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LiquidLiquid Mixing in Coiled Flow Inverter


Monisha Mridha Mandal, Palka Aggarwal, and K. D. P. Nigam*
Department of Chemical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, Hauz Khas, New Delhi 110 016, India
ABSTRACT: The mixing of liquids is a common operation in process industries such as reneries and chemical and pharmaceutical
industries, etc. However, the problem of mixing of dierent liquids has not been rigorously characterized. Therefore, the objective of
this paper is to investigate liquidliquid mixing in a novel coiled ow inverter (CFI). The device works on the principle of ow
inversion which is achieved by bending a coiled tube to 90 at equidistant length. In the present study, velocity eld and scalar
concentration distribution of liquids were characterized. The mixing performances and pressure drop in CFI was investigated and
compared with that of a straight, coiled tube and helical element mixer (HEM) for a liquid ow range of 98 e Re e 1020. CFI
exhibits signicant mixing of two liquids with negligible change in pressure drop as compared to a coiled tube as well as a HEM. The
present study reveals that CFI is an ecient device for the mixing of two liquids in process industries.

1. INTRODUCTION
Mixing in the laminar ow regime is mainly driven by
molecular diusion. Liquid-phase mixing generally inuences
the heat and mass transfer rates and reactant conversion in any
reactor. However, a careful analysis of the data reported in
literature shows that very high uid ow rate is required in order
to induce signicant mixing in coiled tubes.1,2 It is not possible to
narrow the residence time distribution (RTD) beyond a certain
limit in coils with xed curvature ratio. Hence, in order to reduce
axial dispersion, many devices such as motionless mixers,39 ow
inverters,10 and chaotic congurations1114 have been reported
in the past. Static mixers have limitations for very viscous uids as
it can induce prohibitive pressure drop resulting in higher
pumping cost. To overcome this limitation a novel concept
was introduced to develop an economical and eective alternative named as the coiled ow inverter (CFI).1
The conguration of a CFI is a novel design, which works on
the principle of complete ow inversion. The geometrical conguration of a CFI consists of 90 bends at equal intervals of
length in coiled tube geometry. This device helps in intensifying
the convective transfer processes and provides enhanced transfer
area per unit volume of space. Its performance is substantially
closer to plug ow. A modied axial dispersion model has been
presented to describe the liquid-phase RTD in gasliquid ow
under the conditions of both negligible and signicant molecular
diusion in a CFI.2 It was observed that the axial dispersion was
reduced with an increase in liquid ow rate and number of bends.
The reduction in dispersion number was 2.6 times in the CFI
having 15 bends as compared to a coiled tube for two phase
gasliquid ow under identical process conditions. Further
experiments have been carried out to investigate the eect of
design parameters such as gas and liquid ow rates, curvature
ratio, pitch, and the number of bends on pressure drop for
gasliquid ow in the CFI.15 The transition of ow regimes in
gasliquid ow was observed at critical Reynolds numbers of
800010000. Pitch had negligible eect on the pressure drop of
gasliquid ow in the CFI. The empirical correlations for the
friction factor have been reported for the dierent gasliquid
regimes in the CFI. These correlations take into account the
r 2011 American Chemical Society

eect of number of bends, curvature ratio, and gas and liquid ow


rates.
The void fraction of gasliquid ow in a CFI was investigated.16 The gas void fraction decreased with the increase
in number of bends. The eect of pitch on gas void fraction
was found to be negligible. At a given gas ow rate, the gas holdup decreased with the increase liquid ow rate. An empirical
correlation to predict the void fraction for dierent ow regimes
has been developed.
Liquidliquid ow exists in chemical process industries.
Information about liquid ow development, pressure drop, and
mixing eciency is required to design as well as optimize
operating conditions in the industries. Literature survey shows
that information on liquidliquid ow is available for a straight
tube conguration.1720 However, very limited eorts have been
made in the past to explore the hydrodynamics of liquidliquid
ow in coiled tubes.21 Therefore, the objective of the present
work is to investigate the ow development and distribution of
scalar concentration in a CFI with = 10 and a pitch of 0.02 m.
An attempt is made to study the mixing of two liquids in straight,
coiled, and CFI tubes for the ow range of 98 e Re e 1020. The
eect of Reynolds number and number of 90 bends in the CFI
on the mixing eciency has been investigated. The pressure drop
as well as mixing performance in the CFI was also compared with
the existing experimental data of the helical element mixer
(HEM).6,7 All the computations were carried out on a SUN
FIRE V440 workstation in the Chemical Reaction Engineering
laboratory at Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, India.

