessel. Similarly, the heavy phase from another
tion of a disc and doughnut pulsed extraction column was carried
feed vessel is fed to the top of the column through a metering pump.
out by incorporating Eulerian approach and turbulence using the
The heavy phase ows downwards through the column and sep-
CFD software ASTRID and the continuous phase velocity, turbulent
arates out from the light phase in the lower separating chamber.
kinetic energy and holdups were compared with the experimen-
The heavy phase then rises through the balance leg (Fig. 1) and is
tal results [12]. The turbulent energy parameters for single-phase
collected in the heavy phase collection vessel. The column is t-
ow in a pulsed extraction column with discs and doughnuts were
ted with regularly spaced (5 102 m) sieve plates mounted on
studied [13].
a rod of diameter 0.8 102 m at the center of the column. The
A CFD model based on EulerEuler approach and standard k
sieve plates help to increase the interfacial area between the two
turbulence model was presented to understand the hydrodynam-
immiscible liquids by breaking the droplets of dispersed phase. A
ics of a pulsed extraction column with sieves and down comers
pulse unit located at the base of lower separating chamber provides
[14]. The holdups calculated by CFD simulation were compared
pulses to the process uids thus increasing the intimate contact.
with those of experimental.
Variations in frequency and amplitude of the pulse affect the inten-
CFD simulation of pulsed sieve plate extraction column with
sity of contact between the two immiscible phases. Table 1 gives a
specied geometry as given in Section 2.1 has not been worked out
complete specication of the pulsed sieve plate extraction column
previously. The hydrodynamics of such systems is different with
under investigation.
those of pulsed columns with discs and doughnuts and sieve plates
In present investigations, the column is operated with water as
with down comers. To handle a two-phase ow through the sieve
dispersed and kerosene as continuous phase [3,4]. This method of
plates, a porous media formulation approach has been adopted.
operation forms a liquidliquid interface in the lower separating
This approach has also not been explored by previous researchers
chamber at about 10 cm below the light phase inlet. The position of
for such type of ows.
this interface is shown in Fig. 1. This interface level is stabilized with
The specic objective of this paper is to model a pulsed sieve
the help of the balance leg before the start of an experiment. Fur-
plate extraction column using a hybrid CFD and RTD analysis
ther, depending upon the topology of the two phases, a pulsed sieve
approach with lesser computational resources. The simulation is
plate extraction column can be operated in mixer-settler, disper-
carried out using the commercial CFD software package FLUENT 6.3
sion or emulsion modes [16,17]. In present experiment, the column
[15]. Radiotracer RTD analysis experiment is carried out to evaluate
is operated in the emulsion regime, i.e. dispersed phase (water)
the holdup of dispersed phase in the system. The sieve plates in the
remained dispersed throughout the plate stack and no coalescence
column are modeled using the porous media formulation while the
into layers occurred at the plates.
coefcients of porous media are evaluated using radiotracer RTD
analysis experimental data.

2.2. Residence Time Distribution analysis

2. Materials and methods
RTD analysis of dispersed phase was carried out using the radio-
2.1. Experimental setup and operation tracer technique. For this purpose, the column was set to operate
at a dispersed phase supercial velocity (Ud = 0.34 102 m/s), con-
The schematic diagram of pulsed sieve plate extraction column tinuous phase supercial velocity (Uc = 0.37 102 m/s), pulsation
under investigation is shown in Fig. 1. The internal diameter of the frequency (f = 1.4 s1 ) and pulsation amplitude (A = 1 102 m). To
column is 5 102 m and height is 2.0 m. Two separating chambers, label the dispersed phase, 99m Tc radiotracer (0.5 mCi) was injected
one at the top and the other at the bottom of the column are also in the form of an instantaneous pulse at location D1 (Fig. 1).
part of this apparatus. The mode of operation of the pulsed sieve The movement of dispersed phase was traced by monitoring the
plate extraction column is countercurrent in which the light phase radiotracer with the help of lead-collimated scintillation detectors
(from a feed vessel) is fed to the bottom of the column through a mounted at the inlet (D2 ) and outlet (D3 ) of the column as shown in
metering pump. It ows upwards through the sieve plate column Fig. 1. The experimental mean residence time (MRT) of the system
and encounters with the heavy phase here. After passing through was calculated by the difference of rst moments of outlet and inlet
the column, the light phase separates out from the two-phase mix- response curves. Mathematical expression for the rst moment in
304 G.U. Din et al. / Separation and Purication Technology 73 (2010) 302309

Fig. 1. Schematic diagram of pulsed sieve plate extraction column.

