Simultaneous chemical reaction and distillation of formaldehyde

  • Soheil Dilfanian

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The thesis is concerned with the development and
testing of a mathematical model of a distillation process in which the components react chemically.
The formaldehyde-methanol-water system was selected and only the reversible reactions between formaldehyde and water giving methylene glycol and between formaldehyde and methanol producing hemiformal were assumed to occur under the distillation conditions. Accordingly the system has been treated as a five component system.
The vapour-liquid equilibrium calculations were performed by solving iteratively the thermodynamic relationships expressing the phase equilibria with the stoichiometric equations expressing the chemical equilibria. Using optimisation techniques, the Wilson single parameters and Henry's constants were calculated for binary systems containing formaldehyde which was assumed to be a supercritical component whilst Wilson binary parameters were calculated for the remaining binary systems. Thus the phase equilibria for the formaldehyde system could be calculated
using these parameters and good accuracy was obtained when calculated values were compared with experimental values.
The distillation process was modelled using the mass
and energy balance equations together with the phase equilibria calculations. The plate efficiencies were obtained from a modified A.I.Ch.E. Bubble Tray method. The resulting equations were solved by an iterative plate to plate calculation based on the Newton Raphson method.
Experiments were carried out in a 76mm I.D., eight sieve plate distillation column and the results were compared with the mathematical model calculations. Overall, good agreement was obtained but some discrepancies were observed in the concentration profiles and these may have been caused by the
effect of limited physical property data and a limited
understanding of the reactions mechanism.
The model equations were solved in the form of modular computer programs. Although they were written to describe the steady state distillation with simultaneous chemical reaction of the formaldehyde system, the approach used may be of wider application.
Date of AwardSept 1978
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorBruce Davies (Supervisor)


  • simulation
  • distillation
  • chemical reaction
  • formalin

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