2. NUMERICAL MODEL
The coiled ow inverter device with circular cross-sectional
having diameter, d; coil diameter, D, and pitch, H was considered
Special Issue: Ananth Issue
Received: February 2, 2011
Accepted: June 1, 2011
Revised:
May 24, 2011
Published: June 01, 2011
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g represents gravity, n is the number of phases, B


F is a body
FmB
u dr,k is
force, m is the viscosity of the mixture. (m = nk = 1Rkk). B
the drift velocity for secondary phase k. The last term denotes the
net rate of momentum transfer per unit volume by the action of
drift velocity. The drift velocity for secondary phase can be
up  B
u m where B
u p is velocity of secondary
expressed as B
u dr,p = B
phase. The energy equation for the mixture can be expressed as
n
Rk Fk Ek r 3
t k 1

for the present study. The details of the geometry considered for
computation has been shown in Figure 1.22
2.1. Governing Equations. The governing equations for
mass, momentum, and scalar transport in the CFI were solved
with the control volume finite difference method (CVFDM)
using commercial CFD code Fluent 6.3.23 In the present study,
the mixture model was used to model the liquidliquid flow in
the tube. This model is used to study flows where the phases
move at different velocities. It works for the case where phases are
interpenetrating. This model has been previously used to simulate mixing of liquids in different configurations.8,9 The mixture
model approach is used which assumes homogeneous flow with
variable volume fraction of each phase. The summed up momentum equation of the phases with phase averaged physical
properties is solved. Unlike the Eulerian model, where the
conservation equations are coupled via interphase interactions
terms, in the mixture model, the mixture continuity, momentum
equation, and energy equation are solved along with additional
transport equations for the volume fraction of secondary phases.
In the present study, the governing continuity equation may be
written as
1

where Fm is the mixture density where Fm = nk = 1RkFk, Rk is the


volume fraction of phase k, B
u m is the mass-averaged velocity
where B
u m = (nk = 1RkFkuk)/(Fm), m_ represents mass transfer, t
represents time. In the case of secondary phase, the volume
fraction equation for secondary phase p can be expressed as

Rp Fp r 3 Rp Fp uBm  r 3 Rp Fp uBdr, p 
t

F u r 3 Fm uBm uBm
t m Bm
 rP r 3 m r uBm r uBTm  Fm gB
B
F r3

RkFk uBdr, k uBdr, k

k1

Fm Ck
r 3 Fm uBm Ck  km rCk Skm k 1, ::::, N 5
t
where km = Rlkl and Skm = lSkl are the mixture diusivity and
source term for transport variable Ck.
The mesh of the geometry was built in GAMBIT software. It
was then computed in FLUENT 6.3 software. Segregated solver
was used to model the ow of liquids. Liquids with constant
velocity were employed at the inlet. No-slip boundary condition
and the zero derivative conditions for the scalars were treated on
the tube wall. Flow was considered as fully developed at the
outlet. The scalar transport technique was used to compute the
mixing characteristics of liquids. Dierent scalar concentrations
were employed in the two halves of the tube inlet. The interface
for initializing the scalar concentration was perpendicular to
the direction of the secondary ow. Second-order upwind
scheme was used to model the convection term in the governing
equations. The coupling between velocity and pressure was
resolved using SIMPLE algorithm. The computation was considered converged when the residual summed over all the
computational nodes at nth iteration, Rn, satised the following
m
8
criterion: Rn/ Rm
e 10 , where R denotes the maximum
residual value of variable after m iterations, applied for p, ui,
and for scalars.
The mixing performance of the geometry was measured in
terms of coecient of variation (COV). It is represents the
standard deviation of concentration to the mean concentration of
liquids.
!0:5
Z
Cavg  Ci 2 dA

The momentum equation for the mixture can be obtained by


summing the individual momentum equations for all phases. It
can be expressed as

where Ek is the sensible enthalpy for phase k, ke is the eective


conductivity; ke was calculated as Rkkk where Rk is the volume
fraction of any phase k and kk is the conductivity of phase k.
The term on the right-hand side of equation represents energy
transfer due to conduction. The ow of incompressible uids was
assumed in the given two-phase system.
The transport equation for an arbitrary scalar k is

Figure 1. Coiled ow inverter.

