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Bubble column reactors

Basic set up

• Structured catalytic bubble columns are new, very

promising types of multiphase reactors.
• Their configuration lies basically between slurry reactors
and trickle bed reactors.
• The solid phase, consisting of catalyst particles, is
enclosed in fixed wire gauze wraps, which are mounted
along the height of the column.
• The gas phase is dispersed into the liquid phase and it
flows in the empty passages between adjacent
• The liquid phase may be operated in a batch manner or
it may also circulate in co-current or counter-current
manner to the gas flow.
The main advantages
• no problems for separating catalyst from
the liquid;
• improved conversion and selectivity due to
staging of the liquid phase;
• no scale up problems because the
hydrodynamics is dictated by the size of
the open channels of the catalytic
The main advantages over trickle

• lower pressure-drop even with 1 mm size

• excellent radial dispersion
• possibility of counter-current operation
without flooding.
• Bubble column reactors are widely used as gas-
liquid and gas-liquid-solid contactors in many
chemical, petrochemical and biochemical
industries, such as absorption, oxidation,
hydrogenation, catalytic slurry reaction, coal
liquefaction, aerobic fermentation.
• The operation of these reactors is preferred
because of their simple construction, ease of
maintenance and low operating costs.
Characteristic structured parameters DT = 0.1 m DT = 0.24 m

Number of packing sections used in the column, N/ [-] 9 6

Length of one packed element / [m] 0.2 0.288

Diameter of one packed element / [m] 0.0935 0.24

Hydraulic diameter of the open channels, dh / [m] 0.007 0.020

Inclination of corrugated sheets from vertical 45o 45o

Solids hold up in the structured packed section, epsS / [-] 0.205 0.198

Void fraction within "packed channels" / [-] 0.454 0.505

Volume fraction of "packed channels" in the reactor, epsPC / [-] 0.375 0.400

Specific surface for the gas flow (assuming the space between the glass spheres is 354.4 122.3
completely filled with liquid), As / [m-1 ]

Entrance length, He / [m] 0.07 0.15

Height of the structured packed section, Hp / [m] 1.8 1.68

Dispersion height, Hd / [m] 1.68 1.60

Height between the pressure taps in the bubble column section, dH / [m] 0.9 1.21

Distributor hole diameter, d0 / [m] 0.0005 0.0005

Number of distributor holes 253 1457

Modelling of bubble column
• Modelling is classified according to the
degree of mixing
• Perfect mixing CSTR
• Partial mixing
• No mixing PFR

• The mixing in the liquid phase is more

intense than with the gas phase due to the
turbulent motion induced by the gas

Design parameters
• Gas-liquid specific interfacial area, a.
• Individual mass transfer coefficient kla
• Flow regime
• Bubble size distribution
• Coalescence of bubbles
• the volumetric
• mass transfer coefficient, kLa, which depends fundamentally on
the superficial gas velocity and on the physical properties of the
absorption phase.
• For fluids in motion the total pressure (also named impact pressure)
exercised in a plane perpendicular to the direction of movement is given by
the sum of static pressure and dynamic pressure.
• According to Bernoulli’s law, for a single steady state incompressible flow, the
measured pressure difference is equal to:
• ΔP = ½ ρLu2.
• he instantaneous fluid velocity is given by the difference between the two
local instantaneous velocities at the two holes:
• ΔP = ½ ρL (uax 2 - uh 2 )
• In turbulent flow, the velocity in one point of the fluid changes in magnitude
and direction, oscillating around a mean value.
• the axial velocity component is given by the sum of the steady flow,
um and the fluctuating component u’
• Uax = Um +u’
• The horizontal velocity component can also be split up in two
components, the mean and the fluctuating terms:
• Uax = Uhm +u’’
1- the head hole facing upwards
2 – hole facing downwards
The mean axial velocity measured in one
position in the bubble column becomes:
• The measured liquid velocity is :
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