Transport processes in bubble column reactors
Bubble columns are the working horses of the chemical, petrochemical and pharmaceutical industry with large environmental footprints. A proper optimization of such reactors can contribute to gross savings in energy consumption and catalyst materials and to reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.
The understanding and optimization of the multiphase flow in bubble column reactors is known to be a very intricate problem, which requires analysis of fluid dynamics and mass transfer. Bubble columns involve characteristic swarms with complex interactions, clustering and coherent structures. The instantaneous flow patterns consist of large circulation cells and small eddies of various energy spectra.
Although bubble columns are simple in construction, the understanding of flow pattern formation and characteristic swarming is still an important hurdle to predictively relate reactor parameters and performance objectives. Moreover, the experimental characterization of gas-liquid patterns, bubble swarm dynamics and interactions within the collective, e.g. bubble coalescence and breakage, is still challenging and requires new approaches and advanced measurement techniques. This is even more challenging for columns with internals (heat exchangers), catalyst particle-laden liquids (slurry bubble columns) and reactive systems.
The current research activities include: