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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 et.al. 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.

ð

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.

Ks

s= K

K

(1)

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%.

2.4

1.6

!"ð# 1.2

Experimental

0.8 simulation

0.4

0

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.

3

s " 0

-1

-2

-3

0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8

$%"$

experimental, r = 5 cm

s " 0

simulation, r = 5 cm

-1 simulation, r = 6 cm

simulation, r = 7 cm

-2

-3

-0.2 0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8

$%"$

2

1.5

0.5

experimental, r= 10.5 cm

s " 0

simulation, r = 10.5 cm

-0.5

simulation, r= 9 cm

-1 Simulation, r= 7.7 cm

-1.5

-2

0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1

$"$

1.5

0.5

Experimental, r = 5 cm

s " 0

Simulation, r = 5 cm

-0.5

Simulation, r = 6 cm

-1

Simulation, r = 7 cm

-1.5

-2

-0.2 0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8

$"$

2.5

2

1.5

1

0.5

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

-2

-2.5

-0.1 0 0.1 0.2 0.3

$&"$

s " 0 Experimental, r = 5 cm

Simulation, r = 5 cm

-1

Simulation, r = 6 cm

Simulation, r = 7 cm

-2

-3

-0.2 -0.1 0 0.1 0.2 0.3

$&"$

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.

ð

D impeller diameter, m

z axial coordinate

µL viscosity, kg/m s

åå

r radial coordinate

R impeller radius, m

F.Guillard, C, Tragardh, Mixing in industrial Rushton turbine agitated reactors under aerated

conditions, Chem, Eng. Process. 421 (2003) 375-386.

J.Y. Oldshue, Fluid Mixing Technology, McGraw Hill, New York, 1983

K.C. Lee, M Yianneskis, Turbulence properties of the impeller stream of a Rushton turbine, Am.

Inst. Chem. Eng. J. 44 (1998) 13-24.

M. Zadravec, S. Basic, M. Hribersek, The influence of rotating domain size in rotating frame of

reference approach for simulation of rotating impeller in a mixing vessel, J. of Eng. Sc. And Tech.

2 (2007) 126-138

M.H. Vakili, M. Nasr Esfashany, CFD analysis of turbulence in a baffled stirred tank, a three

compartment model, Che. Eng. & Sci. 64 (2009), 351-362

Patel, V.C., Rodi, W., Scheares, G., 1985. Turbulance models for near-wall and low Reynolds

number flows. AIAA Journals 23, 1308-1319

W. Nienow, Mixing studies: a comparison of Rushton turbine with some modern impeller,

Chem. Eng. Res. Design 74 A (1996) 417-423.

Wu, H., & Patterson, G.K. (1989). Laser-Doppler Measurement of Turbulent Flow Parameter in a

stirred tank. Chem... eng. Sci., 44, 2207-2221

È. Aubin a,b, N. Le Sauze a, J. Bertrand a, D.F. Fletcher b, C. Xuereb a, PIV measurement of flow

in an aerayed tank stirred by a down-and an up-pumping axial flow impeller,28 (2004) 447-456.

Brucato, A., Ciofalo, M., Grisafi, F., Micale, G., 1998. Numerical prediction of flow field in baffled

stirred vessels: a comparison of alternative modeling approaches. Chemical Engineering Science

53 (21), 3653ʹ3684.

Mavros, P., Mann, R., Vlaev, S.D., Bertrand, J., 2001. Experimental visualization and CFD

simulation of flow patterns induced by a novel energy-saving dual-configuration impeller in

stirred vessels.Transactions of the Institution of Chemical Engineers 79, 857ʹ866.

Murthy Shekhar, S., Jayanti, S., 2002. CFD study of power and mixing time for paddle mixing in

unbaffled vessels. Transactions of the Institution of Chemical Engineers 80, 482ʹ498.

Jaworski, Z., Dyster, K.N., Nienow, A.W., 2001. The effect of size, location and pumping direction

of pitched blade turbine impellers on flow patterns: LDA measurements and CFD predictions.

Transactions of the Institution of Chemical Engineers 79, 887ʹ894.

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