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Fluids/Solids Handling

Optimize Mixing by
Using the Proper
It is common knowledge that baffles
Kevin J. Myers,
University of Dayton
promote better flow in an agitated vessel,
but how to apply them and what kind to
Mark F. Reeder and
Julian B. Fasano,
use take some ingenuity.
Chemineer, Inc.

A gitated vessels are used throughout the

chemical engineering industries (CEI) for
diverse applications including storing,
blending and reacting materials. Agitator
design requires specification of the motor, drive and
impeller system that will satisfy both process (1, 2,
3) and mechanical (4) requirements. In addition,
lustrates the effect of baffling on this. In the unbaf-
fled vessel on the left, the swirling flow field is inef-
fective at dispersing the solids that are grouped in a
rotating pile below the pitched-blade impeller. Also,
a large surface vortex is visible at the top of the
shaft. In the vessel on the right, the baffles are visi-
ble on the left and right sides of the vessel and as a
most agitated vessels are baffled, and the design of thin gray strip that bisects the impeller and shaft.
the baffle system must also economically satisfy The presence of baffles produces axial flow, in
process objectives. which the discharge flow produced by the impeller
impinges on the base of the vessel, flows radially to
Why use baffling? the vessel wall, then up the wall, returning to the im-
During agitation of a low-viscosity liquid, the ro- peller from above. This flow pattern can be inferred
tating impeller imparts tangential motion to the liq- from the solids that are distributed rather uniformly
uid. Without baffling, this swirling motion approxi- throughout the liquid. All parameters (impeller,
mates solid-body rotation in which little mixing ac- speed, solids, etc.) are the same in the two vessels in
tually occurs. Think about stirring a cup of coffee or
a bowl of soup: The majority of the mixing occurs
when the spoon is stopped or the direction of stir-
ring is reversed. The primary purpose of baffling is
to convert swirling motion into a preferred flow pat-
tern to accomplish process objectives. The most
common flow patterns are axial flow, typically used
for blending and solids suspension, and radial flow,
used for dispersion. However, baffling also has
some other effects, such as suppressing vortex for-
mation, increasing the power input and improving ■ Figure 1. Agitation in an unbaffled vessel (left) leads to swirling flow
mechanical stability. with surface vortex formation and poor solids distribution, while
A common agitation objective is suspending set- standard baffling (right) with a pitched-blade turbine promotes axial flow
tling solids in a low-viscosity liquid, and Figure 1 il- that results in good solids distribution.

42 www.cepmagazine.org February 2002 CEP

Figure 1. The only difference is the presence of baffles. when standard baffling is used. Fully turbulent agitation
However, note that baffles do lead to a difference in occurs for impeller Reynolds numbers (NRe = ND2ρ/µ)
power input. This point will be discussed later. greater than about 10,000. In contrast, in under-baffled
vessels, the impeller power number continually de-
Why consider baffling alternatives? creases with increasing Reynolds number, introducing
As evidenced by Figure 1, in most applications, the an additional complication to the design process (5).
key to successful agitation is providing the proper flow And last, but far from least, because of its widespread
field to achieve process objectives. In some instances, use, the choice of standard baffling is supported by ex-
particularly the most challenging ones, selection of the tensive design and scaleup data. It is the lack of such
proper baffling system is critical to providing the opti- data and the potential sacrifice in mechanical stability
mal flow field. that are the primary cautions when considering the use
of non-standard baffles.
Standard baffling
Many agitated vessels, including the one on the right Baffling effects
in Figure 1, use standard baffling, which consists of Figures 2 and 3 illustrate how baffling in turbulent
four flat vertical plates, radially-directed (i.e., normal operation affects two primary agitator characteristics.
to the vessel wall), spaced at 90 deg. around the vessel Figure 2 shows that the impeller power number increas-
periphery, and running the length of the vessel’s
straight side. Standard baffle width is 1/10 or 1/12 of 5
the vessel dia. (T/10 or T/12) (5). Sometimes, baffles
are flush with the vessel wall and base, but, more often,
Relative Power Number

gaps are left to permit the flow to clean the baffles.
Recommended gaps are equal to 1/72 of the vessel dia.
(T/72) between the baffles and the vessel wall, and 1/4 3
to one full baffle width between the bottom of the baf-
fles and the vessel base. 2
Radial Impellers
Why use standard baffling? 1 Mixed Impellers
The decision to use standard baffling is often an easy Axial Impellers
one. First, standard baffling typically provides near-op- 0
timal performance, and because of the symmetric place- 0 1 2 3 4
ment of the baffles around the vessel periphery, stan-
Number of Standard Baffles
dard baffling provides a high degree of mechanical sta-
bility. In addition, in turbulent operation, many impeller
characteristics, such as the power and pumping num- ■ Figure 2. Increased baffling increases the power draw of an agitator.
bers (Pgc/N3D5ρ and NQ = Q/ND3, respectively), are es-
sentially independent of the impeller Reynolds number

Radial Impellers
Nomenclature 0.8 Mixed Impellers
Relative Blend Time

D = impeller dia., m Axial Impellers

gc = force conversion factor, kg-m/s2/N 0.6
N = impeller rotational speed, s-1 (rev/s)
NP = impeller power number (Pgc/N3D5ρ), dimensionless
NQ = impeller pumping number (Q/ND3), dimensionless 0.4
NRe= impeller Reynolds number (ND2ρ/µ), dimensionless
P = impeller power draw, W 0.2
Q = impeller pumping rate, m3/s
S = impeller submergence (distance below surface), m
T = vessel dia., m 0 1 2 3 4

Greek letters Number of Standard Baffles

µ = viscosity, Pa-s(kg/m•s)
ν = kinematic viscosity (µ/ρ), m2/s
ρ = density, kg/m3
■ Figure 3. Baffling also reduces blend time.

CEP February 2002 www.cepmagazine.org 43

Fluids/Solids Handling

es as the number of standard width baffles (T/12) is in- there are situations in which no baffling is used. Baffles
creased. Data are presented for three impeller styles: ra- are rarely used with side-entering agitators or with
dial-flow impellers, such as straight-blade and Rushton close-clearance impellers, such as gates, anchors and
turbines, mixed-flow impellers, such as pitched-blade helical ribbons, for which the impeller-to-tank dia. ratio
turbines, and axial-flow impellers, such as high-effi- is typically greater than 90% (D/T > 0.90). Baffles are
ciency impellers. All data in this figure are normalized also generally not used in rectangular or square tanks
with respect to the unbaffled condition, with each im- that prevent swirl by providing some natural baffling in
peller style being normalized individually, rather than their sharp corners as illustrated in Figure 4. The flow
with respect to a common reference. “Normalized” field in the unbaffled square vessel in this figure is
means that, if the unbaffled radial-flow power number quite similar to that of the baffled cylindrical vessel in
is 2.5 and the unbaffled high-efficiency impeller num- Figure 1 (all conditions, such as speed, impeller and
ber is 0.2, then all of the radial-flow impeller data are solids, are the same in Figures 1 and 4: only the vessel
divided by (normalized) 2.5 and all of the high-efficien- has been changed).
cy impeller data are divided by 0.2. For impeller Reynolds numbers less than about 50, the
The power number of radial-flow impellers is most viscous action of the liquid at the vessel wall causes a
strongly influenced by the extent of baffling, continual- natural baffling effect, eliminating the nearly solid-body
ly increasing with the number of baffles. The mixed- rotation that can occur during agitation of low-viscosity
flow and axial-flow impeller power numbers are affect- liquids in unbaffled vessels. Thus, no baffles or narrow
ed to a lesser extent, approximately doubling for a sin- baffles might be used (6). Simply for convenience, small
gle baffle compared to an unbaffled system, but in- agitated vessels, less than a few hundred gallons, also
creasing only marginally as the number of baffles is may not be baffled. In these systems, angled and/or off-
further increased. center mounting of the agitator can be used to eliminate

Flat-plate baffles are the norm because of their ease of manufacture

and installation and the associated economy.
It may seem counterintuitive to want to increase the excessive swirling. Mechanical complications and the as-
power input to an agitated vessel. Why not operate at a sociated costs generally preclude the use of angled and
lower power input in an unbaffled vessel? The reason off-center mounting with larger agitators.
for using baffles is that the higher power input is often The flow patterns produced by off-center mounting
necessary to achieve process objectives. Figure 3 illus- in unbaffled vessels are shown in Figure 5. In the vessel
trates that at equal power input with surface addition of on the left, the impeller is mounted vertically, but mid-
the material to be incorporated, the turbulent blend way between the vessel centerline and wall, rather than
time of an unbaffled vessel is substantially greater than on the vessel centerline. This reduces, but does not
that of a baffled system. In this instance, all impeller eliminate swirl. Although the solids are somewhat dis-
styles are affected in a similar manner, with the addi- persed through the liquid, they are still grouped in a
tion of a single baffle significantly decreasing the loose swirling pile at the center of the vessel base.
blend time, but the addition In the vessel to the right, in addition to mounting the
of further baffles having
minimal effect. Again, all
data have been normalized
with respect to the unbaf-
fled condition for each par-
ticular impeller style.

Non-standard baffling
■ Figure 4. Even when Despite the popularity
unbaffled, the flow in square
of standard baffling, there
and rectangular vessels is ■ Figure 5. Off-center agitator mounting (left) reduces swirl in unbaffled
similar to that in fully-baffled are many instances in which
non-standard baffling is vessels, while angled, off-center mounting (right) approximates the flow in
cylindrical vessels. fully-baffled vessels.
commonly used. In fact,

44 www.cepmagazine.org February 2002 CEP

impeller off the vessel cen-
terline, the agitator is angled 1.00
at approximately 10 deg. to 1.0
the vertical. This combina- 0.86

Relative Power Number

tion in an unbaffled vessel 0.8
approximates the flow field 0.67
produced in a fully-baffled 0.6
tank. When using angled
■ Figure 6. A single baffle, mounting with an axial-flow
impeller, the discharge flow 0.4
often used in glass-lined
vessels, reduces, but does produced by the impeller
not eliminate, swirl and should oppose the swirling 0.2
surface vortexing. motion produced by the
impeller’s rotation (5).
Baffles might not be used One One Two Four
in vessels that require sterility or in which material Beavertail Concave Concave Standard
hang-up during draining is problematic. Although Baffle Configuration
choosing not to use baffles makes vessel cleaning eas-
ier, it can make optimal agitator design difficult. Some
■ Figure 8. The concave baffle increases power input in systems that use a
agitated vessels do not use baffles per se, but contain limited number of baffles.
internals such as heat-exchanger tube-bundles that
provide sufficient baffling to accomplish process ob-
jectives. In fact, some reactors that are used to carry that eliminate stagnant regions. The use of profiled baf-
out highly exothermic or endothermic reactions con- fles is limited to critical applications such as polymeriza-
tain so many heat exchanger tubes that the vessel is tion reactors and clean-in-place reactors, which are com-
over-baffled, making it difficult for the agitator to pro- monly used in the pharmaceutical industry. Another op-
mote sufficient flow. tion is using baffles that are not mounted normal to the
Flat-plate baffles are the norm because of their ease of vessel wall, but that are angled away from the direction
manufacture and installation and the associated econo- of impeller rotation.
my. A potential problem with them is that material can
hang up or become trapped in stagnant regions near Glass-lined vessels
them, particularly in more viscous or non-Newtonian liq- Use of a limited number of baffles, one or two, is
uids, or in the presence of filamentous materials. This usually avoided because it does not provide adequate
leads to the use of profiled baffles, often triangular or mechanical stability. However, there is one notable ex-
semicircular in shape, attached flush to the vessel wall

Relative Drawdown Power

16 S = 0.5D

None One Two Four Four Four

T/12 T/12 T/12 Half T/40
Baffle Configuration

■ Figure 7. Common baffle styles for glass-lined vessels are the beavertail ■ Figure 9. The power required to draw down floating solids is affected by
baffle (left) and the concave baffle. the baffle system and the impeller submergence, S.

CEP February 2002 www.cepmagazine.org 45

Fluids/Solids Handling

form distribution of settling

or floating solids and en-
hanced gas dispersion. An ad-
ditional benefit of the concave
baffle is that it prevents sur-
face vortex formation, and is
therefore more effective at
avoiding gas entrainment at
■ Figure 11. Partial lower high power inputs in under-
baffles can be used to baffled vessels.
■ Figure 10. Drawdown of floating solids in an unbaffled tank (left) relies satisfy concurrent process
upon a large surface vortex that reaches into the impeller, while narrow Surface incorporation
objectives such as draw-
baffles (right) can promote drawdown and distribution of floating solids with
down of floating solids In some applications, it is
a reduced vortex.
(white) and suspension of actually critical that the im-
settling solids (black).
peller draw in material — gas,
floating liquid or solids —
ception. To ensure the integrity of the vessel lining, from the surface. In these instances, standard baffling
rather than being mounted on the vessel wall, baffles in may not be the best approach. Partial lower baffling is
glass-lined vessels hang from flanges in the vessel’s top often used for drawdown of material from the vessel
head. Typically, due to the limited space in this head, headspace. In these instances, four baffles of standard
no more than two baffles are used in glass-lined tanks. width are used, but they extend only about half way up
Figure 6 demonstrates that use of a single baffle is the vessel’s straight side, leaving the upper portion un-

Sometimes, when it is critical that the impeller draw in material,

standard baffling may not be the best approach.

an improvement over an unbaffled system, but the flow baffled. An impeller, often a pitched-blade turbine,
is still highly tangential (note the small surface vortex placed near the liquid surface, will generate a con-
at the top of the impeller shaft). The flow field in a ves- trolled vortex that aids in the incorporation of material
sel equipped with two standard baffles very closely ap- into the liquid.
proximates that in a fully-baffled vessel. Figure 9 compares the power requirements to draw
There are two primary challenges for baffling in down floating solids with a single down-pumping
glass-lined vessels. First, the surface of the baffle must pitched-blade turbine and various baffle systems. Data
be contoured because sharp corners cannot be coated are presented for impeller submergences below the liq-
with glass. As a result, the most common type of baffle uid surface equal to one-half of the impeller diameter (S
used in glass-lined vessels consists of a pipe flattened = 0.5 D) and the impeller diameter (S = D). All data in
to yield an elliptical cross section. This type of baffle is Figure 9 are normalized with respect to a common ref-
commonly referred to as a beavertail (Figure 7, left). erence. The power requirements of the unbaffled sys-
The second challenge is that glass-lined vessels are tem are the lowest, but as shown on the left of Figure
under-baffled, and it can be difficult to provide suffi- 10, the unbaffled system does a poor job distributing
cient power input to achieve process objectives. To the solids throughout the liquid. Further, this system
overcome both of these challenges, a patented concave has a large vortex, reaching into the impeller and lead-
baffle has been developed (7, 8) (photo at the right of ing to undesired air entrainment and the potential for
Figure 7, shown without the glass coating). mechanical instability.
The data of Figure 8, taken with a retreat-curve im- As the extent of baffling in the system is increased,
peller, the most commonly used impeller in glass-lined from unbaffled to one, two and four standard baffles,
vessels, illustrates that the concave baffle increases the power requirement continually increases, particular-
power input relative to the beavertail baffle and that ly for the larger impeller submergence. The power re-
two concave baffles approach the power input of four quirement of the system consisting of four lower-half
standard baffles. Studies with the concave baffle con- baffles is substantially lower than that of the fully-baf-
firm that the higher power input associated with this de- fled system, being comparable to that of the two-baffle
sign leads to process improvements, such as more uni- system. The advantage of the half-baffle system com-

46 www.cepmagazine.org February 2002 CEP

pared to the two-baffle one is greater mechanical stabil- partial lower baffles can be used to simultaneously
ity and better mixing in the lower portion of the vessel. draw down floating solids and suspend settling solids.
The right-most data set of Figure 9 is for a narrow The lack of baffles in the upper portion of the tank per-
set of four baffles that is recommended for solids draw- mits sufficient swirl to incorporate the floating solids,
down (9). This system uses four baffles that run the while the baffles in the lower portion promote axial
length of the vessel’s straight side, but the baffles are flow that is effective at suspending the settling solids.
narrow, having a width equal to approximately 2% of For some applications, partial upper baffling is the
the vessel diameter (typically T/50 to T/40, rather than preferred approach. In pulp-and-paper agitation, the
the standard of T/10 or T/12). This system provides baffles may not extend below the impeller to prevent
symmetry, and an associated degree of mechanical sta- material hang-up and stagnant regions. A second exam-
bility, as well as very low drawdown power require- ple is high-solids-loading slurries that can be difficult
ments, good solids distribution throughout the liquid, to agitate, particularly if settled solids must be resus-
and limited surface vortexing. pended. Full baffling can cause the impeller and solids
Additionally, the drawdown power requirement of to bind, while removing the lower portion of the baffles
the narrow baffle system is relatively unaffected by im- allows tangential motion that can improve solids sus-
peller submergence, a distinct advantage for processes pension performance (10). Partial upper baffles have
in which the liquid level varies. The superior solids also been shown to be somewhat effective for draw-
drawdown performance of the narrow baffle system is down of floating solids (11, 12).
shown on the right of Figure 10.
In some instances, it is necessary to simultaneously Concluding remarks
satisfy a number of process objectives. Figure 11 shows When agitating low-viscosity liquids, standard baf-
how a dual-impeller system in a vessel equipped with fling typically provides near-optimal process perfor-
mance and good mechanical stability. In addition, stan-
dard baffling is backed up by extensive design and
Literature Cited scaleup data. However, as described here, there are situ-
ations in which standard baffling may not be the best
1. Fasano, J. B., et al., “Advanced Impeller Geometry Boosts Liquid
Agitation,” Chem. Eng., 101, pp. 110–116 (Aug. 1994).
choice. The guidelines presented here are intended to
2. Corpstein, R. R., et al., “The High-Efficiency Road to Liquid-Solid identify the baffle system modifications that can be used
Agitation,” Chem. Eng., 101, pp. 138–144 (Oct. 1994). to improve performance and the situations in which
3. Bakker, A., et al., “How to Disperse Gases in Liquids,” Chem. Eng., these modifications should be considered. CEP

