- Wetting of Structured Packing Elements - CFD and Experiment (2006)
- Wetting of a solid surface with liquids is an important parameter in the chemical engineering process such as distillation, absorption and desorption. The degree of wetting in packed columns mainly contributes in the generating of the effective interfacial area and then enhancing of the heat and mass transfer process. In this work the wetting of solid surfaces was studied in real experimental work and virtually through three dimensional CFD simulations using the multiphase flow VOF model implemented in the commercial software FLUENT. That can be used to simulate the stratified flows . The liquid rivulet flow which is a special case of the film flow and mostly found in packed columns has been discussed. Wetting of a solid flat and wavy metal plate with rivulet liquid flow was simulated and experimentally validated. The local rivulet thickness was measured using an optically assisted mechanical sensor using a needle which is moved perpendicular to the plate surface with a step motor and in the other two directions using two micrometers. The measured and simulated rivulet profiles were compared to some selected theoretical models founded in the literature such as Duffy & Muffatt , Towell & Rothfeld  and Al-Khalil et al. . The velocity field in a cross section of a rivulet flow and the non-dimensional maximum and mean velocity values for the vertical flat plate was also compared with models from Al-Khalil et al.  and Allen & Biggin . Few CFD simulations for the wavy plate case were compared to the experimental findings, and the Towel model for a flat plate . In the second stage of this work 3-D CFD simulations and experimental study has been performed for wetting of a structured packing element and packing sheet consisting of three elements from the type Rombopak 4M, which is a product of the company Kuhni, Switzerland. The hydrodynamics parameters of a packed column, e. i. the degree of wetting, the interfacial area and liquid hold-up have been depicted from the CFD simulations for different liquid systems and liquid loads. Flow patterns on the degree of wetting have been compared to that of the experiments, where the experimental values for the degree of wetting were estimated from the snap shooting of the flow on the packing sheet in a test rig. A new model to describe the hydrodynamics of packed columns equipped with Rombopak 4M was derived with help of the CFD–simulation results. The model predicts the degree of wetting, the specific or interfacial area and liquid hold-up at different flow conditions. This model was compared to Billet & Schultes , the SRP model Rocha et al. [7-9], to Shi & Mersmann  and others. Since the pressure drop is one of the most important parameter in packed columns especially for vacuum operating columns, few CFD simulations were performed to estimate the dry pressure drop in a structured and flat packing element and were compared to the experimental results. It was found a good agreement from one side, between the experimental and the CFD simulation results, and from the other side between the simulations and theoretical models for the rivulet flow on an inclined plate. The flow patterns and liquid spreading behaviour on the packing element agrees well with the experimental results. The VOF (Volume of Fluid) was found very sensitive to different liquid properties and can be used in optimization of the packing geometries and revealing critical details of wetting and film flow. An extension of this work to perform CFD simulations for the flow inside a block of the packing to get a detailed picture about the interaction between the liquid and packing surfaces is recommended as further perspective.