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Chemical Engineering Journal 124 (2006) 1–5

Short communication

Shear rate in stirred tank and bubble column bioreactors
J.A. S´anchez P´erez a , E.M. Rodr´ıguez Porcel a , J.L. Casas L´opez a,∗ ,
J.M. Fern´andez Sevilla a , Y. Chisti b
a Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Almer´ıa, E-04120 Almer´ıa, Spain
b Institute of Technology and Engineering, Massey University, Palmerston North 5320, New Zealand
Received 23 February 2006; received in revised form 7 July 2006; accepted 12 July 2006

Abstract
A rigorous theoretical analysis is used to show that for both Newtonian and non-Newtonian power law fluids agitated in stirred vessels, the
average shear rate γ in the fluid is a function of the rotational speed N of the impeller, as follows:
γ = constant · N (laminar flow)

γ = constant · N 3/2 (turbulent flow).
Only in turbulent flow, the proportionality constant in the above equation depends on the flow index and the consistency index of the power law
fluid. The above equations derived by theoretical reasoning are in excellent agreement with the long established empirical art.
In bubble columns, the average shear rate depends on the superficial gas velocity Ug , as follows:
γ = constant · Ug1/(n+1)
where n is the flow index of the power law fluid. The proportionality constant in the above equation for bubble columns is a function of the flow
index, consistency index and the density of the liquid.
© 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Stirred tanks; Bubble columns; Bioreactors; Shear rate; Mixing; Agitation

1. Introduction shear rate with the rotational speed of the impeller [4–7], or with
power input that depends on impeller speed [8,9]. The equations
Stirred tanks and bubble columns are widely used as mixing in Table 1 were all obtained empirically. Here we show by purely
vessels and bioreactors. Average spatial fluid velocity gradients theoretical reasoning that the average shear rate in Newtonian
at the level of the eddies or the prevailing shear rate, is an impor- and non-Newtonian media in a stirred vessel is a function of
tant variable in bioreactors but is not easy to characterize. A only the rotational speed N (laminar flow), or N3/2 (turbulent
knowledge of shear rate is essential for at least two main reasons: flow). As demonstrated further, these theoretical outcomes are
(1) shear rate influences the average apparent viscosity of non- in excellent agreement with the well-established prior art.
Newtonian fluids and hence affects power absorption, mixing In bubble columns, the sole source of agitation is the pneu-
characteristics and mass transfer phenomena [1]; (2) microor- matic power input provided by isothermal expansion of the
ganisms, bioflocs and other suspended solids are susceptible to sparged gas. For such cases, the average shear rate is shown
damage that is dependent on the prevailing shear rate and asso- to exclusively depend on the superficial gas velocity and the
ciated shear stress [2,3]. rheological properties of the fluid in ways that are consistent
The main equations for estimating average shear rate γ and with other independent theoretical analyses [10,11].
the maximum shear rate γ max in the impeller zone of stirred tanks
are summarized in Table 1 [2,3]. Most authors have correlated
2. Theory

∗ Corresponding author. Tel.: +34 950 015832; fax: +34 950 015484. The specific energy dissipation rate in a stirred tank is well
E-mail address: jlcasas@ual.es (J.L. Casas L´opez). known to depend on the shear rate γ and the shear stress τ [12],

1385-8947/$ – see front matter © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.cej.2006.07.002

