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# Hydrostatic equilibrium in a centrifugal field

Ref: McCabe, Smith, Harriott

In a rotating centrifuge a layer of liquid is thrown outward from the axis of rotation and is held against the wall of the bowl by centrifugal force. The free surface of the liquid takes the shape of a paraboloid of revolution, but in industrial centrifuges the rotational speed is so high and the centrifugal force so much greater than the force of gravity that the liquid surface is virtually cylindrical and coaxial ith the axis of rotation. This situation is illustrated in Fig. 1, in which r is the radial distance from the axis of rotation to the free liquid surface and r is the radius if the centrifuge bowl. The entire mass of liquid indicated in Fig. 2.2 is rotating as .t rigid body, with no sliding of one layer of liquid over another. Under these conditions the pressure distribution in the liquid may be found from the principles of fluid statics.

FIG 1. Single liquid in centrifuge bowl The pressure drop over any ring of rotating liquid is calculated as follows. Consider the ring of liquid shown in Fig. 2.2 and the volume element of thickness dr at a radius r: dF = ω2 r dm where dF = centrifugal force dm = mass of liquid in element; ω = angular velocity, rad/s If ρ is the density of the liquid and b the breadth of the ring, dm = 2πr ρ r b dr Eliminating dm gives dF = 2πr ρ ω2 r2 dr The change in pressure over the element is the force exerted by the element of liq uid, divided by the area of the ring: dp = dF/(2πr r b) = ω2 ρ r dr The pressure drop over the entire ring is p2 — p1 = ∫r ω2 ρ r dr Assuming the density is constant and integrating gives p2 – p1 = ω2 ρ (r22 –r12)/2 Equation (2.8) strictly applies only when r1 and r2 are not greatly different, but for practical systems the error is small.

leaves through ports at radius rB. Light liquid discharges at point 2 through ports near the axis of the bowl. of density ρB. denoted as zone A in the fig ure. A cylindrical interface of radius r. It is called the neutral zone. The heavy liquid forms a layer on the floor of the bowl beneath a layer of light liquid. In Fig. heavy liquid passes under a ring. of density ρA. 2. Assume that the heavy liquid. A layer of light liquid. usually mounted vertically. this interface is vertical. The sepa ration may then be accomplished in a liquid-liquid centrifuge. as in Fig. Then if both liquids rotate with the bowl and friction is negligible. zone B. separation of light liquid from heavy.Centrifugal decanter When the difference between the densities of the two liquids is small. 2b. (1) Heavy-liquid drawoff. the force of gravity may be too weak to separate the liquids in a reasonable time. Thus pi — pB = pi — pA . forms inside the layer of heavy liquid. denoted as zone B. (2) Light-liquid drawoff. (b) bowl rotating. in comparison with the much greater centrifugal force. overflows the dam at radius rA. the pressure difference in the light liquid between rB and ri must equal that in the heavy liquid between rA and ri The principle is exactly the same as in a continuous gravity decanter. It consists of a cylindrical metal bowl. If there is negligible frictional resistance to the flow of the liquids as they leave the bowl. inward toward the axis of rotation. and the light liquid. and dis charges over a dam at point 1. 2 Centrifugal separation of inmiiscible liquids: (a) bowl at rest. Zone A. shown diagrammat ically in Fig. that rotates about its axis at high speed. Since the force of gravity can be neglected FIG. In operation of the machine. the position of the liquid-liquid interface is established by a hydrostatic balance and the relative “heights” (radial distances from the axis) of the overflow ports at 1 and 2. 2a the bowl is at rest and contains a quantity of two immiscible liquids of differing densities. separation of heavy liquid from light. the feed is admitted continuously near the bottom of the bowl. next to the inside wall of the bowl. separates the two layers. the heavy liquid forms a layer. If the bowl is now rotated.

The rate of separation is the most important variable. more time should be pro vided for the more difficult step. the zone is shifted toward the axis. at constant rA. zone B should be large and zone A small. heavy liquid is being stripped from a mass of light liquid. If TA is decreased. Smith and Harriott. especially when the ratio is nearly unity. The rates of motion of a dispersed phase through a continuous phase are discussed in Chap. It shows that r. If the densities of the fluids are too nearly alike. and a decrease in r causes a shift toward the wall. To obtain a larger time factor in zone A. Flow through continuous decanters Equations for the interfacial position in continuous decanters are based entirely on hydrostatic balances. . An increase in rB. As long as there is negligible resistance to flow in the outlet pipes. for as mentioned be fore. it fixes the size of a gravity decanter and determines whether a high centrifugal force is needed. The equation also shows that if rB is held constant and rA. the lighter liquid is being removed from a mass of heavier liquid. the position of the interface is the same regardless of the rates of flow of the liquids and of the relative quantities of the two liquids in the feed. then the neutral zone is shifted toward the wall of the bowl. also shifts the neutral zone toward the axis. the radius of the discharge lip for the heavier liquid. 7 of McCabe. The position of the neutral zone is important practically.ρΒ /ρΑ)}1/2 This equation is analogous to a similar equation for a gravity settling tank. if the separation in zone B is more difficult than that in zone A. This is accomplished by moving the neutral zone toward the wall by increasing rA or decreasing rB. In zone A. pA = pressure at free surface of heavy liquid at rA From above pi – pB = ω2 ρΒ (ri2 –rB2)/2 and pi – pA = ω2 ρΑ (ri2 –rA2)/2 Equating these pressure drops and simplifying lead to pB (ri2 –rB2) = pA (ri2 –rA2) Solving for ri gives ri = { [ rA2 – (ρΒ /ρΑ)rB2] / ( 1 .where pi = pressure at liquid-liquid interface. the neutral zone may be unstable even if the speed of rotation is sufficient to separate the liquids quickly. is increased. For example. and in zone B. If one of the processes is more difficult than the other. Many centrifugal separators are so constructed that either rA or rB can be varied to control the position of the neutral zone. the opposite adjustments would be made. pB = pressure at free surface of light liquid at rB. is sensitive to the density ratio. the radius of the neutral zone. The difference between ρΑ and ρΒ should not be less than approximately 3 percent for stable operation.