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Centrifugal extractor

Fig 1. Centrifugal extractor

A centrifugal extractor—also known as a centrifugal contactor or annular centrifugal

contactor—uses the rotation of the rotor inside a centrifuge to mix two immiscible liquids outside
the rotor and to separate the liquids in the field of gravity inside the rotor. This way, a centrifugal
extractor generates a continuous extraction from one liquid phase (fermentation broth) into
another liquid phase (organic solvent).


 1History
 2Monostage centrifugal extractor
 3Multistage centrifugal extractor
o 3.1Each stage consists of
 4Configurations
o 4.1Mix and separation
o 4.2Separation by direct feed
o 4.3Multi-stage processing
 5References
 6External links

Annular centrifugal extractor design and development has been pursued by various Department
of Energy laboratories for more than 40 years. Initial design of the annular centrifugal contactor
was done at Argonne National Laboratory through modification of a Savannah River Site paddle
mixed design.[1] It has been employed in solvent extraction processes for metals valuable to the
nuclear industry. A summary of contactor design principles and applications is included in a
recent compilation.[2]
Commercialization of this technology began in 1990 when a patent was granted for continuous
separation of hydrocarbons from water (Meikrantz, 1990). In the past years the centrifuge design
has been further improved and scaled up to flow rates of several hundred liters per minute
(Meikrantz et al., 1997). Such contactors are used as part of the Salt Waste Processing
Facility at the Savannah River Site for implementation of the CSSX process to extract radioactive
cesium from tank wastes stored there.[3]

Monostage centrifugal extractor[edit]

Fig 2. Cutaway view showing the flow path of the respective liquids

Two immiscible liquids of different densities are fed to the separate inlets and are rapidly mixed
in the annular space between the spinning rotor and stationary housing. The mixed phases are
directed toward the center of the rotor by radial vanes in the housing base. As the liquids enter
the central opening of the rotor, they are accelerated toward the wall. The mixed phases are
rapidly accelerated to rotor speed and separation begins as the liquids are displaced upward. A
system of weirs at the top of the rotor allow each phase to exit the rotor where it lands in a
collector ring and exits the stage. Flow from between stages is by gravity with no need for inter-
stage pumps. The centrifugal contactors thus acts as a mixer, centrifuge and pump. Centrifugal
contactors are typical referred to by the diameter of their rotor. Thus, a 5-inch centrifugal
contactor is one having a 5-inch diameter rotor.
Annular centrifugal contactors are relatively low revolutions-per-minute (rpm), moderate gravity
enhancing (100–2000 G) machines, and can therefore be powered by a direct drive, variable
speed motor. Typical RPM for small units (2 cm) is approximately 3600RPM while larger units
would operate at lower RPM depending on their size (typical speed for a 5-inch [12.5 cm]
contactor is ~1800RPM). The effectiveness of a centrifugal separation can be easily described
as proportional to the product of the force exerted in multiples of gravity (g) and the residence
time in seconds or g-seconds. Achieving a particular g-seconds value in a liquid–liquid centrifuge
can be obtained in two ways: increasing the multiples of gravity or increasing the residence time.
Creating higher g-force values for a specific rotor diameter is a function of rpm only.

Multistage centrifugal extractor[edit]

Fig 3. Multistage centrifugal extractor cross section drawing

The feed solution initially containing one or more solutes (heavy phase on the cross section
drawing Fig 3.), and an immiscible solvent having a different density (light phase on cross section
sketches) flow counter-currently through the extractor’s rotor, designed with a stack of
mechanical subassemblies representing the required number of separate stages. The
successive mixing and separation operations performed in each mechanical stage permit the
mass transfer of the solutes from the feed solution to the solvent.
Each stage consists of[edit]

 Mixing chamber where the two phases are mixed and where
the transfer of solutes to be extracted is achieved. A fixed disk
allows the two phases to be mixed and to create an emulsion. It
operates as a pump to draw the two phases from the preceding
 Decantation chamber where the two previously mixed liquids
are thoroughly separated by centrifugal force. Overflow weirs
stabilize the separation area independently of flow rates. The
interphase position depends on the diameter of the heavy phase
overflow weir, which is interchangeable and to be selected
according to the phase density ratio.

Mix and separation[edit]
As described above, the mix & separation configuration is the standard operation for centrifugal
contactors used for liquid-liquid extraction processes. The two liquids (typically an aqueous
phase (heavy) and an organic phase (light)) enter the annular mixing zone where a liquid-liquid
dispersion is formed and extraction occurs as solutes (e.g. dissolved metal ions) are transferred
from one phase into the other. Inside the rotor, the liquids will be separated into a heavy (blue)
and a light (yellow) phase by their respective densities. This proportion of each phase (phase
ratio), total flow rate, rotor speed, and weir sizes are varied to optimize separation efficiency. The
separated liquids are discharged without pressure and flow by gravity to exit the stage (note that
exit is higher than inlet in Fig. 2).

Fig 4. Mix and separation

Separation by direct feed[edit]
For applications requiring only separation of a pre-mixed dispersion (e.g. oil/water separation in
environmental cleanup), the direct feed offers the option to feed the mixed liquid stream at a low
sheer force directly into the rotor. Inside the rotor, the liquids will be separated into a heavy (blue)
and a light (yellow) phase. This principle is used to optimize the separation efficiency. The
separated liquids will be discharged without pressure.

Fig 5. Separation direct feed

Multi-stage processing[edit]
Typically for solvent extraction processes in stage-wise equipment such as the centrifugal
contactor, you would have multiple contactors in series for extraction, scrubbing, and stripping
(and perhaps others). The number of stages needed in each section of the process would
depend on process design requirements (necessary extraction factor). In the case in Fig. 6, four
interconnected stages provide a continuous process in which the first stage is a decanting stage.
The next two stages show a counter current extraction. The last stage is a neutralization as a
cross stream interconnection.

Fig 6. Multi-stage process

1. Jump up^ G. Bernstein, et al., A high-capacity annular centrifugal
contactor, Nuclear Technology 20;200-202 (1973).
2. Jump up^ R.A. Leonard, Design Principles and Applications of
Centrifugal Contactors for Solvent Extraction. In Ion Exchange
and Solvent Extraction: A Series of Advances (Volume
19) (B.A. Moyer (Ed.), Chapter 10, pg 563 (2010).
3. Jump up^ "Salt Waste Processing Facility - Phase II".
Retrieved 19 December 2012.

External links[edit]
 CINC Industries Manufacturer of centrifugal contactors
 ROUSSELET ROBATEL Monostage centrifugal extractors
 ROUSSELET ROBATEL Multistage centrifugal extractors
 (German) A centrifugal extractor washes, extracts und separates
in a single processing stage (article in the journal Process).
 CINC Germany single and multi stage liquid liquid centrifugal
 Centrifugal extractor for liquid liquid applications in Process
 What is an Annular Centrifugal Contactor?
 Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) modeling of centrifugal
contactors[permanent dead link]
 Multistage centrifugal extractor Patent