F rFm uBm m_
t m

Rk Bv k Fk Ek p r 3 kef f rT
k1

COV
where
Cavg

where r(FmB
u mB
u m) represents convection term, 3P, represents
T
pressure, r 3 [m(ru
Bm ru
Bm )] represents viscous forces,

Cavg
Z
1 A
Ci dA
A 0

Cavg is the ow weighted average value of the scalar concentration over the cross-sectional area.
A systematic grid sensitivity investigation was performed.
Grid-sensitivity tests were carried out with three grids consisting
of 625  2050, 625  3100, 690  3100 (cross-section x axial).
The pressure drop values calculated for the three grids is shown
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Table 1. Grid Test

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Table 2. Properties of Liquids

cell density,

pressure drop

cells/mm3

(100  Pa/m)

625  2050

parameter

inlet 1

inlet 2

density (kg/m3)

780

872

1.75

viscosity (kg/(m s))

0.007

0.069

625  3100

1.69

diusion coecient (m2/s)

10  108

10  108

690  3100

1.69

Figure 2. Comparison between CFD prediction and experiment values


of pressure drop at dierent water volume fraction of oilwater owing
in straight tube with D = 0.055 m, L = 8 m.

in Table 1. It was observed that the 625  3100 grid was


necessary to obtain grid independent results. Hence, geometry
with 625  3100 grids was used in the present study because it
produced data with good accuracy and also saved computation
time.

3. RESULT AND DISCUSSION

Figure 3. Velocity contours of liquids owing at v = 2 m/s at dierent


axial distance in straight tube, coiled tube, and CFI with one, two, and
three bends having d = 0.01 m.

3.1. Comparison of Numerical Predictions with Experimental Results. There is lack of quantitative analysis for

liquidliquid mixing in coiled tube. Hence, to check the accuracy


and reliability of the computation technique, computations were
first validated with the experimental data set reported in the
literature19 for liquidliquid flow in straight tube. CFD simulations were carried out to calculate the pressure drop of two-phase
flow of oil and water in a 0.055 m diameter, 8 m long straight
tube. The oil had a density of 790 kg/m3 and dynamic viscosity of
0.0016 kg/(m s) at 25 C. Figure 2 shows the comparison
between the existing experimental values and predicted values of
present CFD study for different water volume fraction ranging
from 0.2 to 0.75. The maximum deviation between the CFD
predictions and the experimental data was within (2.5%.
3.2. Development of Velocity Contours. The computations
were further carried out for an industrially important system of
two crude oils, named Arab Mix and Mangla crude, flowing in
straight, coiled, and CFI tubes of equal length (L = 5.34 m) and
tube diameter (d = 0.01 m). The pitch (H) and curvature ratio
() of the tubes considered for the coiled tube and the CFI were
0.02 m and 10, respectively. Table 2 presents the properties of
liquids used in the present study. The study was carried out for
average Reynolds numbers varying from 98 to 1020 and the
number of 90 bends in CFI being from 1 to 3.
Figure 3 shows the development of velocity prole at dierent
axial length for straight, coiled and CFI tube of equal length and
tube diameter. It can be seen from the gure that the velocity
contours were fully developed for the straight tube within length
equivalent to rst bend (i.e., L = 1.33 m). There was no change in
contours with the increase in axial length. However, the velocity
contours in coiled tube as well as CFI became asymmetrical as

Figure 4. Distribution of scalar concentrations of liquids owing at v = 2


m/s at dierent axial distances in straight, coiled, and CFI tubes having
d = 0.01 m.

the axial length was increased. The unbalanced centrifugal force


on the uid ow due to the curvature of the coil shifted the liquid
with maximum velocity toward the outer wall of the coil. The
ow was fully developed in coiled tube at axial length of 1.33 m
which is also length of CFI equivalent to one bend. No further
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Figure 5. Eect of Reynolds number on relative coecient of variation


for straight, coiled, CFI tube, and HEM.

