Packed Beds and the Ergun Equation: The Relationship between Fluid Flow and Pressure Drop

Team # 5
Mary Chopard Aaron Welsh Jonathan Ng Martha Ottenberg Rachel Holbrook February 19, 2003

..............................................................1 Background and Theory.........................13 Future Consideration.......................14 Nomenclature......................2 Equipment and Procedure........................................................................................10 Conclusion..........16 Appendix................................................................See Separate Flies ............................................4 Results..........................................15 References.............i Introduction........................................................................................6 Discussion.Table of Contents Abstract.....................

We calibrated and took our measurements on a packed bed column.Abstract The goal of our experiment was to study pressure drop as a function of flow rate. In general our data and the Ergun equation were closely correlated until fluidization. We found that the closest correlation of our data and the Ergun equation occurred when the height of the bed remained constant. simulating the type of packed bed which the equation was based on. i . We noted that changing properties of the packing material had a drastic affect on the Ergun Equation’s prediction of pressure drop. with various packing materials. column diameters and flow rates. and observe the relationship between our data and the model of the Ergun equation.

which will be discussed in detail later. Later in the report these variables will be explained and compared to each other. The scrubber itself is made of a column or tank with an inlet and outlet flow pipe. For example. W2 and W3. combustion. and column size. In addition to measuring the pressure drop. and separation (Geankoplis 118). columns can be used to scrub H2S gases from waste streams keeping the harmful gas from entering the air. using pea gravel and marbles. distillation. It also tells how pressure drop is related to the packing material. This process is used for catalytic reactions. drying. column diameter. we calibrated rotameters in order to obtain accurate flow rate readings. gravel. Packed beds are often used in pollution control. or a fluid and solid phase. Our team’s objective for this experiment was to measure the pressure drop across the column associated with a given set of variables.25 in and 5. The Ergun equation.Introduction Fluid flow through packed beds is important to study because it is commonly used in industry to contact two fluid phases. The surface area of the packing material is the advantage to a packed bed as opposed to a normal reactor tank. It is important to study the pressure drop in a packed bed with regards to fluid flow rate to optimize operating conditions.25 in. and correlations to and deviations from the Ergun equation will be shown. marbles. We varied packing materials. using 2 rotameters. The increased surface area provided by these particulate materials provides a bigger reaction area for the desired operation. gas absorption. 1 . The column is filled with packing material that can include materials such as ceramics. We also measured the void fraction associated with both packing materials. 3. and flow rate. shows how fluid flow rate and pressure drop are related. In industry these results can be applied to pump design and product yield which ultimately lead to cost effectiveness. and activated carbon.

75(1−ε)U ρ 3 ε Φ (Dp) (1) The following equations and concepts were combined by Ergun and Orning to create the Ergun equation that we used to model fluid flow through packed beds in this experiment. Fluidization is the range during fluid flow where the packed material’s weight is equal to the upward drag force from the fluid.5 inches (Matt Cline). and were able to fluidize. (University) Ergun Equation: ∆P = 150(1−ε) U µ + L 2 ε Φ (Dp) 3 2 2 1. One of the main reasons that the Ergun equation is so accurate is because Ergun realized that not only the flow rate effects the pressure drop but it is also dependant on particle properties. To account for this Ergun included the void fraction and the sphericity. and it is also dependant on the properties of the fluid such as the viscosity.Background and Theory: In order to test pressure drop versus fluid velocity one can use the Ergun equation to model the expected behavior until the point of fluidization. In our experiment our beds were not completely packed. This equation was derived through experimental results using packed beds. shape and uniformity of the particle’s shape. such as particle packing density. The maximum particle diameter is 0. This combined with the proportional pressure drops for high and low flow rates provided this equation. where a and b are the properties of the packing and the fluid (Ergun 89): ∆P = aU + bρU L 2 (2) 2 . We expect our data to follow the Ergun Model up to the point to fluidization. Osborne Reynolds determined that the friction from the fluid flow through the packing was due to properties of the packing and fluid. The Ergun equation was derived from a number of sources. Originally it determined that pressure drop was proportional at low flow rates to the velocity and at high flow rates proportional to the square of the velocity.

ε. and µ are the pressure drop. and the fluid viscosity respectively. void fraction of the bed. The void fraction relates the amount of space left unfilled by the packing compared to the total amount of calculated volume in the column and is defined by: ε = space unfilled by packing Total volume in column (5) 3 . ρ. superficial fluid velocity (the flow rate as if there was no packing in the column). Dp. U. sphericity of the particles. the Carman/Kozeny equation for viscous flow and the Burke/Plummer equation for turbulent flow.The combination of the following equations led to the development of Ergun’s equation.75(1−ε)U ρ 3 L ε Φ (Dp) Where ∆P. particle diameter. Carman/Kozeny eqn: ∆P = 150(1−ε) U µ 3 2 2 L ε Φ (Dp) Burke/Plummer eqn: 2 (3) (4) ∆P = 1. Φ. density of the fluid.