G.U. Din et al. / Separation and Purication Technology 73 (2010) 302309 305

actual sieve plate has a thickness of 1 mm and porosity 25% as that

of the sieve plate. The coefcients in the porous media model were
evaluated using experimental values of volume fraction obtained
by the radiotracer RTD analysis technique (Section 2.2) and operat-
ing velocities in the system. The complete modeling aspects of this
porous medium are described in Section 2.5. As it is the rst attempt
towards CFD modeling of pulsed sieve plate extraction column with
the above-mentioned geometry and models, the knowledge gained
through this modeling may help in understanding the hydrody-
namics of industrial scale equipment.
A 2D axisymmetric geometry of the pulsed sieve plate extraction
column was created as per dimensions given in Table 1 using the
processor GAMBIT. A ner mesh was created inside and in the vicin-
ity of porous media in order to achieve greater numerical accuracy
and better ow visualization in the regions of maximum velocity
Fig. 2. Typical normalized RTD function curves at the input (D2 ) and output (D3 )
gradients. The process of this mesh generation has resulted in a
with model output response of dispersed phase in response to an instantaneous 33,578 unstructured quadrilateral cells for the complete geometry
pulse injection at (D1 ). of the column along with separators. Fig. 3(a) shows the mesh gen-
erated into the geometry along with a magnied view of the mesh
discrete form can be written as: generated in the porous media and area between the media. While
 carrying out the CFD simulation, the pulsed sieve plate extraction
ti Ci ti column was considered to operate as per specications given in
i Section 2.2.
First moment =  (1)
Ci ti EulerEuler multiphase ow model was chosen for CFD simu-
lation of the subject system. This model solves the conservation of
mass and momentum equation for each phase. The conservation
where C is the tracer concentration (counts/s in present case); t is equations for mass and momentum can be written as:
the time of measurement (s); t is the time interval between the
two measurements (s); i = 0, 1, 2, 3, . . .  n
(q q ) + .(q q vq ) = (mpq mqp ) + Sq (3)
Overall holdup of the dispersed phase was calculated on the t
basis of above calculated MRT using the following relationship:
Hd = (2) (q q vq ) + .(q q vq vq )
VR t
where Hd is the dispersed phase holdup; t is the mean residence 

time; Qd is the dispersed phase ow rate; VR is the effective reactor = q p + . q + q q g + (Rpq + mpq vpq mqp vqp )
volume. p=1
The hydrodynamics of the dispersed phase was simulated using
+ (Fq + Flift,q + Fvm,q ) (4)
the axial dispersion model (ADM). Fig. 2 shows typical normalized
RTD function curves obtained at the input (D2 ) and output (D3 ) with
model output response of dispersed phase in response to an instan- This equation includes the effects of drag, external body,
taneous pulse injection at (D1 ). The complete aspects of radiotracer lift and virtual mass forces. Expressions for these forces along
RTD analysis can be seen in Din et al. [4]. with the detail of terminologies involved in these equations are
given in FLUENT Documentation [15] and Ranade [18]. In the
2.3. CFD simulation strategy of pulsed sieve plate extraction present study, only the drag force is taken into account as other
column forces are very small in liquidliquid type of ows in column
type contactors. Schiller and Naumann model available in FLU-
The ow inside pulsed sieve plate extraction column is two- ENT 6.3 software was used for the evaluation of drag function.
phase, turbulent and inherently transient due to the presence of There are various turbulence models available in the FLUENT
pulses. Moreover, complex hydrodynamics in these columns need 6.3 software to describe the effects of turbulent uctuations in
reasonable resolution of grid points to visualize ow pattern inside the velocities of phases and other scalar quantities. Standard
the system and meet the convergence criteria. Therefore, a 3D k turbulence model for each phase was chosen to model the
simulation of the subject system on full scale is computationally turbulence in the system. A detail of the transport equations
expensive and very demanding with reference to computational involved in this turbulence model is available in the literature
machine time and requirement of adequate memory for data pro- [15,18].
cessing and storage. Keeping in view this, a hybrid approach based The light phase (kerosene) and the heavy phase (water) were
on the CFD modeling using FLUENT 6.3 software and radiotracer taken as continuous and dispersed phase, respectively. The diame-
RTD tracing has been developed. The strategy for this approach was ter of the droplet was assumed constant as 0.005 m. The operating
based on simulation on a 2D axisymmetric reduced domain con- pressure was set to 101,325 Pa (1 atm) at the bottom right corner
sisting of four sieve plates only. As the whole length of the column of the domain (Fig. 3(a)) and the gravity was set to 9.8 m/s2 in the
was equipped with similar sieve plates at equal distances, there- negative direction of x-axis in the operating condition panel. Spec-
fore, the ow was considered identical in the rest of the column. ied velocity boundary condition was used at the inlets and outlets
Since, it was not possible to model the sieve plates each consisting of dispersed and continuous phases with magnitude and appro-
of approximately 140 holes (Table 1) in 2D axisymmetric domain, priate direction of ow. Specied velocity boundary condition was
therefore, the sieve plate was modeled by assuming it as a thin also provided at the bottom of the column as shown in Fig. 3(a)
layer of porous medium. The porous media model representing the and a User Dened Function (UDF) was associated to the velocity
306 G.U. Din et al. / Separation and Purication Technology 73 (2010) 302309

