The use of flow control devices to improve the flow pattern and throughput of sieve trays

  • Rab N. Khan

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Compared to packings trays are more cost effective column internals because they create a large interfacial area for mass transfer by the interaction of the vapour on the liquid. The tray supports a mass of froth or spray which on most trays (including the most widely used sieve trays) is not in any way controlled. The two important results of the gas/liquid interaction are the tray efficiency and the tray throughput or capacity. After many years of practical experience, both may be predicted by empirical correlations, despite the lack of understanding. It is known that the tray efficiency is in part determined by the liquid flow pattern and the throughput by the liquid froth height which in turn depends on the liquid hold-up and vapour velocity.
This thesis describes experimental work on sieve trays in an air-water simulator, 2.44 m in diameter. The liquid flow pattern, for flow rates similar to those used in commercial scale distillation, was observed experimentally by direct observation; by water-cooling, to simulate mass transfer; use of potassium permanganate dye to observe areas of longer residence time; and by height of clear liquid measurements across the tray and in the downcomer using manometers. This work presents experiments designed to evaluate flow control devices proposed to improve the gas liquid interaction and hence improve the tray efficiency and throughput. These are (a) the use of intermediate weirs to redirect liquid to the sides of the tray so as to remove slow moving/stagnant liquid and (b) the use of vapour-directing slots designed to use the vapour to cause liquid to be directed towards the outlet weir thus reducing the liquid hold-up at a given rate i.e. increased throughput. This method also has the advantage of removing slow moving/stagnant liquid.
In the experiments using intermediate weirs, which were placed in the centre of the tray. it was found that in general the effect of an intermediate weir depends on the depth of liquid downstream of the weir. If the weir is deeper than the downstream depth it will cause the upstream liquid to be deeper than the downstream liquid. If the weir is not as deep as deep as the downstream depth it may have little or no effect on the upstream depth. An intermediate weir placed at an angle to the direction of flow of liquid increases the liquid towards the sides of the tray without causing an increase in liquid hold-up/ froth height. The
maximum proportion of liquid caused to flow sideways by the weir is between 5% and 10%.
Experimental work using vapour-directing slots on a rectangular sieve tray has shown that the horizontal momentum that is imparted to the liquid is dependent upon the size of the slot. If too much momentum is transferred to the liquid it causes hydraulic jumps to occur at the mouth of the slot coupled with liquid being
entrained, The use of slots also helps to eliminate the hydraulic gradient across sieve trays and provides a more uniform froth height on the tray. By comparing the results obtained of the tray and point efficiencies, it is shown that a slotted tray reduces both values by approximately 10%. This reduction is due to the fact
that with a slotted tray the liquid has a reduced residence time Ion the tray coupled also with the fact that large size bubbles are passing through the slots. The effectiveness of using vapour-directing slots on a full circular tray was investigated by using dye to completely colour the biphase. The removal of the dye by clear liquid entering the tray was monitored using an overhead camera. Results obtained show that the slots are successful in their aim of reducing slow moving liquid from the sides of the tray, The net effect of this is an increase in tray efficiency. Measurements of slot vapour-velocity found it to be approximately equal to the hole velocity.
Date of AwardSept 1998
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJohn P Fletcher (Supervisor) & K.E. Porter (Supervisor)


  • distillation
  • sieve trays
  • flow patterns
  • tray efficiency
  • slots

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