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In a stirred tank, flow around the rotating impeller blades interacts with the stationary baffles
and generates a complex, three-dimensional, recirculating turbulent flow. In the present work
CFD techniques have been employed to investigate the flow field in a fully baffled flat bottom stirred
tank vessel with six blade Rushton turbine. The above field is developed using Moving Reference frame
(MRF) approach and RANS based turbulence model (standard k- ɸ). The CFD simulations are performed
in a 3D domain using commercial code FLUENT. The simulation is conducted to get normalized mean
axial velocity (NMAV), normalized mean radial velocity (NMRV), normalized mean tangential velocity
(NMTV) and normalized radial pumping capacity (NRPC) profiles. The numerical predictions are found to
be within -8.5% of error when compared with the experimental data of Patterson et al. (1989).

Keywords: CFD, Mixing, stirred tank, Rushton impeller, MRF, turbulent flow, hydrodynamics.


Stirred tank plays an important role in the chemical, biochemical, food, pharmaceutical, water
treatment industries. Further, the quality of the paints, polymers, detergents, dugs, foodstuffs depends
on the operating conditions, impeller type and geometry of the stirred tank. In general, these tanks are
agitated by axial, radial, or mixed flow type of impellers. Axial impellers are typically used to provide
solid suspension where as, radial impellers are used for gas dispersion. Rushton impeller has been
extensively studied as radial pumping impellers in both single phase (J.Y. Oldshue 1983, Lee et al.,1998)
and multi phase operations (Guillard et al.,2003 ) .In some operations such as those that involve tanks
with high aspect ratio, multiple impellers are also used, and it is a common practice in such operations
to use Rushton turbine as the lowest impeller. Mixing is caused by a complex interaction of the fluid
bulk, turbulent flow, molecular diffusion and can be represented by two mixing models; bulk flow and
turbulent models (Nienow et al.,1996)

An understanding of the flow behavior within the stirred tank is essential for the equipment design,
process scale up, energy conservation, product quality control and can only be achieved by simulation
and analysis of the fluid dynamics inside mixing vessel. For this reason, various models have been
propose (Vakili et al., 2002) to understand the hydrodynamics, but CFD method, based on the solution
of the Navier Stokes equations, have become a powerful tool for prediction of fluid flow fields inside
stirred tank.

While modeling the impeller motion, the unsteady moving grid techniques- which are physically the
most correct computational models, are expensive to use and therefore, are not commonly used for the
majority of engineering computations. In contrast to it, the rotating reference frame technique is a cost
effective alternative, suitable for performing steady state as well as transient simulation (Zadravec et al.,
2007). Within this approach the vicinity of the impeller is solved using rotating frame of reference and
the rest of the computational domain is solved in stationary frame of reference.
CFD techniques are increasingly used to get a detailed description of the turbulent flow field in
mechanically agitated vessel for single-phase flow (Aubin 2004a; Brucato et al., 2002; Mavros et
al., 2001; Murthy shekhar and Jayanti , 2002; Jawaorski et al., 2001). These authors have compared their
simulation with the previously reported data or with their own experiment. Wu and Patterson (1989)
measured the turbulent flow parameters in a baffled, Rushton turbine agitated vessel with Laser-
Doppler velocimeter. There Results are presented in the form of normalized mean axial velocity (NMAV),
normalized mean radial velocity (NMRV) and normalized mean tangential velocity (NMTV) and
normalized radial pumping capacity (NRPC) profiles at various radial locations, mostly in the plane at 45°
with respect to the baffles.



In the present work a theoretical investigation around the experimental assembly of Patterson et al.
(1989) as shown in the Fig.1 is carried out. It consists of a flat bottom stirred cylindrical vessel with
diameter T equal to 0.27m and height H equal to T, equipped with single six bladed standard Rushton
impeller. The Rushton impeller having a diameter equal to one-third of the tank diameter was placed at
a distance one third up from the tank bottom. Four vertical baffles are symmetrically placed around the
tank periphery near the tank wall, each with a width of one tenth of the tank diameter. The tank is open
from the top and is filled with the water as working fluid. The impeller speed is kept at 200 rpm having
an equivalent Reynolds number, Re, equal to 2.9×103. The water properties are: ʌL = 998.2 kgm-3 and µL =
0.001003 kgm-1s-1
Fig.1. Stirred tank and impeller: (a) side view, and (b) top view

For the present work, Ansys ICEM CFD is used as geometry and mesh generator. Fig.2 shows the
essential features of the unstructured hexahedral cells, generated for the tank. After trying fine, mid and
coarse meshes it was found that course mesh is sufficient for computational purpose. This led to a mesh
with 2,68,416 elements. The qualities of the meshes were analyzed using angle, aspect ratio and
determinant (3×3×3).
Fig. 2 Isometric view of unstructured mesh used in the present work.

Minimum values of angle, determinant (3×3×3), and aspect ratio are found to be 40.14 degree, 0.808
and 1.01 respectively.

Regarding boundary condition, on the solid wall no slip boundary conditions are considered, and a free
surface boundary condition is considered at the surface of the liquid where the shear stress is set to
zero. The blades, disc and baffles are defined as thin surfaces, and grid are refined in this region. In the
present work Fluent -a 3D CFD code with a finite volume based fluid dynamics analysis is employed to
numerically investigate the flow filed in a fully baffled tank. The steady simulation is performed with 1st
order upwind scheme for discritization. SIMPLE (Semi implicit method for pressure linked equation)
algorithm is adapted to couple pressure and velocity. The solution is assumed to be converged when the
scaled residuals of all variables are found to be smaller than 10-4.