the Power number Table 1 (Np ) and the agitator Reynolds number (Re) are related [13. (9) the tank. (3) π the number pi becomes the following: ρ density of fluid (kg m−3 ) P τ shear stress (Pa) = μa γ 2 (7) V Ψ constant in Eq. i. cited in K =C . turbulent and transitional flows. Eq. Substituting the following definitions [1] γ = ki 3n+1 N Calderbank and Moo-Young [5] of the Power number and Reynolds number. S´anchez P´erez et al.14] Correlations for shear rate in stirred tanks as follows: C Equation Reference Np = (9) Re γ = ki N Metzner and Otto [4]  d 0. for Newtonian fluids. dT diameter of tank (m) τ H height of fluid in tank (m) μ= .5 ρN 3 di5 γ= P Vμa Henzler and Kauling [10] cited by Candia and Deckwer ρNdi2 [9] Re = (11)  0. (2) γ ki impeller constant K consistency index (Pa sn ) therefore. (6) γ μ viscosity (Pa s) μa apparent viscosity (Pa s) for non-Newtonian media the equation corresponding to Eq. For agitation under laminar flow (Re ≤ 10). (8) KV Eq.   0.3N di μ 1. (23) τ = Kγ n (5) W width of impeller blade (m) where K is the consistency index and n is the flow behavior Greek symbols index of the fluid.e.3 d μ γmax = 9. (3) V γ n flow index N agitation speed (s−1 ) or   Np Power number 1 P 1/2 P power input (W) γ= .7N ddTi i Bowen [6]  ρ W0. Because the apparent viscosity μa is given as ε energy input per unit mass (W kg−1 ) follows [4]: γ average shear rate (s−1 ) τ γ max maximum shear rate (s−1 ) μa = = Kγ n−1 . (8) applies to both laminar and turbulent flow regimes. V uid in bubble column (m−1 ) where P is the power input and V is the volume of the fluid in C constant in Eq. V volume of fluid (m3 ) For non-Newtonian fluids obeying the power law [1]. [8] Np = (10)  0.3 d where the constant C depends on the geometry of the tank and γ = 4. (12) Robertson and Ulbrecht [7] ρN 3 di5 ρNdi2 . therefore. (4) μV q constant in Eq.367 μ P V V Vs Np Hoffmann et al.5 in Eq.55 P γ= 0. (1) can be written as follows: m constant in Eq.2 J.2N i i Bowen [6]  4n dTn/(n−1) W the impeller [13.5 Robertson and Ulbrecht [7]   1/(1+n) N 2−n di2 ρ P μ γmax = N(1 + 5. the viscosity μ is di diameter of the impeller (m) the ratio of shear stress and shear rate. Furthermore. (29) and. we Vs volume swept by the impeller (m3 ) have: w constant in Eq. / Chemical Engineering Journal 124 (2006) 1–5 as follows: Nomenclature P = τγ (1) a gas–liquid interfacial area per unit volume of liq. (4) applies to laminar. (24) P γ M torque (N m) = τγ = τγ = μγ 2 . (20) Re impeller Reynolds number Eq. we obtain the following equation: γmax = 3.14].42 0.3n)1/n Wichterle et al. (9).A.   1 P 1/(n+1) γ= .

