Computational fluid dynamical studies of structured distillation packings

  • Jennifer Hodson

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


In recent years structured packings have become more widely used in the process industries because of their improved volumetric efficiency. Most structured packings consist of corrugated sheets placed in the vertical plane The corrugations provide a regular network of channels for vapour liquid contact.
Until recently it has been necessary to develop new packings by trial and error, testing
new shapes in the laboratory. The orderly repetitive nature of the channel network produced by a structured packing suggests it may be possible to develop improved structured packings by the application of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to calculate the packing performance and evaluate changes in shape so as to reduce the need for laboratory testing.
In this work the CFD package PHOENICS has been used to predict the flow patterns produced in the vapour phase as it passes through the channel network. A particular novelty of the approach is to set up a method of solving the Navier Stokes equations for any particular intersection of channels. The flow pattern of the streams leaving the intersection is then made the input to the downstream intersection. In this way the flow pattern within a section of packing can be calculated. The resulting heat or mass transfer performance can be calculated by other standard CFD procedures.
The CFD predictions revealed a circulation developing within the channels which
produce a loss in mass transfer efficiency The calculations explained and predicted a change in mass transfer efficiency with depth of the sheets. This effect was also shown experimentally.
New shapes of packing were proposed to remove the circulation and these were
evaluated using CFD. A new shape was chosen and manufactured. This was tested experimentally and found to have a higher mass transfer efficiency than the standard packing.
Date of AwardApr 1997
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorK.E. Porter (Supervisor) & John P Fletcher (Supervisor)


  • computational fluid dynamical studies
  • distillation
  • structured packings
  • heat transfer
  • mass transfer

Cite this