Three main flow regimes exist on industrial distillation trays. These regimes may all occur on the same tray under different liquid and gas flow rates (Fig. 14-19). Excellent discussion of the fundamentals and modeling of these flow regimes was presented by Lockett (Distillation Tray Fundamentals, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1986). An excellent overview of these as well as of less common flow regimes was given by Prince (PACE, June 1975, p. 31; July 1975, p. 18).
Froth regime (or mixed regime; Fig. 14-20a). This is the most common operating regime in distillation practice. Each perforation bubbles vigorously. The bubbles circulate rapidly through the liquid, are of nonuniform sizes and shapes, and travel at varying velocities. The froth surface is mobile and not level, and is generally covered by droplets. Bubbles are formed at the tray perforations and are swept away by the froth.
As gas load increases in the froth regime, jetting begins to replace bubbling in some holes. The fraction of holes that is jetting increases with gas velocity. When jetting becomes the dominant mechanism, the dispersion changes from froth to spray. Prado et al. [Chemical Engineering Progr. 83(3), p. 32, (1987)] showed the transition from froth to spray takes place gradually as jetting replaces bubbling in 45 to 70 percent of the tray holes.
Emulsion regime (Fig. 14-20b). At high liquid loads and relatively low gas loads, the high-velocity liquid bends the swarms of gas bubbles leaving the orifices, and tears them off, so most of the gas becomes emulsified as small bubbles within the liquid. The mixture behaves as a uniform two-phase fluid, which obeys the Francis weir formula [see the subsection "Pressure Drop" and Eq. (14-109) (Hofhuis and Zuiderweg, IChemE Symp. Ser. 56, p. 2.2/1 (1979); Zuiderweg, Int. Chem. Eng. 26(1), 1 (1986)]. In industrial practice, the emulsion regime is the most common in high-pressure and high-liquid-rate operation.
Spray regime (or drop regime, Fig. 14-20c). At high gas velocities and low liquid loads, the liquid pool on the tray floor is shallow and easily atomized by the high-velocity gas. The dispersion becomes a turbulent cloud of liquid droplets of various sizes that reside at high elevations above the tray and follow free trajectories. Some droplets are entrained to the tray above, while others fall back into the liquid pools and become reatomized. In contrast to the liquid-continuous froth and emulsion regimes, the phases are reversed in the spray regime: here the gas is the continuous phase, while the liquid is the dispersed phase.
The spray regime frequently occurs where gas velocities are high and liquid loads are low (e.g., vacuum and rectifying sections at low liquid loads).
Three-layered structure. Van Sinderen, Wijn, and Zanting [Trans. IChemE, 81, Part A, p. 94 (January 2003)] postulate a tray dispersion consisting of a bottom liquid-rich layer where jets/bubbles form; an intermediate liquid-continuous froth layer where bubbles erupt, generating drops; and a top gas-continuous layer of drops. The intermediate layer that dampens the bubbles and
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