The radial pumping capacities of the impeller are calculated as the integral of the mean radial velocities
over the entire impeller stream as given in Eq. (1), with z1 and z2 being the axial positions where the
mean radial velocities reaches to zero.


 s=   K

For present case, z1 = 7 cm, z2 = 11 cm.

In Eq. (1) the average values of mean velocities are used so that axisymmetry could be applied.

For the purpose of validation, simulation results of present investigation have been compared with the
experimental results of Patterson et al. (1989) for NRPC (Qr/ND3) and NMAV (Vz/Vtip), NMRV (Vr/Vtip) and
NMTV (Vɽ/Vtip) at different position in the mixing tank. All Measurements are made in the impeller
stream and in the region near the impeller at plane 450 with the baffles plane as shown in Fig.1.


The Normalized radial pumping capacity (NRPC) is used to validate the simulated results with the
experimental result of Patterson et al. (1989). Fig.3. shows the computed NRPC for the region between
1 ч r/R ч 2.4. The figure shows that the NRPC increases with increasing radial distance from the impeller
tip, due to the fluid entrainment. It should be noted that at impeller tip (r/R=1), there is no fluid
entrainment. The parity plot, Fig.4, shows that the predicted values are in good agreement with the
experiment values with a maximum deviation of -8.5%.



!"ð# 1.2
0.8 simulation


1 1.2 1.4 1.6 1.8 2 2.2 2.4

Fig.3. Normalized radial pumping capacity in the impeller stream at 200 RPM
Fig. 4. Parity plot between experimental and simulated Normalized radial pumping capacity


The NMTV, NMRV and NMAV profiles are plotted in Figs.5 & 6, Figs.7 & 8 and Figs.9 & 10 respectively
for different values of ͞r͟. From Fig.5&6, it can be seen that Jet like pattern of the impeller stream are
observed for all values of ͞r͟ investigated. Further, it is observed that the center line velocity of these
jets like streams decrease and the flow entrainment expands with the increase in radial distance from
the impeller. From Figs.5 & 6, it can be seen that the maximum velocity observed at r=10.5cm is almost
50% of the maximum velocity that is observed at r=5cm. From Fig. 6 it is found that the NMTV predicted
from simulation at z=0 is 5.5% higher than the experimental value. Further, it can be noted that mean
velocity distributions are not symmetric about the z=0 plane, but shift upward as the wall is approached.
The Figs.5& 6 also indicate that the simulated values agree well with experimental values.

s " 0



0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8

Fig.5 Normalized mean tangential velocity profile

experimental, r = 5 cm
s " 0
simulation, r = 5 cm
-1 simulation, r = 6 cm
simulation, r = 7 cm

-0.2 0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8

Fig.6. Normalized mean tangential velocity profile



experimental, r= 10.5 cm
s " 0
simulation, r = 10.5 cm
simulation, r= 9 cm
-1 Simulation, r= 7.7 cm

0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1

Fig.7. Normalized mean Radial velocity profile


Experimental, r = 5 cm
s " 0
Simulation, r = 5 cm
Simulation, r = 6 cm
Simulation, r = 7 cm

-0.2 0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8

Fig.8. Normalized mean radial velocity profile

Experimental, r = 10.5 cm
s " 0
-0.5 simulation, r = 10.5 cm
-1 Simulation, r = 9 cm
-1.5 Simulation, r = 7.7 cm
-0.1 0 0.1 0.2 0.3

Fig.9. Normalized mean axial velocity profile

s " 0 Experimental, r = 5 cm
Simulation, r = 5 cm
Simulation, r = 6 cm
Simulation, r = 7 cm

-0.2 -0.1 0 0.1 0.2 0.3


Fig.10. Normalized mean axial velocity profile

Fig.11. vector of axial velocity in vertical plane mid way between 450 plane with the baffles plane

From Figs.7&8, it can be seen that Jet like pattern of the impeller stream are observed for all values of
͞r͟ investigated. From Fig.8 It is observed that the NMRV predicted at the z=0 from simulation is 8.67%
less than the value measured by Patterson et al., 1989. Figs. 9 & 10 show variation of NMAV with axial
position. The negative values of NMAV indicate reversal of flow direction. From these figures it can be
observed that with the increase in axial distance the NMAV decreases. Further, the magnitude of NMAV
is found to be order of magnitude less than NMRV and NMTV. At r =10.5 cm, NMAV almost vanishes.
This is the place where the stream is about to split into two streams, one flowing upward, the other
flowing downward into the bulk of the tank fluid (as can be observed from Fig.11). Due to the lower
values of NMAV considerable difference between simulated and experimental profiles in the Figs.9 and
10 is observed. This is not of much significance and does not affect the overall results considerably.


Following salient conclusions are derived from the present simulation work:

1.‘ Simulation results obtained using CFD agrees well with the experimental work of Patterson et al.
(1989) and are within -8.5 % error for NRPC.
2.‘ The satisfactory comparisons for NMAV, NMTV, and NMRV profiles between simulated and
experimental values indicate the potential usefulness of this CFD approach as computational
tool for designing of stirred tanks.


D impeller diameter, m

Qr pumping capacity in radial direction, kg/s

z axial coordinate

µL viscosity, kg/m s

average radial velocity, m/s


ʌL density of water, kg/m3

r radial coordinate

R impeller radius, m

Vtip impeller tip velocity, m/s

W impeller blade width, m

Vr radial velocity, m/s

Vɽ tangential velocity, m/s

NMRV normalized mean radial velocity, (-)

NMTV normalized mean tangential velocity, (-)

NMAV normalized mean axial velocity, (-)

NRPC normalized radial pumping capacity, (-)

Ansys-ICEM CFD, Release 11.0

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