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Frontiers of Chemical Science and Engineering >> 2011, Volume 5, Issue 2 doi: 10.1007/s11705-009-0267-5

Simulation of bubble column reactors using CFD coupled with a population balance model

Beijing Key Laboratory of Green Reaction Engineering and Technology, Department of Chemical Engineering, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China

Available online:2011-06-05

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Bubble columns are widely used in chemical and biochemical processes due to their excellent mass and heat transfer characteristics and simple construction. However, their fundamental hydrodynamic behaviors, which are essential for reactor scale-up and design, are still not fully understood. To develop design tools for engineering purposes, much research has been carried out in the area of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling and simulation of gas-liquid flows. Due to the importance of the bubble behavior, the bubble size distribution must be considered in the CFD models. The population balance model (PBM) is an effective approach to predict the bubble size distribution, and great efforts have been made in recent years to couple the PBM into CFD simulations. This article gives a selective review of the modeling and simulation of bubble column reactors using CFD coupled with PBM. Bubble breakup and coalescence models due to different mechanisms are discussed. It is shown that the CFD-PBM coupled model with proper bubble breakup and coalescence models and interphase force formulations has the ability of predicting the complex hydrodynamics in different flow regimes and, thus, provides a unified description of both the homogeneous and heterogeneous regimes. Further study is needed to improve the models of bubble coalescence and breakup, turbulence modification in high gas holdup, and interphase forces of bubble swarms.

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