A digital manometer was connected to the column in two places allowing for the pressure drop to be read. was graduated to 36 inches for easy height readings. and then measuring the amount of water that needed to be added to the cylinder until the water was level with the packing. By dividing the volume in the cylinder by the time. For the sphericity of the pea gravel we referred to the lab manual for 06-100. who did whole reports on calculating the equivalent diameter of pea gravel. and its effect on the Ergun Equation. Filling a graduated cylinder with our medium. The flow rate of the city water through the column was set at a value maintained by a rotameter. We also obtained some properties of the pea gravel and the marbles to be used in the Ergun equation. Our calibrations were slightly different than the teams that we checked against. 4 .9 is a good estimate. one being 3. Figure 1: Packed bed diagram Before we could begin the actual experiment. which says that 0.Equipment and Procedure: The apparatus that we used in our lab consisted of a Plexiglas column with an inlet for water at the bottom and an outlet at the top.25 inches in diameter. our team needed to determine the void fraction for both the marbles and the pea gravel. To determine the diameter of pea gravel we referred to the work of previous groups. so we decided to use our own calibration curves. various other particle properties and calibrate the rotameters.25 inches and the other 5. Each column. the actual volumetric flow rates associated with the rotameters readings were determined. determined the void fraction We checked the rotameters against previous teams’ calibrations by setting the flow meter and filling a 4 Liter graduated cylinder while timing how long it took to fill.

so this was the value we decided to use. the height was also measured.25-inch column with approx 18 inches of pea gravel. We bled out the manometer lines to release any air bubbles. The flow was increased by adjusting the rotameters and the pressure drop associated with the given flow rate was recorded at different increments. At each increase or decrease of flow. Special attention was paid to the data taken up to the point when the column became fluidized. and more than half of the particles had a diameter of about 0. We filled the 5.11 inches. the flow was decreased and more incremental readings were taken. After a maximum flow rate. This procedure was repeated for the W2 and W3 rotameters in both sized columns and with both packing materials. Ip and Shell (1999) used a sieve analysis and found that the diameter of the particles formed a bell shaped curve. filled the column with water.Chan. Guo. 5 . With the preliminary tasks completed. and allowed it to settle. we could begin to collect data.

25" Colum n 300 Ergun Average 250 Test Results Average 200 150 100 50 0 0 -50 V el o ci t y ( f t / hr ) 200 400 600 800 Observed fluidization Figure 1. velocity for pea gravel in 3.25” column with ascending flow. velocity for pea gravel in 5.25" Colum n 120 Ergun Average 100 Test Result s Average 80 60 40 Figure 3. Both sets of data drop off after they pass the fluidization point. while the gravel in the wider column displays greater deviation. Pressure drop vs. Observed fluidization The graphs of the pea gravel in the thinner column lie close to the prediction line. while the predicted Ergun values continue upward.25” column with ascending flow. There is significant deviation from the predicted values. velocity for marbles in 3.25" Colum n 300 250 200 1 50 1 00 50 0 0 200 400 V e lo c it y ( f t / hr) 600 800 -50 Ergun Average Test Reult s Average Pea Gravel: 5. 20 0 0 -20 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 Observed Column fluidization V e lo c it y ( f t / hr) 6 . Marbles: 3. Pea Gravel: 3. Pressure drop vs. There is significant deviation from the Ergun equation. Figure 2. Note the relationship of our data to the Ergun equation at the flow rates below.25” column with ascending flow.Results: Our experimental data yields curves similar to those predicted by the Ergun equation at lower flow rates. Pressure drop vs. The data is similar to the predicted values until the fluidization point. Data sets for marbles in both columns are shown below in figures 3 and 4.

then the Ergun values lower towards our test results.25”column with compressed bed. velocity for pea gravel in 3.25” column. We varied the void fraction and the diameter (Figures 6 and 7) and compared our test results to these varied Ergun values. the data still falls significantly short of the predicted values and is depicted in the Figure 5. 500 1 000 1 500 Velocity (ft/hr) Figure 5. we tried compressing pea gravel in the 3. 7 . Com pacted vs Uncom pacted Pea Gravel in 3. Pressure drop vs. The data lies close to the Ergun equation. velocity for marbles in 5. The fluidization point for this column is near v = 1500 ft/hr. We expected data to fit Ergun equation much more closely than previous trials.25" Colum n 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 0 -5 200 400 600 800 1000 Ergun Average Test Results Average Figure 4. Although pressure difference continues to increase even above where the fluidization point had been. Pressure drop vs.25" Colum n 800 700 -10 Compacted Bed Ergun Equation Uncompacte d Bed V e lo c it y ( f t / hr) Pressure Drop (lbf/ft^3) 600 500 400 300 200 1 00 0 0 Since the Ergun equation was developed using compressed beds.25” column with ascending flow. As Figure 7 shows. if we increase the assumed diameter of the pea gravel.Marbles: 5. Figure 8 shows that increasing the assumed void fraction also lowers the Ergun values towards the test results.