Figure 6. Eect of number of bends on coecient of variation of two


phase liquids owing in straight, coiled, CFI tube, and SMX static mixer.

modication of contours was observed with further increase in


axial length. It was further found that the velocity contours in CFI
was inverted to 90 at second bend (L = 2.67 m). This was due to
change in the direction of uid owing with an introduction of a
90 bend. The contours were again rotated to 90 due to the
rotation of the plane of vortex at third bend (L = 4.01 m).
3.3. Mixing Performance. The scalar concentrations of 0 and 1
were set in the two halves of the inlet of the tube. The initial
concentration was prescribed perpendicular to the direction of
the secondary flow. Figure 4 represents the distribution of scalar
concentration of liquids at different axial lengths in straight tube,
coiled tube, and CFI with one, two, and three 90 bends having
d = 0.01 m. The red and blue color denotes the different scalar
concentrations of two liquids. It was observed that the streamlines of scalar concentrations were straight in the straight tube.
The two liquids came out from the straight tube exactly as they
entered except at the interface where the mixing takes place due
to molecular diffusion. There was no convective mixing in either
the tangential or radial directions. This shows that mixing of
liquids was not significant in case of straight tube. However, in
the case of the coiled tube, the mixing in the coiled tube was
enhanced due to the presence of Dean vortices. These vortices
mix two liquids through advection. It was also observed that the
CFI displays a significant increase in uniformity of concentration
contours as compared to the straight tube and the coiled tube
having equivalent length. The figure clearly shows that the concentrations were almost uniform within 3 bends (L = 4.01 m).
This was due to increase in radial mixing of the liquids after
introduction of each bend.
3.3.1. Effect of Reynolds Number. COV values computed
using eq 6 at the outlet of different geometries were normalized
with a COV0 value at the inlet. Normalized COV represents the
ratio of standard deviation of concentration to the mean concentration of the unmixed fluid at the injection stage. Figure 5
shows the value of normalized COV with varying Reynolds
number for straight, helical coil tube, and CFI of equal lengths. It
can be observed from the figure that there was no significant
change in normalized COV of liquids flowing in the straight tube
with an increase in Reynolds number. However, the COV value
of liquids decreased with increase in Reynolds number in coiled
as well as CFI. The mixing efficiency increased because of an
increase in intensity of secondary flows. However, the normalized COV value of liquids flowing in the CFI was found to be
nearly 1626 times lower than that of the coil tube having equal
length. This was due to the increase in radial mixing of liquids
owing to the fluid flow inversion after the 90o bend in the CFI.

The mixing performance of the CFI was also compared with the
existing experimental data available for the HEM.7 It was also
observed that the COV value for the CFI was found to be 5 to
8 times lower than that for an equivalent length of motionless
mixer such as HEM having 18 elements over the range of 98 e
Re e 1020. This shows that the CFI performance is superior
as compared to a motionless mixer under identical process
conditions
3.3.2. Effect of Number of Bends. Figure 6 represents the effect
of number of bends on COV of liquids flowing at Re = 490 in
straight, coiled, and CFI tube having d = 0.01 m. The figure shows
that there was no substantial variation in mixing performance
with an increase in length of straight tube. It was observed for the
CFI having one bend and the coiled tube having equivalent
length that the COV value of liquids was nearly the same.
Nevertheless, the mixing efficiency increased with the introduction of bends in the CFI as compared to that of the straight tube
and coiled tube of equal lengths. This shows that the mixing of
the two liquids increased with an increase in the number of
bends. The figure shows that significant mixing was taking place
in the CFI within three bends. The length of CFI is not effectively
utilized for mixing after the third bend. This observation agrees
with the uniformity of scalar concentration shown in Figure 3.
COV values for an SMX static mixer46 were calculated for an
equivalent length of CFI from the following equation:


bL
8
COV a exp 
d
Here a and b are adjustable constants and are predicted from
laminar flow experimental results of the SMX static mixer with
liquid viscosity ratio greater than 1. The values of the exponents
in eq 8 were a 15 and b 0.505 for the SMX static mixer in
laminar flow.5,6 Figure 6 shows that COV values for the static
mixer are significantly higher with respect to coiled and CFI tube
having length an equivalent one bend. The COV values decrease
with an increase in mixer length. Nevertheless, the COV value is
still nearly 4 times higher for the static mixer as compared to that
for the CFI at the outlet (n = 4).
3.4. Friction Factor in CFI. The multiphase flow studies in
coiled tubes mostly use the correlations based on the Lockhart
Martinelli parameter.24 Studies show that the pressure drop for
two-phase gasliquid flow through coiled tubes satisfies the
LockhartMartinelli correlation.2527 In the present study, the
friction factor was computed from the pressure drop in different
geometries. The details for calculation have been reported in our
previous papers.28 The friction factor values for different configurations
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Figure 7. Eect of friction factor on Reynolds number for dierent


congurations.

Figure 8. Eect of product of COV and friction factor for dierent


congurations.

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tube, coiled tube, and CFI of equivalent length. Figure 8 shows


the variation of product of COV and friction factor against
Reynolds number. It was observed that the product of COV
and friction factor in the coiled tube was nearly 14 to 26 times
higher than the CFI. The values were found to be 26 to 35 times
higher in HEM than in CFI for Reynolds numbers varying from
981020.
The performance of coiled tube, HEM, and CFI with respect
to straight tube was analyzed in terms of gure of merit. Figure of
merit represents the ratio of the unmixedness of liquid in a
system to the increase in pumping power by the system. Figure 9
shows the ratio of the gure of merit in coiled tube, HEM, and
CFI to that of the straight tube. The gure shows that unmixedness in the CFI is nearly 1825 times lower than that in the
coiled tube and nearly 24 times lower than that in the HEM.

4. CONCLUSION
In the present study, the physics of ow of two miscible liquids
was examined in a complex ow generated in CFI geometry. It
was observed that the mixing performance in the CFI increased
with increase in Reynolds number as well as number of bends.
This was further substantiated by velocity and scalar concentration contours of two liquids. The product of COV and friction
factor, a new parameter, has been dened to quantify the mixing
of two liquids in ow systems. It was found that the enhancement
of mixing eciency in the CFI as compared to that of coiled tube
and HEM is higher than the increase in pressure drop of the
liquids. It was observed that the CFI oers higher mixing
eciency as compared to a coiled tube and motionless mixers
(HEM) of equivalent length. Hence, it may be concluded that the
CFI is a more ecient motionless mixer with reasonably lower
pumping cost as compared to conventional static mixer.
AUTHOR INFORMATION
Corresponding Author

*Tel: 91-11-26591020. E-mail: nigamkdp@gmail.com.

Figure 9. Figure of merit in dierent congurations as compared to that


of straight tube.

were plotted against Reynolds number as shown in Figure 7. The


figure shows that the friction factor is least in the case of the
straight tube. It is interesting to observe that there was no
significant difference between the friction factor in the coiled
tube and the CFI with three bends over the Reynolds number
range studied in the present study. Similar observations were
reported in the literature for single phase flow.29 The experimental data for the friction factor in HEM6 has been compared
with that of the CFI. The friction factors in HEM were found to
3.36 times higher than that of CFI.
To assess the suitability of a given mixer for the homogenization of two liquids, it is essential to assess the combined eect of
mixing performance as well as power consumed by the mixers.
Hence, eorts were made to investigate the variation of product
of COV and friction factor with Reynolds number for straight

NOTATIONS
A = cross-sectional area (m2)
d = internal diameter of tube (m)
D = coil diameter (m)
g = gravity (m2/s)
H = dimensionless pitch, H = p/d
L = length (m)
Re = Reynolds number
p = pitch (m)
P = pressure (N/m2)
Rc = coil radius (m)
u = velocity, m/s
x = spatial position in x-direction, m
y = spatial position in y-direction, m
Greek symbols

r = volume fraction
k = curvature of free surface
= curvature ratio (D/d)
= surface tension (N/m)
= viscosity (kg/(m 3 s))
F = density of uid (kg/m3)
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