Design limitations undermine the efficiency of rotating packed bed (RPB) reactors widely used in chemical and fuels manufacturing. The circular design of these systems, which use high centrifugal forces to accelerate chemical reactions between constituents, does not evenly distribute liquid chemicals and can lead to dry spots reduce the efficiency of the chemical reactions in the reactor. Between 70% and 80% of the mass transfer takes place during liquid chemical spraying, and not in the packing as would be preferred.

An improved reactor design engineered by a Ph.D. student at Eindhoven University of Technology, the Netherlands, features liquid-filled rings in the packing to ensure that liquid streams entering the reactor fall first on the packing and are then redistributed throughout the system. Elimination of a nozzle for spraying the packing means that the rotors can be stacked in the new rotating liquid redistributor reactor, which allows for a greater intensification of the process and boosts efficiency.

The rotating liquid distributor with integrated heat exchange tubes. Source: J.A. Hacking/ Eindhoven University of TechnologyThe rotating liquid distributor with integrated heat exchange tubes. Source: J.A. Hacking/ Eindhoven University of Technology

In contrast to conventional RPB reactor designs, the rotating liquid redistributor offers the ability to transfer heat in the packing thanks to the combination of rings inside the packing and the addition of an external heat exchanger. With additional improvements, such as supporting a higher liquid throughput by increasing throughflow capabilities or enhancing distribution of the liquid by decreasing the open area of the redistribution rings, the reactor can serve as an alternative to traditional RPB reactors.

To contact the author of this article, email shimmelstein@globalspec.com