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Design and characterization of gas-liquid microreactors

Völkel, Norbert. Design and characterization of gas-liquid microreactors. PhD, Institut National Polytechnique de Toulouse, 2009

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Official URL: http://ethesis.inp-toulouse.fr/archive/00001061/

Abstract

The present project deals with the improvement of the design of gas-liquid microreactors. The term microreactor characterizes devices composed of channels that have dimensions in the several tens to several hundreds of microns. Due to their increased surface to volume ratios these devices are a promising way to control fast and highly exothermic reactions, often employed in the production of fine chemicals and pharmaceutical compounds. In the case of gas-liquid systems, these are for example direct fluorination, hydrogenation or oxidation reactions. Compared to conventional equipment microreactors offer the possibility to suppress hot spots and to operate hazardous reaction systems at increased reactant concentrations. Thereby selectivity may be increased and operating costs decreased. In this manner microreaction technology well fits in the challenges the chemical industry is continuously confronted to, which are amongst others the reduction of energy consumption and better feedstock utilization. The main topics which have to be considered with respect to the design of gasliquid μ-reactors are heat and mass transfer. In two phase systems both are strongly influenced by the nature of the flow and thus hydrodynamics play a central role. Consequently we focused our work on the hydrodynamics of the two-phase flow in microchannels and the description of the inter-linkage to gas-liquid mass transfer. In this context we were initially concerned with the topic of gas-liquid flow regimes and the main parameters prescribing flow pattern transitions. From a comparison of flow patterns with respect to their mass transfer capacity, as well as the flexibility offered with respect to operating conditions, the Taylor flow pattern appears to be the most promising flow characteristic for performing fast, highly exothermic and mass transfer limited reactions. This flow pattern is characterized by elongated bubbles surrounded by a liquid film and separated from each other by liquid slugs. In addition to the fact that this flow regime is accessible within a large range of gas and liquid flow rates, and has a relatively high specific interfacial area, Taylor flow features a recirculation motion within the liquid slugs, which is generally assumed to increase molecular transport between the gas-liquid interface and the bulk of the liquid phase. From a closer look on the local hydrodynamics of Taylor flow, including the fundamentals of bubble transport and the description of the recirculation flow within the liquid phase, it turned out that two-phase pressure drop and gas-liquid mass transfer are governed by the bubble velocity, bubble lengths and slug lengths. In the following step we have dealt with the prediction of these key hydrodynamic parameters. In this connection the first part of our experimental study was concerned with the investigation of the formation of bubbles and slugs and the characterization of the liquid phase velocity field in microchannels of rectangular cross-section. In addition we also addressed the phenomenon of film dewetting, which plays an important rôle concerning pressure drop and mass-transfer in Taylor flow. In the second part we focused on the prediction of gas-liquid mass transfer in Taylor flow. Measurements of the volumetric liquid side mass transfer coefficient (kLa-value) were conducted and the related two-phase flow was recorded. The measured bubble velocities, bubble lengths and slug lengths, as well as the findings previously obtained from the characterization of the velocity field were used to set-up a modified model for the prediction of kLa-values in μ-channels of rectangular cross-section. Describing the interaction of channel design hydrodynamics and mass transfer our work thus provides an important contribution towards the control of the operation of fast, highly exothermic and mass transfer limited gas-liquid reactions in microchannels. In addition it enabled us to identify gaps of knowledge, whose investigation should be items of further research.

Item Type:PhD Thesis
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Institution: Université de Toulouse > Institut National Polytechnique de Toulouse - INPT
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Research Director:
Xuereb, Catherine
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Deposited On:21 Nov 2012 13:06

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