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Agitation and Mixing

In process industries many operations are dependent on

effective agitation and mixing of fluids.
Agitation refers to the induced motion of a material in
a specified way, usually in a circulatory pattern inside
some sort of container.
Mixing usually implies the blending of two or more
separate phases, such as a fluid and a powdered solid,
or two fluids, and causing them to be randomly
distributed through one another.
Mixing refers to any operation used to change a non-
uniform system into a uniform one (i.e., the random
distribution of two or more initially separated phases)
A single homogeneous material, such as a tankful of
cold water, can be agitated, but it can not be mixed until
some other material (such as a quantity of hot water or
some powdered solid) is added to it.
The term mixing is applied to a variety of operations,
differing widely in the degree of homogeneity of the
mixed material.
Consider, in one case, two gases that are brought
together and thoroughly blended and, in a second case
Sand, gravel, cement, and water tumbled in a rotary
drum for a long time.
In both cases the final product is said to be mixed.
For mixed gases- all have the same composition
For mixed concrete- differ widely in composition.
Purposes of Agitation
Blending of two miscible liquids, such as ethanol and water.

Dissolving solids in liquids, such as salt in water.

Dispersing a gas through the liquid in the form of small


Suspending of fine solid particles in a liquid, such as in the

catalytic hydrogenation of a liquid where solid catalyst
particles and hydrogen bubbles are dispersed in the liquid.

Agitation of the fluid to increase heat transfer between the

fluid and a jacket/heat coil in the vessel wall.
Equipment for agitation
Generally, liquids are agitated in a cylindrical vessel which can be closed
or open to the air. The vessel bottom is normally not flat but rounded to
eliminate sharp corners into which the fluid currents would not penetrate;
dished ends are most common.

The height of liquid is approximately equal to the tank diameter.

An impeller mounted on a shaft is driven by an electric motor. The

impeller creates a flow pattern in the system, causing the liquid to
circulate through the vessel and return eventually to the impeller.

Baffles are obstacles or barriers that are positioned parallel to the agitator
arm at the edge of a tank wall. Baffles are typically introduced to
prevent vortex formation and convert tangential (rotational) flow into
axial (vertical) flow.
Other attachments include inlet and outlet lines, coils, jackets (that
contains a fluid to provide necessary heat transfer), and wells for
Axial-flow impellers
These impellers have blades which make an angle of less than 90 to
the plane of rotation and promote axial top-to-bottom motion.
Fluid leaving the impeller is driven downwards until it is deflected
from the floor of the vessel
Then, it spreads out over the floor and flows up along the wall before
being drawn back to the impeller
Axial flow impellers are used at high speeds to promote rapid
dispersion and are used at low speeds for keeping solids in
suspension. It is also used for agitation in tanks smaller than 1000 gal.
or <6 ft diameter, when <3 hp. is enough for the desired process
Radial-flow impellers

These impellers have blades which are parallel to the vertical axis of
the stirrer shaft and tank
Liquid is driven radially from the impeller against the walls of the
tank where it divides into two streams, one flowing up to the top of
the tank and the other flowing down to the bottom
These streams eventually reach the central axis of the tank and are
draw back to the impeller
Radial flow impellers also set up circular flow which must be
reduced by baffles
Three or four bladed, axial flow high speed impeller, for liquids
of low viscosity
It may be mounted centrally, off-center or at an angle to the tank.
The diameter of propeller is usually between 15 to 30% of the
diameter of tank.
A propeller is shaped with a tapering blade to minimize the effect
of centrifugal force and produce maximum axial flow.
Propeller drives the liquid straight down to the bottom of a tank,
at the bottom the stream spreads radially in all directions towards
wall, then the liquid flows upward along the wall, and finally
returns to the suction of impeller from the shaft.
The currents in these turbines may be radial and
tangential (increasing velocity cause increase in the radial
Blades may be straight, or curved, pitched or vertical.
Turbine Mixer
Revolution 20 -120 (r.p.m)
Two-bladed and four-bladed paddles are common.
Sometimes the blades are pitched; more often they are
The current are tangential and radial, there is no axial
In deep tanks several paddles are mounted one above
the other on the same shaft.
It is suitable for mixing thin liquids having viscosity of
about 1000 centi-poises
They are ineffective in suspending heavy solids because
of absence of axial flow.
Paddle Mixer
Close-Clearance Impellers
Close-clearance impellers are primarily
used with high-viscosity fluids in unbaffled
Close-clearance impellers scrape fluid off
the tank wall and off the impeller.
They generate a complex flow pattern and
have a pumping action similar to that of a
displacement pump.
Close-Clearance Impellers
Common close-clearance impeller types
helical ribbons
Vortex Formation
Poor mixing between adjacent layers because the
impeller and fluid are moving at nearly the same angular
Air can be easily entrained into the liquid because the
liquid level at the center can fall below the top of the
Formation of vortex raises liquid level at the top edge
of the tank significantly, which may cause spillage.
To prevent swirling or vortexing, the propeller is often
(a) offset from the centre of the tank
(b) tilted at an angle, or
(c) mounted horizontally on the side of the tank.

Offset Tilted Horizontal

A draft tube is a cylindrical housing around and slightly larger in
diameter than the impeller. Its height may be little more than the
diameter of the impeller or it may extend the full depth of the liquid,
depending on the flow pattern that is required. Draft tube allows a
special or top to-bottom fixed flow pattern to be set up in the fluid
Unbaffled Tanks
If a low viscosity liquid is stirred in an unbaffled tank by
a centrally mounted agitator, there is a tendency for a
swirling flow pattern to develop, for the lighter fluid
(usually air) to be drawn in to form a vortex at the surface
of the liquid and for the degree of agitation and mixing to
be reduced.
The above said phenomenon takes place in unbaffled
tanks regardless of the type of impeller.
A typical flow pattern in an unbaffled tank for either axial
or radial flow impeller is shown in the figure.
In the vortexing low viscosity liquid, the vertical
velocities are low relative to the circumferential velocities
in vessel.
In the vortexing, the surface of the liquid takes roughly
U-shape and efficient mixing no longer takes place.
A vortex is produced owing to centrifugal force on a
rotating liquid.
Fig. Unbaffled tank and vortex formation
Baffled Tanks
Use of baffles in a vertical vessel is essential for the
efficient mixing action and minimization of vortex
Baffles are flat vertical strips and mounted against the
wall of a vessel as shown in the figure.
It is common practice to use four baffles.
They are mounted vertically on the vessel wall,
projecting radially from the wall and located 900 apart.
The width of the baffle should be one-tenth to one-twelfth
of the tank/vessel diameter.
The baffle height should be at least twice the diameter of
the impeller and approximately centered on the impeller.
In agitation of slurries, the accumulation of solids near
the walls or baffles has to be avoided. It can be prevented
by placing the baffles at a distance that is half their width,
from the vessel wall.
The flow patterns as shown in the following figure are
quite different, but in both the cases of baffles result in
Large top to bottom circulation without vortexing.
For large diameter vessels (6 meters and above), six
baffles may be used for high viscosity liquids.
Ribbon Blenders

A ribbon blender consists of a horizontal trough

incorporating a central shaft and a helical agitator.
A typical ribbon blender is shown in the figure.
In this mixer, two counteracting ribbons are mounted
on the same shaft.
One of the ribbons moves solids slowly in one direction
while the other one moves solids quickly in other
The ribbons may be continuous or interrupted.
Mixing takes place due to the turbulence induced by
counteracting ribbons, not by mere motion of the solids
through the trough.
Ribbon blenders are used for batch or continuous
In batch operated ribbon blenders, the solids are
charged and mix until satisfactory and discharged from
the bottom.
In continuously operated units, the solids are fed from
one end of the trough and discharged from the other end.
In the path from feed to discharge end, solids are
For light duty, the trough is open or lightly covered;
while the operation under pressure or vacuum the trough
is closed and heavy-walled.
Ribbon blenders are very effective for thin pastes and
for powders that do not flow readily.
Tumbling Mixers/Tumblers

Many materials are mixed by tumbling them in a partly

filled container that rotates about a horizontal axis.
Tumbling mixers such as double cone mixer and twin
shell blender, as shown in the figure are suitable for free
flowing dry powders.
Double cone mixer consists of a container made of two
cones, base to base with or without a cylindrical section in
The mixer is mounted so that it can be rotated about an
axis perpendicular to the line joining the points of the
The material to be mixed is charged to the mixer from
the above until it is 50 to 60% full.
The ends of the container are closed and the solids are
tumbled for a period of about 5 to 20 min.
Finally, mixed material is dropped out from the bottom
of the container into a conveyor or bin.
The twin shell blender as shown in the figure is formed
out of two short cylinders.
These cylinders are joined to form a V- shaped container
(their axes are about 900 to each other) and rotated about a
horizontal axis.
It may contain internal sprays to introduce small amounts
of liquid into the mix or mechanically driven devices to
brake agglomerates of solids.
Tumbling mixers are capable of handling volumes, easily
cleaned, and draw a little less power than ribbon blenders.
Power requirement for agitation
In the design of an agitated vessel, an important factor
is the power required to drive the impeller.
The presence or absence of turbulence can be
correlated with the impeller Reynolds number NRe,i,
defined as,
Da = impeller (agitator) diameter (m)
Da ( NDa ) N = rotational speed (rev/s)
N Re,i = fluid density (kg/m3)

