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ANALYSIS TOOLS

Swirl chamber

Inlet

Predicting
Liquid Atomization
Simulation can be used as a predictive
spray characterization tool. CAD geometry of typical pressure-swirl atomizer
By Lisa Graham and Kumar Dhanasekharan, Bend Research Inc., Oregon, U.S.A.
John Widmann and Birendra David, ANSYS, Inc.

Pressure-swirl atomizers, also known Liquid atomization processes such as the spray. The model predicted a cone
as simplex atomizers, are used commonly those associated with pressure-swirl angle of 60.2 degrees, which compares
in many industries, including aerospace, atomizers can be simulated using the favorably to the experimental values in
automotive, pharmaceuticals and others. volume of fluid (VOF) multiphase model in the range of 69 to 75 degrees. For the
These nozzles work by forcing a liquid FLUENT computational fluid dynamics liquid flow rates investigated, the model
under high pressure into a swirl chamber software. This model is preferred when predicted the atomization pressure
in which the fluid gains tangential momen- an engineer desires to predict the within 10 percent of published data
tum and exits through a small orifice or location of the interface between two (spraying systems water capacity data).
nozzle. The liquid exiting the nozzle forms immiscible phases or fluids. In the case of Additionally, the model predicted all the
a sheet that thins as it disperses radially the atomization process occurring in a salient features of the flow, including the
outward. The thin sheet becomes unstable pressure-swirl atomizer, the VOF model air core that develops within the swirl
and breaks up to form ligaments and then predicts the gasliquid interface location chamber in response to the swirling liquid
discrete droplets. The ability to tailor spray during the formation and disintegration flow. As the liquid exits the nozzle orifice,
characteristics is important, for example, of the liquid film, the formation and the tangential momentum of the swirling
in controlling the evaporation rate of fuel tearing of ligaments, and, ultimately, the liquid causes the sheet to move radially
sprays in gas turbine combustors or the formation and transport of droplets. outward, thin and, ultimately, disintegrate.
transport of drugs administered through In this study, the research team devel- Under the conditions considered in
inhalation. A fundamental understanding oped a FLUENT model to predict the the model, the disintegration of the liquid
of spray formation can provide useful liquid atomization and spray formation. sheet is preceded by the formation of
insight into the design and operation of the Additionally, the spray was characterized unstable waves, called KelvinHelmholtz
atomizer in order to produce sprays experimentally for model validation. A waves, on the liquid surface. The model
with desired characteristics such as the high-resolution camera combined with a predictions demonstrated that the devel-
droplet size and spray pattern. laser flash was used to visually capture opment of KelvinHelmholtz waves led to
disintegration of the sheet and formation
of ligaments. The ligaments experienced
further breakup until surface tension
forces exceeded aerodynamic forces,
resulting in spherical drop formation.
The research team used the validated
model to study liquid atomization under
varying operating conditions, including
solution viscosity, surface tension and
flow rate. This enabled engineers to
map out a design space for successful
operation of the nozzle. Such simulations
provide a fundamental understanding of
how operating parameters affect spray
The predicted spray resulting from atomization. Unstable Spray pattern image from camera characteristics and help in tailoring nozzle
waves, called KelvinHelmholtz waves, are apparent on the design and operation to obtain sprays of
surface of the liquid. Downstream, the sheet disintegrates into
ligaments and further into droplets. This image corresponds to desired characteristics.
a surface of constant liquid volume fraction (a = 0.05) and is
colored by the magnitude of the tangential (swirl) component
of velocity.

32 ANSYS Advantage Volume I, Issue 3, 2007 www.ansys.com