Fig. 3. Computational grid and boundary conditions: (a) complete geometry of the column; (b) single-hole geometry for estimation of porous media coefcients.

of water to represent the generation of pulses inside the column. dissipation rate and turbulent viscosity were provided for the cal-
The pulse generation model that has been written in C++ and asso- culation. The solution was initialized by assuming a portion of the
ciated with this boundary condition is given in Section 2.4. Pressure lower separating chamber, at 10 cm below the light phase inlet, to
outlet boundary with zero Pascal gauge pressure was established be lled with dispersed phase (water). This methodology of ini-
at the top of the column as per schematic of the column. A no-slip tialization has been adopted to establish a liquidliquid interface
boundary condition was used for the walls of the column and inlets as described in Section 2.1. All the equations mentioned above
of both phases. The coefcients of porous medium were evaluated were solved simultaneous with size of the time step 0.01 s while
as described in Section 2.5 and assigned in the boundary condition 100 hydrodynamic iterations were performed in each of the time
panel. step.
Discretization was carried out by using the second order upwind
scheme for momentum, turbulent kinetic energy and turbulent dis-
sipation rate while rst order upwind discretization scheme was 2.4. Pulse generation model
used for the calculation of volume fraction. Phase coupled SIMPLE
scheme was utilized for pressurevelocity coupling. Suitable val- Flow inside the pulsed sieve plate extraction column is oscil-
ues of under relaxation factors for pressure, momentum, density, lating due to the operation of pulsing unit at the bottom. The
body force, volume fraction, turbulent kinetic energy, turbulent timevelocity prole generated due to the presence of pulses can
G.U. Din et al. / Separation and Purication Technology 73 (2010) 302309 307

Fig. 4. The pulse velocity prole provided as UDF.

be written as:

u(t) = Af cos(2ft) (5)

where u is the velocity; t is the time; A is the amplitude of pulsation;

f is the frequency of pulsation; Dp is the diameter of piston; Ds is
the diameter of separator.
This velocity prole in Eq. (5) is plotted in Fig. 4 and it is associ-
ated as a UDF written in C++ to describe the velocity of water at the
bottom of the system (Section 2.3).

Fig. 6. Contours of stream function of dispersed phase at (a) t = 36.3 s and (b)
t = 36.6 s.

2.5. Modeling of the sieve plates

The sieve plates were modeled by considering them as porous

media. The porous media is modeled by the addition of a momen-
tum sink term in the momentum balance equation for each phase
and coordinate direction [15]:

Si = Dij vj + Cij vmag vj (6)
j=1 j=1

where Si is source term for the ith (x, y or z) momentum equation,

and D, C are prescribed matrices. It represents the loss of pressure
per unit length, which is proportional to the velocity or square of
the velocity in the porous region. First term in Eq. (6) is a viscous
loss term (also known as the Darcy Law) while the second term is
the inertial loss term.
The porous media parameters (D and C) for the present system
are not available in the literature. Therefore, a separate simulation
strategy was adopted for the calculation of these parameters (Eq.
(6)) to model the actual sieve plate. A 2D axis symmetric geome-
try of 0.05 m length and consisting of a single hole of radius 1 mm
along with 25% open area at the center was constructed in GAMBIT
as shown in Fig. 3(b). The closed area around the hole was repre-
sented as wall while symmetry boundary condition was assigned
at the periphery of this geometry. A mixture consisting of 35% of
Fig. 5. Contours of volume fraction of dispersed phase (water). water as dispersed phase and 65% of kerosene as continuous phase
308 G.U. Din et al. / Separation and Purication Technology 73 (2010) 302309

Fig. 8. Volume fraction of dispersed phase in the pulsed sieve plate column calcu-
lated by CFD.