Eqs. (29) the value of Ψ is estimated as proposed by Kawase P 8 Np ρdi5 4Np ρdi2 3 and Moo-Young [15] and Eq. the substitution of Eq.1.3n−0. 2. (14) applies to laminar flow. (13) for a stirred tank of standard geometry [1]. replacing the vis- impeller. the following equation is obtained: V 3 di 2π π33  −1/(n+1) Thus. This equation included a proportion- γ= N = qN (20) π33 ality constant Ψ as follows: where q is a constant.3n ) (Ug g) .63 1/(n+1) 1/(n+1) K γ = (10. (28) or   An equation similar to Eq. as follows: cosity term in Eq. (14) in Eq. sion: i. (17) gives the equation: analysis. (14) 2π to Newtonian media (n = 1. N the rotational where w is a constant for a Newtonian fluid because the Power speed of the agitator and di is the diameter of the impeller. (21) energy input. Eqs. Eq. from Eqs. (5) and further rearrangement can be used to obtain the following equation for average shear rate: P = 2πMN. S´anchez P´erez et al. (23) by Eq. (10) and (13) we have the following: P 2πNM In bubble columns. the power input per unit volume of liquid Np = 5 = (15) is related with the superficial gas velocity Ug . there. (3) and (21). (13)  1/(1+n) For Newtonian fluids.63 ) . (26) K P 2πNM 8 = = 3 3 NM. K = μ). ρ (16) and (17) lead to the following equation: If in Eq. from Eqs. = μγ 2 = N . the Power number is constant [13. (30) is identi- P 4Np ρdi2 3 cal to Eqs. (28) is substituted for the specific = 3 3N N2 = N . In turbulent flow. (17) Eq. the average shear rate depends on N . (20) is valid for both Newtonian and  −1/(n+1) K non-Newtonian fluids. (29) For turbulent flow (Re > 104 ) in standard stirred tanks. the specific power input is a function −0. (22) V π33 or 3. the specific power input can be expressed as  1/(n+1) 1 follows: γ= gρUg . (20) and (23) suggest that π33 μ in Newtonian media. Eq. Eq. / Chemical Engineering Journal 124 (2006) 1–5 3 In Eqs.1. (3) and (18) imply that where P 4μC 2 = μγ 2 = N (19) V π33 ε = gUg . (26) is identical to the equation that was obtained for bub- V π/4 (3di )3 3 di ble columns by Henzler and Kauling [10] through dimensional Substitution of Eq.e. the specific power input is a function of γ= (27) K N2 . (26) and (27).e. (18) follows: V 3 di 2π π33  ρε 1/(n+1) Hence. ρ is the density of the fluid. (13) in Eq. (10)–(12). Furthermore. ε). Henzler and Kauling [10] related the average shear rate in bubble columns to the energy input per unit mass (i. as follows: 3 ρN di ρN 3 di5 or P = gρUg (25) Np di5 ρ 2 V M= N .14].A. (26) was derived theoretically by 4C 1/2 Kawase and Kumagai [11]. number and viscosity are constants. H = dT = 3 di . J. (12) 4Np ρdi2 γ= N 3/(1+n) = mN 3/(1+n) (24) leads to the following equation: π33 K Cμdi3 where m is a constant. we can deduce the ρ following: 1/(n+1) Except for the multiplier (10. (8) leads to the following expres- From Eq. in turbulent flow. Extension to bubble columns fore. (16) 2π Substitution of the above in Eq. in laminar flow. as P 8 μCdi3 4μC 2 = 3 3N N= N . Eq. The power input of course depends on the torque M on the For turbulent flow in non-Newtonian fluids. Discussion  1/2 4Np ρdi2 γ= N 3/2 = wN 3/2 (23) The theoretically derived Eqs. γ = Ψ 2/n ε1/(n+1) . (24) is quite general and applies also M= N. (30) of N3 .

