Spray drier simulation and air flow pattern studies
The literature pertaining to the key stages of spray drying has been reviewed in the context of the mathematical modelling of drier performance. A critical review is also presented of previous spray drying models. A new mathematical model has been developed for prediction of spray drier performance. This is applicable to slurries of rigid, porous crust-forming materials to predict trajectories and drying profiles for droplets with a distribution of sizes sprayed from a centrifugal pressure nozzle. The model has been validated by comparing model predictions to experimental data from a pilot-scale counter-current drier and from a full-scale co-current drier. For the latter, the computed product moisture content was within 2%, and the computed air exit temperature within 10oC of experimental data. Air flow patterns have been investigated in a 1.2m diameter transparent countercurrent spray tower by flow visualisation. Smoke was introduced into various zones within the tower to trace the direction, and gauge the intensity, of the air flow. By means of a set of variable-angle air inlet nozzles, a variety of air entry configurations was investigated. The existence of a core of high rotational and axial velocity channelling up the axis of the tower was confirmed. The stability of flow within the core was found to be strongly dependent upon the air entry arrangement. A probe was developed for the measurement of air temperature and humidity profiles. This was employed for studying evaporation of pure water drops in a 1.2m diameter pilot-scale counter-current drier. A rapid approach to the exit air properties was detected within a 1m distance from the air entry ports. Measured radial profiles were found to be virtually flat but, from the axial profiles, the existence of plug-flow, well-mixed-flow and some degree of air short-circuiting can be inferred. The model and conclusions should assist in the improved design and optimum operation of industrial spray driers.