00 100. velocity for pea gravel in 3.00 300.00 700.00 500.00 Velocity (ft/hr) 500.00 120.00 0.00 50.00 200.25" Alternating Diameter 140.W2-Pea Gravel-3.00 600.00 Ergun Average Test Reults Average min void fraction middle void fraction max void fraction delta P/L (lbf/ft^3) 400.00 400.00 100. velocity for pea gravel in 3.00 400.00 300.00 Ergun Average Test Results Average Ergun with min diameter Ergun middle diameter Ergun max diameter DeltaP/L (lbf/ft^3) 80.00 100.00 200.00 350. We expected data to fit Ergun equation much more closely than as we increased the effective diameter W3-Pea Gravel-3.00 Velocity (ft/hr) 250.00 800.00 60.00 20.00 Observed fluidization 0.00 0.00 600.25" Alternating Void Fraction 700.00 300.00 Observed fluidization Figure 7.00 100.00 0.25”column with alternating effective diameter.25”column with alternating effective diameter.00 200. We expected data to fit Ergun equation much more closely than as we increased the effective diameter 8 .00 40. Pressure drop/ length vs.00 150. Pressure drop/ length vs.00 Figure 6.

25" Pea Gravel 3. The figure Below (Figure 8) show both Ergun equations (the marble and the pea gravel) and the data for both columns. comparing the ascending flow rates to the descending flow rates. Delta P/L vs Velocity Marbles and Pea Gravel 300.25" Marbles 5.00 500.00 0.25" 100.00 50.25" Pea Gravel 5.00 Figure 9.00 Observed Marble Fluidization Observed pea gravel fluidization 0.00 0. and they also show the relationship of both of these curves to the Ergun Equation.00 Ve locity (ft/hr) Figure 8: Shows the relationship between the pressure drops of ascending and descending flow rates.00 Ergun Equat ion A scending Flow Descending Flow Observed fluidization during ascending flow 200. for both columns. All averaged data.00 400.00 Delta P/L (lbm/ft^3) 70. Figure 8 shows the results of one of these runs.00 90.00 Velocity (ft/hr) 1500.00 Delta P/L (lbm/ft^3) 150.00 60.00 40.00 800.00 80.00 Ergun for Marbles Ergun Pea Gravel Marbles 3.00 50. and includes both Ergun Equations 9 .00 20.25" 1 00.00 250.00 1000.When taking our data. both packing materials.00 0. we measured pressure drop versus flow rate for both increasing and decreasing flow rates. Pea Gravel: 3.00 600.00 1 0.00 2000.00 200.00 2500. This data is also inclusive off all of the flow rates.00 30.

the pressure built up between particles is released. therefore fluidization usually occurred. Most of our experiments did not constrain the volume the packing was allowed to take.5 inches. This is because once the particles expand.00 10. and this was not true for our experiments. W2: Pea Gravel in 3. Pressure drop vs. The data first follows the Ergun relationship trend.00 150.00 0.00 250.00 100. This equation is based upon experimental data for a packed bed where the height of the packing material was not allowed to change. our packed beds were free to expand within the column to different heights. As noted earlier.00 20. The Ergun equation is also based on experiments with small particles (having an upper limit of 0.00 30. Note in Figure 10 that after the point of fluidization. Some other reasons for the differences may lie in the basis of the Ergun equation itself.Discussion: We expect the data to follow the Ergun averaged values for a packed bed.00 P D Figure 10. which as mentioned before. In general. our data did not perfectly follow the Ergun equation. Also.00 5.00 15.25” column with ascending flow use as a sample.25" Column 35. the data was varied compared to the position of the Ergun values. the pressure drop falls off and then levels off (see Figure 10). the pressure suddenly drops. up to the point of fluidization the data followed the trend of the Ergun equation as expected. peaks at the point of fluidization.5 inches) and the marbles used in our experiments had a diameter of 0. but that is to be expected since the equation is a model that was derived from experimental data. After the pressure drop peaks at the point of fluidization. then levels off Data levels off Point of fluidization Test Results Average Data follows Ergun trend Velocity (ft/hr) However.00 25. velocity for pea gravel in 3.00 300.00 400. a column where the packing materials are compressed down and are not allowed to fluidize. Notice the different parts of the sample graph.00 0.00 200.00 350.00 50. 10 .

