Mass transfer and chemical reaction on a distillation plate

  • B. Davies

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


A multistage distillation column in which mass transfer and a reversible chemical reaction occurred simultaneously, has been investigated to formulate a technique by which this process can be analysed or predicted.
A transesterification reaction between ethyl alcohol and butyl acetate, catalysed by concentrated sulphuric acid, was selected for the investigation and all the components were analysed on a gas liquid chromatograph.
The transesterification reaction kinetics have been studied in a batch reactor for catalyst concentrations of 0.1 - 1.0 weight percent and temperatures between 21.4 and 85.0 °C. The reaction was found to be second order and dependent on the catalyst concentration at a given temperature.
The vapour liquid equilibrium data for six binary, four ternary and one quaternary systems are measured at atmospheric pressure using a modified Cathala dynamic equilibrium still. The systems with the exception of ethyl alcohol - butyl alcohol mixtures, were found to be non-ideal. Multicomponent vapour liquid equilibrium compositions were predicted by a computer programme which utilised the Van Laar constants obtained from the binary data sets. Good agreement was obtained between the predicted and experimental quaternary
equilibrium vapour compositions.
Continuous transesterification experiments were carried out in a
six stage sieve plate distillation column. The column was 3" in internal diameter and of unit construction in glass. The plates were 8" apart and had a free area of 7.7%. Both the liquid and vapour streams were analysed. The component conversion was dependent on the boilup rate and the reflux ratio. Because of the
presence of the reaction, the concentration of one of the lighter components increased below the feed plate. In the same region a highly developed foam was formed due to the presence of the catalyst.
The experimental results were analysed by the solution of a series of simultaneous enthalpy and mass equations. Good agreement was obtained between the experimental and calculated results.
Date of AwardOct 1971
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorG.V. Jeffreys (Supervisor)


  • mass transfer
  • chemical reaction
  • distillation plate

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