Flow patterns and performance of distillation trays
It is known that distillation tray efficiency depends on the liquid flow pattern, particularly for large diameter trays. Scale·up failures due to liquid channelling have occurred, and it is known that fitting flow control devices to trays sometirr.es improves tray efficiency. Several theoretical models which explain these observations have been published. Further progress in understanding is at present blocked by lack of experimental measurements of the pattern of liquid concentration over the tray. Flow pattern effects are expected to be significant only on commercial size trays of a large diameter and the lack of data is a result of the costs, risks and difficulty of making these measurements on full scale production columns. This work presents a new experiment which simulates distillation by water cooling. and provides a means of testing commercial size trays in the laboratory. Hot water is fed on to the tray and cooled by air forced through the perforations. The analogy between heat and mass transfer shows that the water temperature at any point is analogous to liquid concentration and the enthalpy of the air is analogous to vapour concentration. The effect of the liquid flow pattern on mass transfer is revealed by the temperature field on the tray. The experiment was implemented and evaluated in a column of 1.2 m. dia. The water temperatures were measured by thennocouples interfaced to an electronic computerised data logging system. The "best surface" through the experimental temperature measurements was obtained by the mathematical technique of B. splines, and presented in tenos of lines of constant temperature. The results revealed that in general liquid channelling is more imponant in the bubbly "mixed" regime than in the spray regime. However, it was observed that severe channelling also occurred for intense spray at incipient flood conditions. This is an unexpected result. A computer program was written to calculate point efficiency as well as tray efficiency, and the results were compared with distillation efficiencies for similar loadings. The theoretical model of Porter and Lockett for predicting distillation was modified to predict water cooling and the theoretical predictions were shown to be similar to the experimental temperature profiles. A comparison of the repeatability of the experiments with an errors analysis revealed that accurate tray efficiency measurements require temperature measurements to better than ± 0.1 °c which is achievable with conventional techniques. This was not achieved in this work, and resulted in considerable scatter in the efficiency results. Nevertheless it is concluded that the new experiment is a valuable tool for investigating the effect of the liquid flow pattern on tray mass transfer.