Characterizing fluid dynamics in a bubble column aimed for the determination of reactive mass transfer


Bubble column reactors are multiphase reactors that are used in many process engineering applications. In these reactors a gas phase comes into contact with a fluid phase to initiate or support reactions. The transport process from the gas to the liquid phase is often the limiting factor. Characterizing this process is therefore essential for the optimization of multiphase reactors. For a better understanding of the transfer mechanisms and subsequent chemical reactions, a laboratory-scale bubble column reactor was investigated. First, to characterize the flow field in the reactor, two different methods have been applied. The shadowgraphy technique is used for the characterisation of the bubbles (bubble diameter, velocity, shape or position) for various process conditions. This technique is based on particle recognition with backlight illumination, combined with particle tracking velocimetry (PTV). The bubble trajectories in the column can also be obtained in this manner. Secondly, the liquid phase flow has been analysed by particle image velocimetry (PIV). The combination of both methods, delivering relevant information concerning disperse (bubbles) and continuous (liquid) phases, leads to a complete fluid dynamical characterization of the reactor, which is the pre-condition for the analysis of mass transfer between both phases.

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d e [mm]:

equivalent bubble diameter

d B [mm]:

equivalent mean bubble diameter

U B [m/s]:

absolute rising velocity of single bubbles

U B,mean [m/s]:

absolute, mean rising velocity of bubbles

f B [1/s]:

bubble formation frequency

V B [mm3]:

bubble mean volume

A B [mm2]:

bubble mean surface area

V L [m/s]:

mean liquid velocity

C B :

bubble centricity

Eo :

Eötvös number

Fr b :

Froude number around a bubble

Fr c :

Froude number in the column

Mo :

Morton number

Re b :

Reynolds number around a bubble

Re c :

Reynolds number in the column

We b :

Weber number around a bubble

We c :

Weber number in the column


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This work has been financially supported by the German research foundation (DFG) in the framework of the SPP 1740 “Reactive Bubbly Flows” under project number ZA-527/1-1.

The authors would also like to thank the students Niklas Brandt and Tim André Kulbeik for their help in doing the experiments. The help of C. Kisow and S. Herbst for building the bubble column is gratefully acknowledged.

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Correspondence to Péter Kováts.

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Kováts, P., Thévenin, D. & Zähringer, K. Characterizing fluid dynamics in a bubble column aimed for the determination of reactive mass transfer. Heat Mass Transfer 54, 453–461 (2018).

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  • Bubble column reactor
  • CO2
  • PIV
  • Shadowgraphy
  • Two-phase flow
  • Two-tracer-LIF