0. There are many other factors that may affect the relationship of our data to the expected Ergun values. If the marbles did in fact stay in place then the void fraction would be constant. to our surprise we found that when we measured the pressure drop in the larger column packed with marbles. the data fell almost exactly on to the predicted Ergun model. Void fraction and particle diameter are two factors which have a large effect on the Ergun equation. We also noticed that the height of bed stayed the same. The error may be integrated in our assumptions of ‘constants’ such as sphericity.3. However. as expected. but were not known as well for the pea gravel. we came up with a few reasons why this set of data (which we expected to deviate the farthest from the Ergun equation) matched the Ergun equation so well. have a small dependence on temperature. judging from our other marble data. which would help keep our data around the Ergun equation. such as fluid density and viscosity. where the studied multiple ways of calculating the average particle diameter for pea gravel. 11 . significantly deviated from the Ergun equation. we noticed that our data. These are two factors which were reasonably well known for the marbles.007 feet (min) and . The first interesting thing we noticed was the fact that the marbles did not seem to shift at all while the flow rate was increased.35 and 0. we can consider these values to be constant. The diameter we used in our results was taken from a previous semesters report. the marbles seemed to remain in their initial configuration. There was quite a bit of difference in the end result of the Ergun equation with each of these different diameters. In figure 6 we plotted our experimental data versus the Ergun equation as the diameter changes. or fluid viscosity. The velocity in this column also never got to the point where it should have been fluidized.01 feet (max). Since the temperature of our experiment was essentially constant. fluid density.When we measured the pressure drop of marbles in the smaller column. unlike the other beds which all expanded as they approached fluidization. Some of these constants. We tested void fractions of 0.38. void fraction. and these curves were compared to the Ergun equation curve with our calculated void fraction of 0. After looking over our initial measurements and the observations we made. We made similar plots of our data versus the Ergun equation for various void fractions. The diameter values we used ranged from . particle diameter.4.

We noticed that the characteristic “fluidization peak” was not present in the decreasing flow rate data. and then the flow rate was increased as measurements were taken. and did not have to overcome and pressure which had been built up. When the column was first packed. We speculated that this was a result of the way the material settled in the column. This peak was not witnessed in the decreasing data because when decreasing the flow rate.When taking our data. we first had to pass through the area of fluidization. Then as the flow dropped the packing just settled. We noticed some interesting trends in the pressure drops when comparing the increasing flow rate data to the decreasing flow rate data. the pressure built up behind the tightly packed particles. a peak was witnessed in the Delta P/L graphs. it was fairly constant at high flow rates. 12 . and then dropped off as the flow rate decreased. hence visually fluidizing the whole column. and when this pressure was over come at fluidization. we used both increasing and decreasing flow rates.

25 in and 5. 3. column diameter. the Ergun equation predicted the data from the 5.Conclusions: The objective of this experiment was to measure the pressure drop with the variation of packing materials. however. it accurately provided an expectation for where the data would lie. using 2 rotameters. and restricting bed height.25 inch column. For the marbles. These parameters included void fraction. and flow rate.25 in. In addition we wanted to compare our data to the Ergun equation.25 inch column but failed to predict the data trend for the 3. We also observed how changing parameters of the experiment can affect data and models such as the Ergun equation. 13 . We found that for all four of the tests where the pea gravel was used as the packing material. using pea gravel and marbles. W2 and W3. packing diameter. the Ergun equation modeled the data fairly well.

and marbles of different diameter to name a few. By looking at a variety of materials. For example.Future Consideration: Designing a rigid device to fix the height of the packing during the trials could be advantageous to future experimentation. We would also have liked to try an array of packing materials. We could run experiments at higher flow rates while keeping the packing from expanding and preventing fluidization. 14 . we did not know exactly how accurate the sphericity value for pea gravel we chose was. It would be interesting to vary sphericity. It would also be interesting to vary more equation parameters. and compare them to more data. Rashig rings. void fraction and particle diameter to see how Ergun’s model would behave. It would be useful to find if Ergun’s equation applied. activated carbon. we could better understand which media correlates best or deviates most from Ergun’s model. or was even more accurate to this situation.

Nomenclature: D Dp Nre U g ∆P ε µ Φ ρ Inner Diameter (in) particle diameter (ft) Reynolds’s Number (unit less) superficial fluid velocity (ft/hr) gravity (ft /lbfs ) pressure drop (lbf/ft ) void fraction (unit less) fluid viscosity (lbm/fts) sphericity of the particle (unit less constant) density (lbm/ft ) 3 2 2 2 15 .

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