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Space time and space velocity are used to determine the performance of flow reactors. Space velocity, SV, is
defined as FA/VCAO, that is,
𝑆𝑉 = =( )
The term V/FA for flow reactors is used to evaluate the size of the reactor required to achieve the conversion
XA of a reactant feed rate FA. It is the number of reactor volumes of feed at specified conditions that can be
treated in unit time, where FA is the molar flowrate (uCAO) and V is the volume of the reactor.
Space time, ST, is defined as the time required to process one reactor volume of feed measure at specified
conditions. The relationship between space velocity SV and ST is as follows:
If CAO is the concentration of the reactant in the feed, then FA = uCAO and
= 𝐶𝐴0 ( )
𝑢 𝐹𝐴
𝑚𝑜𝑙𝑒𝑠 𝑑𝑒 𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑟𝑎𝑑𝑎 𝑑𝑒 𝐴 𝑚𝑜𝑙
( ) (𝑣𝑜𝑙𝑢𝑚𝑒𝑛 𝑑𝑒𝑙 𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑐𝑡𝑜𝑟) ( 3 × 𝑚3 )
= 𝑣𝑜𝑙𝑢𝑚𝑒𝑛 𝑑𝑒 𝑎𝑙𝑖𝑚𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑎𝑐𝑖ó𝑛 { 𝑚 }
𝑚𝑜𝑙𝑒𝑠 𝑑𝑒 𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑟𝑎𝑑𝑎 𝑑𝑒 𝐴 𝑚𝑜𝑙
( 𝑡𝑖𝑒𝑚𝑝𝑜 ) 𝑠𝑒𝑐
The ratio of V/u has the unit of time and its reciprocal u/V is called the space velocity:
𝑉 𝑣𝑜𝑙𝑢𝑚𝑒𝑛 𝑑𝑒𝑙 𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑐𝑡𝑜𝑟
𝑆𝑉 = ( )
𝑢 𝑡𝑎𝑠𝑎 𝑑𝑒 𝑎𝑙𝑖𝑚𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑎𝑐𝑖ó𝑛 𝑣𝑜𝑙𝑢𝑚𝑒𝑡𝑟𝑖𝑐𝑎
The space velocity SV is often used with conversion to describe the overall reactor performance. It is common in the
petroleum and petrochemical industries to plot conversion against space velocity to describe the effect of feed rate on the
performance of a flow system.
The reactor feed may be preheated and the feed pressure may alter. The volumetric flowrate of gases depends on the reactor
temperature and pressure at fixed mass flowrate. In many cases, the feed is liquid at room temperature, while the reaction
mixture is a gas at the higher temperature in the reactor. In these instances, the performance of the reactor is represented as
conversion and selectivity against the liquid hourly space velocity (LHSV). This is defined as
𝑣𝑜𝑙𝑢𝑚𝑒𝑛 𝑑𝑒 𝑎𝑙𝑖𝑚𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑎𝑐𝑖ó𝑛 𝑑𝑒 𝑙𝑖𝑞𝑢𝑖𝑑𝑜 𝑝𝑜𝑟 ℎ𝑜𝑟𝑎
𝑣𝑜𝑙𝑢𝑚𝑒𝑛 𝑑𝑒𝑙 𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑐𝑡𝑜𝑟
Another commonly used term is the gas hourly space velocity (GHSV), which is defined as
𝑣𝑜𝑙𝑢𝑚𝑒𝑛 𝑑𝑒 𝑎𝑙𝑖𝑚𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑎𝑐𝑖ó𝑛 𝑑𝑒 𝑔𝑎𝑠 𝑝𝑜𝑟 ℎ𝑜𝑟𝑎
𝑣𝑜𝑙𝑢𝑚𝑒𝑛 𝑑𝑒𝑙 𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑐𝑡𝑜𝑟
For gaseous feeds, space velocity SV is normally determined in terms of volumes measured at standard conditions T =
25°C and P = 1.013 bar.
Space time ST is equal to the residence time in a plug flow reactor only if the volumetric flowrate remains constant
throughout the reactor.
The residence time depends on the change in the flowrate through the reactor, as well as V/u. The change in u depends on
the variation in temperature, pressure, and the number of moles. The concept of SV with conversions in the design of a
plug flow reactor is discussed later in this chapter.