= fluid viscosity (kg/m.s)

ND 2 N Re,i 10 La min ar
N Re,i a
N Re,i 10 4 Turbulent

10 N Re,i 10 4 Transition
Laminar regime corresponds to Re<10 for many impellers
such as anchor and helical ribbon, which laminar flow
persist until Re = 100 or greater.
Np for turbines is significantly higher than for most other
impellers, indicating turbine transmit more power to the
fluid than other design.
Usually a gradual transition from laminar to fully developed
turbulent flow in stirred tanks.
Power consumption is related to fluid density , fluid
viscosity , rotational speed N and impeller diameter Da
by plots of power number Np versus N Re
The power number is defined as:
N (SI)
N 3 Da5

Pgc (English)
N Da
3 5

Where P = power (J/s) or (W). In English units, P =

The figure shows the power correlations for various
impellers and baffles
Figure a. Power correlations for various impellers and baffles
(Geankoplis, 4th ed.)
Curve 1. Flat six-blade turbine with disk ; D/W = 5; four
baffles each D/J = 12.
Curve 2. Flat six-blade open turbine ; Da/W
= 8;four baffles each D/J = 12.
Curve 3. Six-blade open turbine (pitched-blade) but blades at
450 ; Da/W = 8; four baffles each
Dt /J = 12.
Curve 4. Propeller ; pitch 2D four baffles
each Dt /J = 10; also holds for same propeller in
angular off-center position with no baffles.
Curve 5. Propeller; pitch = Da four baffles each Dt /J = 10;
also holds for same propeller in angular off-center
position with no baffles.
Curve 6. High-efficiency impeller ; four
baffles each Dt /J = 12.
Power number describes ability of impeller to transport
mechanical power with specific rotational speed to fluid.
The greater the power number is more power can be
transported to the fluid and agitation is more efficient.

Froude number is significant, when surface of the fluid is

not even that will say when waves occur or when there is
vortex in the agitator.
Problem 1

A flat blade turbine agitator with disk having six blades is installed
in a tank . The tank diameter Dt is 1.83 m, the turbine diameter Da
is 0.61 m, Dt = H, and the width W is 0.122 m. The tank contains
four baffles, each having a width J of 0.15 m. The turbine is
operated at 90 rpm and the liquid in the tank has a velocity of 10
cp and a density of 929 kg/m3.
a) Calculate the required kW of the mixer.
b) For the same conditions, except for the solution having a
viscosity of 100,000 cp, calculate the required kW.
For part (a) the following data are given:
Da 0.61 m W 0.122 m Dt 1.83 m J 0.15 m
90 kg
N 1.50 rev/s (10 cp)(1 x 10-3 ) 0.01 Pa.s
60 m.s
929 kg/m 3
The Reynolds number is:
Da2 N (0.61) 2 (1.50)(929)
N '
5.187 104

Using Curve 1 in Figure a, since
Da / W 5 and Dt / J 12, N p 5 for NRe
5.187 104

Solving for P in power number eq. and substituting known values

P N p N 3 Da5 (5)(929)(1.50)3 (0.61)5
P 1324 J/s 1.324 kW (1.77 hp)
For part (b)
100,000(1 x 10-3 ) 100
Da2 N (0.61) 2 (1.50)(929)
N Re 5.185

This is the laminar flow region. From Figure a, Np = 14.

P N p N 3 Da5 (14)(929)(1.50)3 (0.61)5

P 3707 J/s 3.71 kW (4.98 hp)

Hence, a 10,000-fold increase in viscosity only increases the

power from 1.324 to 3.71 kW.
The power consumed by an agitator depends on its
dimensions and the physical properties of the fluids being
mixed (i.e., density and viscosity).
Since there is a possibility of a gas-liquid surface being
distorted, as in the formation of a vortex, gravity forces
must also be considered.
Consider a stirred tank vessel having a Newtonian liquid of
density and viscosity is agitated by an impeller of
diameter DA, rotating at a rotational speed N.
Let the tank diameter be DT, the impeller width W, and the
liquid depth H. The power P required for agitation of a
single-phase liquid can be expressed as:
P = f(a, b, Nc, gd, DeA, DfT, Wg, Hh)

There are nine variables and three primary dimensions.

Employing dimensional analysis, Equation 1 in terms of
the three basic dimensions (mass M, length L, and time T)
Power = ML2T3
Substitution of the dimensions into Equation 1 gives,
ML2T3 = f{(ML3)a, (ML1T1)b, Tc, (LT2)d, Le, Lf, Lg,