101, pp. 98–104 (Dec. 1994).

4. Fasano, J. B., et al., “Consider Mechanical Design of Agitators,”
Chem. Eng. Progress, 91 (8), pp. 60–71 (Aug. 1995). KEVIN J. MYERS is a professor in the Dept. of Chemical and Materials
5. Bates, R. L., et al., “Impeller Characteristics and Power,” Chapter 3 Engineering, Univ. of Dayton (Dayton, OH 45469-0246; Phone: (937) 229-
in “Mixing: Theory and Practice,” V. W. Uhl and J. B. Gray, eds., 2627; Fax: (937) 229-3433; E-mail: kevin.myers@notes.udayton.edu). He
Academic Press, New York (1966). has conducted extensive agitation research, particularly in multiphase
6. Bakker, A., and L. E. Gates, “Properly Choose Mechanical Agita- systems. He received his bachelor’s degree from the Univ. of Dayton and
tors for Viscous Liquids,” Chem. Eng. Progress, 91 (12), pp. 25–34 his DSc in chemical engineering from Washington Univ. in St. Louis. Myers
(Dec. 1995). is a member of AIChE and the American Society for Engineering Education.
7. Hairston, D., “Mixing Powders into Liquids,” Chem. Eng., 107 (5),
MARK F. REEDER is a principal research engineer with Chemineer, Inc. (P.O.
pp. 29–35 (May 2000). Box 1123, 5870 Poe Ave., Dayton, OH 45401; Phone: (937) 454-3346; Fax:
8. Reeder, M. F., and C. J. Ramsey, “Concave Baffle,” U.S. Patent (937) 454-3395; E-mail: M.Reeder@chemineer.com). He works in the R&D
6,059,448 (May 9, 2000). laboratory and is involved in development work for a wide range of mixing
9. Hemrajani, R. R., et al., “Suspending Floating Solids in Stirred products, including agitators, static mixers and rotor/stator mixers. He
Tanks — Mixer Design, Scale-Up and Optimization,” Proc. Sixth received his bachelor’s degree from West Virginia Univ. and his master’s
European Conference on Mixing, pp. 259–265, Pavia, Italy (May and PhD degrees in mechanical engineering from Ohio State Univ. Reeder’s
24–26, 1988). experience also includes a post-doctoral appointment at NASA Glenn, for
10. Drewer, G. R., et al., “Suspension of High Concentration Solids in optical diagnostics used in jet mixing; he is also a professional engineer.
Mechanically Stirred Vessels,” Eighth European Conference on Mix-
JULIAN B. FASANO is director, parts and field service, for Chemineer, Inc.
ing, (IChemE Symposium Series No. 136), pp. 41–48, Cambridge, (Phone: (937) 454-3263; Fax: (937) 454-3379; E-mail: J.Fasano@
U.K. (Sept. 21–23, 1994). chemineer.com). He has been with Chemineer for 30 years, with primary
11. Joosten, G. E. H., et al., “The Suspension of Floating Solids in emphasis on R&D and custom equipment design. From 1984 to 1995, he
Stirred Vessels,” Trans. of the Institution of Chem. Eng., 55, pp. served as technical director. He holds a BSc in chemical engineering from
220–222 (1977). the Univ. of Dayton, an MSc in chemical engineering from Lehigh Univ., and
12. Siddiqui, H., “Mixing Technology for Buoyant Solids in a Nonstan- a PhD in materials engineering, also from the Univ. of Dayton. Fasano is a
dard Vessel,” AIChE J., 39, pp. 505–509 (1993). PE in Ohio and a member of AIChE.

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