Therefore, it was concluded that viscous loss term is playing a

major role in the subject system while the effect of inertial loss
term can be neglected. The coefcient of v in the above equation is
basically D in Eq. (6). Therefore:

D = 1 1007

where  is the volumetric average viscosity of the mixture and can

be calculated as:

 = 0.65k + 0.35w (8)

 = 1.91 1003 kg/m s


D = 5.23 109

where k and w are viscosities of kerosene and water, respec-

tively. The parameter D as evaluated above was incorporated in the
boundary condition panel for porous media in the axial direction
while it is assumed innity in the radial direction.
Fig. 7. Contours of stream function of continuous phase at (a) t = 36.25 s and (b)
t = 36.7 s. 3. Results and discussion

was forced to move from top to bottom of this geometry to simulate Fig. 5 shows the contours of volume fraction of dispersed phase
the ow through a single hole of the sieve plate. This information (water) inside the pulsed sieve plate extraction column at a par-
regarding the proportions of water and kerosene was gathered from ticular time (t = 36.7 s) when ow conditions are developed. It has
the radiotracer RTD analysis experimental data. Therefore, this been observed that a portion of the lower separating chamber at
methodology has been named as a hybrid approach based on CFD 10 cm below the continuous phase inlet is lled with dispersed
simulation and radiotracer RTD analysis. Specied velocity bound- phase and a liquidliquid interface has been established. This inter-
ary condition was used on the top and outow boundary condition face level was basically established while initializing the solution
was assigned on the bottom of this geometry. The mixture of water (Section 2.3) and it remained there throughout the simulation
and kerosene was made to ow through this single-hole geometry time. Therefore, this simulation strategy has been proved identi-
for a range of velocities dened by the pulse velocity (Fig. 4) and cal to the experimental methodology of creating and stabilizing a
ow rates of phases. All other models used for this simulation were liquidliquid interface during the experiment (Section 2.1).
similar to that of the complete simulation of the system, i.e. multi- Fig. 5 also shows the entrance of dispersed phase from the inlet
phase EulerEuler model and standard k turbulence model were and its downward movement through the continuous phase under
invoked. The pressure drop across the single hole was calculated gravity where it encounters four regularly spaced sieve plates. It
for each of the velocity as mentioned earlier by steady state solu- has been observed that the dispersed phase is accumulated inside
tion. This pressure gradient may be considered equivalent to the and in the vicinity of sieve plates. It is because of the reason that
pressure gradient across the sieve plate with 25% open area. As the each of the sieve plates behaves as a momentum sink and causes
pressure gradient was found to be a linear function of velocity with a pressure drop across the plate. It has been further observed that
the following equation: accumulation of dispersed phase volume on the two middle sieve
p plates is almost identical while it is different on the top and bottom
= 1 107 v 2190.5 (7) plates. This difference may be due to the reason that ow conditions
are different before the top and after the bottom sieve plates. The
similarity in the behavior of two middle plates has supported the
R2 = 0.9939
assumption of reducing the size of the computational domain, i.e.
G.U. Din et al. / Separation and Purication Technology 73 (2010) 302309 309

the ow can be considered identical on each of the sieve plates (Sec- Acknowledgements
tion 2.3). The droplets of the dispersed phase after passing through
the sieve plates enter into the lower separating chamber, join the The authors are grateful to the Higher Education Commis-
liquidliquid interface and nally travel out of the system through sion [HEC] for nancial support in accomplishment of this study.
the dispersed phase outlet. The authors are greatly indebted to the International Atomic
Fig. 6(a and b) shows the contours of stream functions of dis- Energy Agency (IAEA) for providing RTD analysis software pack-
persed phase inside the system at two particular instants when age. The cooperation extended by IAEA through its Regional Project
the ow conditions are developed. These contour plots show re- RAS/8111 entitled Diagnosing industrial multiphase systems by
circulations of the dispersed phase droplets inside the system. process visualization using radiotracers and sealed sources is appre-
These re-circulations are due to the presence of pulsation asso- ciated. The technical assistance extended by Pakistan Institute of
ciated at the bottom of the column. A different ow pattern has Nuclear Science and Technology [PINSTECH] and Pakistan Institute
been observed in the lower and upper part of the column at time of Engineering and Applied Sciences [PIEAS] is thankfully acknowl-
t = 36.3 s (Fig. 6a). This difference is due to the reason that this ow edged.
pattern has been observed at a particular time and the position of
re-circulations may be different at some other instant. The same References
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The CFD modeling of the system was based on the EulerEuler [16] D. Venkatanarasaiah, Y.B.G. Varma, Dispersed phase holdup and mass transfer
in liquid pulsed column, Bioprocess Eng. 18 (2) (1998) 119126.
multiphase model, standard k turbulence model, porous media [17] R.L. Yadav, A.W. Patwardhan, Design aspects of pulsed sieve plate columns,
model and pulse generation model. These models were found Chem. Eng. J. 138 (13) (2008) 389415.
suitable in achieving the research objective and simulation [18] V.V. Ranade, Computational Flow Modeling for Chemical Reactor Engineering,
Academic Press, 2002.
results were found 72.17% of the experimental value.