Efficient thermal separation processes
Thermal separation processes such as rectification, distillation, absorption, desorption and extraction are central unit operations in chemical process industries. The vapor-liquid separation processes are very energy-intensive, since they involve multiple sequences of evaporation and condensation. Approximately 3 % of the world’s energy is consumed by thermal separation processes, while 40 % of the energy in process industries itself is used by distillation and rectification processes. Since the energy consumption scales linearly with the column capacity, it can reach up to 10 to 100 MW for industrial separation processes.
The energy- and resource-intensive thermal separation processes demand innovative optimization approaches to intensify the contact between involved fluidic phases, such as enhancement of turbulence in each phase as well as increase in interfacial area, to favor mass and heat transfer processes. Besides, effective vapor-liquid separation is crucial for reduction of auxiliary equipments needed to compensate for process design uncertainties. Any carry-over of droplets in the vapor phase (called entrainment) should be eliminated, as far as possible, to achieve the desired product specifications.
Experimental and theoretical investigations concerning fundamental transport phenomena on separation internals are essential for better understanding of thermal fluid separation. For example, column trays are subjected to fluid dynamics analyses for improved design and operation.
The ongoing research on separation processes comprises of following investigations: