Characterization of structured packing via computational fluid dynamics
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CFD simulations were used to study single phase and multiphase flows through structured packing. Simulations utilizing a high fidelity, digital copy of a packing element were validated against experimental results for both single phase and multiphase flows. Single phase simulations were carried out on a variety of periodic packing elements to examine the impact of packing channel geometry on pressure drop. Multiphase simulations on periodic elements were used to examine the effect of hydrodynamic properties and boundary conditions. Single-phase simulations of nitrogen flow through the high fidelity geometry produced via X-ray CT scans showed average deviations less than 15% when compared to experimental measurements. This error was reduced to 7% when a mesh utilizing prism layers to accurately resolve the boundary layer was used. With a validated model for single phase flow, the application of CFD to packing design was investigated on periodic geometries with varied packing parameters (e.g. channel corrugation angle and channel side length). It was found that current industrial packings have channel geometries maximizing pressure drop, indicating some degree of optimization around channel geometry is possible depending on separation needs. Multiphase simulations using the Volume of Fluid model examined the effects of liquid density, viscosity, surface tension, and contact angle on small-scale packing geometries. Contact angle had the most pronounced influence on predicted wetting, and simulations demonstrated that using experimentally determined static contact angles was not an appropriate choice for the simulation contact angle. The predicted influence of surface tension qualitatively matched experimental data for wetted area. Liquid viscosity and density also demonstrated qualitative agreement with semi-empirical models derived from experimental data. Experimental data collected via absorption of CO2 into 0.1 mol/L NaOH were compared to simulation predictions using a geometry generated via X-ray CT scans. Wetted area predictions matched experimental data best when a fully wetting static contact angle (0°) was used, yielding simulated results 3.4% lower than experimental data on average. Irrigated pressure drop and holdup predictions were significantly higher than experimental data.