Liquid Characteristics

The properties of the liquid feed and the concentrate are important factors to consider in the engineering and design of an evaporation system. The liquid characteristics can greatly influence, for example, the choice of metallurgy, mechanical design, geometry, and type of evaporator.141 Some of the most important general properties of liquids which can affect evaporator design and performances are:

Concentration—Most dilute aqueous solutions have physical properties that are approximately the same as water. As the concentration increases, the solution properties may change rapidly. Liquid viscosity will increase dramatically as the concentration approaches saturation and crystals begin to form. If the concentration is increased further, the crystals must be removed to prevent plugging or fouling of the heat transfer surface. The boiling point of a solution may rise considerably as the concentration progresses.

Foaming—Some materials, particularly certain organic substances, may foam when vapor is generated. Stable foams may be carried out with the vapor and, thus, cause excessive entrainment. Foaming may be caused by dissolved gases in the liquor, by an air leak below the liquid level, and by the presence of surface-active agents or finely divided particles in the liquor. Foams may be suppressed by antifoaming agents, by operating at low liquid levels, by mechanical methods, or by hydraulic methods.

Temperature Sensitivity—Many fine chemicals, food products, and pharmaceuticals can be degraded when exposed to only moderate temperatures for relatively brief time periods. When processing or handling heat sensitive compounds, special techniques may be needed to regulate the temperature/time relationship in the evaporation system.

Salting—Salting refers to the growth on evaporator surfaces of a material having a solubility that increases with increasing temperature. It can be reduced or eliminated by keeping the evaporating liquid in close or frequent contact with a large surface area of crystallized solid.

Scaling—Scaling is the growth or deposition on heating surfaces of a material which is either insoluble, or has a solubility that decreases with temperature. It may also result from a chemical reaction in the evaporator. Both scaling and salting liquids are usually best handled in an evaporator that does not rely upon boiling for operation.

Fouling—Fouling is the formation of deposits other than salt or scale. Fouling may be due to corrosion, solid matter entering with the feed, or deposits formed on the heating medium side.

Corrosion—Corrosion may influence the selection of the evaporator type, since expensive materials of construction usually dictate that evaporator designs allowing high rates of heat transfer are more cost effective. Corrosion and erosion are frequently more severe in evaporators than in other types of equipment, because of the high liquid and vapor velocities, the frequent presence of suspended solids, and the high concentrations encountered.

Product Quality—Purity and quality of the product may require low holdup and low temperatures, and can also determine that special alloys or other materials be used in the construction of the evaporator. A low holdup or residence time requirement can eliminate certain types of evaporators from consideration.

Other characteristics of the solid and liquid may need to be considered in the design of an evaporation system. Some examples are: specific heat, radioactivity, toxicity, explosion hazards, freezing point, and the ease of cleaning. Salting, scaling, and fouling result in steadily diminishing heat transfer rates, until the evaporator must be shut down and cleaned. While some deposits can be easily cleaned with a chemical agent, it is just as common that deposits are difficult and expensive to remove, and that time-consuming mechanical cleaning methods are required.

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