Eng. (31) proposed by Kelly [1] J. Otto. Drew fluid and its density. Rochester. USA) operated in the transitional flow 2406. Wiley. Prog.B. as accordance with Eq. Chemical Engineering. J. Costich. 21 As further evidence in support of the analysis presented here. The exponent on N-term in Eq. In non-Newtonian media. J. (26) shear–stress in stirred vessels. Biocataly- ship is supported by independent analyses [10. AIChE J 3 for non-Newtonian power law fluids. Oldshue (Eds. The rheology of mold suspen- In summary. 46 (1950) 467–476. PAI III obtained the following correlation: (CVI 263). Res.C. cited by Robertson and Ulbrecht [7] (Table 1) reveals that the [5] P.C. (23) and (24) are over- between shear rate and N are those due to Bowen [6] and whelmingly consistent with well-known independent empirical Calderbank and Moo-Young [5]. S. and Bioseparation. [7. strongly supports the theoretical [14] J. R. [13] J. NY. in: M. the empirical equation (1957) 3–10. Cranfield. New York. both Newtonian and power law fluids.C.16.W. Eng. as expected 26–33.F.J. in: Fifth European Conference on Mixing. Prog. cited in 7. J. Drew (Eds.A. Eqs. the agreement of the theory discussed here with sions. Des. Clearly. Chem.5. 227–263. the empirical evidence shows that the shear laminar flow is confirmed to depend on the impeller rotational rate depends on N1. Scale-up of mass transfer in highly viscous liquids. Measurement of shear rate on an agitator in a empirical evidence from three independent sources [7. Crit. Kelly and Gigas [17] correlated values of the aver. This mechanistic relationship agrees follows: with other independent observations.4 J.W. in German. [12] B. impellers. 9 (June) (1986) 55–63. Eng. Rushton.W.B. Rushton. / Chemical Engineering Journal 124 (2006) 1–5 and N3/2 in laminar (Re < 10) and turbulent (Re > 104 ) flows. E. Kumagai. the shear rate depends on the rheological properties of the Chem. Hempel. van Suijdam. N. 72–81. and Bioseparation. D. American Institute of Chemical Engineers. the average shear rate is related with the superfi- age impeller shear rate obtained through computational fluid cial aeration velocity and the rheological properties of the fluid in dynamic modelling. 1990. [7] B. Power characteristics of mixing several independent empirical observations in different flow impellers.11]. In theory.). Henzler.-D.S. .3N. (24). (20).). Unraveling the mysteries of shear-sensitive mixing systems. the mechanistically derived Eq.4 . As a further empirical evidence media. 2379– Mixers. BHRA.M. Biocataly- (32) are for an A315 axial flow hydrofoil impeller (LIGHTNIN sis.J. or in exact agreement with in the agitation of non-Newtonian fluids.F. K. Biotechnol. (23). J. close to the theoretically derived value of 1. II. 1987. Bowen. (Eds. Chemie Ingenieur Technik 67 (1995) shows that the average shear rate depends on the superficial 210–214. pp. Other empirical correlations that suggest a direct dependence The theoretically derived Eqs. In turbulent flow in both Newtonian and non-Newtonian theoretically derived Eq.96 [17]. Flickinger. Although sis.W. W¨urzburg. γ = 64. fourth ed.1N 1. the average shear rate in In turbulent flow. Chem. Eng. Costich. This mechanistically derived relation. aeration velocity.E. The prediction of power consumption shear rate is proportional to N3/1+n . Clearly. we y Ciencia (CTQ2004-04454) and Junta de Andaluc´ıa. and Gigas [17]. Bioprocess Eng. pp.Y. or substantially better than Eq. Conclusions respectively.999. Power characteristics of mixing Eqs.5 (Table 1.H. thus revealing a correlating the average shear rate in stirred vessels operated with previously unknown theoretical foundation for that equation. Flickinger. Hydrodynamic damage to animal cells.C. Hoffmann. (2001) 67–110. New York. bubble columns. (32) is quite Pergamon. Everett. Biotechnology Pro- et al. Eng. observations. Buescher. Determination of maximum In bubble columns.). (26).Wichterle fermentation broth. [4] A. [7]) and this is consistent with the speed N.18]. Ulbrecht. (24) and (26). Encyclopedia of Bioprocess Technology: Fermentation. 11 (1979) 103–156. J. Kauling. Coulson. this approach has been questioned in the literature tion media in bioreactors. Rev. Everett. pp.J. 17] supports the theoretical Eqs. in: M.J.e. for the same data (Fig. Adv. as shown in Table 1. 1999. [6] R.. 1999. I. vol. (23).H. fluid in addition to depending on the rotational speed. K. [3] Y. 5. Calderbank. in: C. S. thus lending credence to the theoretical reason- the empirical evidence is overwhelmingly consistent with the ing used and rationalizing the prior empirical observations. erties of the fluid (i. vol. 303–312. Robertson. E. Ho. 4. [2. Germany. Shear sensitivity. Apparent viscosity for non-Newtonian fermenta- review). various types of fluids in laminar and turbulent flow regimes. 37 (1959) the theoretical Eq. 7 (1991) 25–28. 10a of reference [17]). Biochem. T. New York. 46 (1950) 395–404. have disregarded any relationship between shear rate and prop. vol. (31) and Encyclopedia of Bioprocess Technology: Fermentation. Chisti. 2695–2711. Xanthan gum. Agitation of non-Newtonian fluids.W. Richardson. H. (31) Acknowledgments The regression coefficient for the above equation was 0. paper 30. H. the rheological properties of the power law [9] Candia J-LF. [8] J. (23) and cesses: Scale-up and Mixing. 1. Moo-Young. (23). Wiley. (20). the average shear rate is shown to depend on N3/1+n . Metz. (32) References Eq. γ = 33. 5. regimes and types of fluids. regime. with the rotational speed of the impeller. Kossen. Chisti. 1985. Metzner. pp. In for Eq. M. Oxford. This research was supported by the Ministerio de Educaci´on however. Deckwer. S´anchez P´erez et al. (32) correlated the data with a regression coefficient of 0.16]. Kawase. [2] Y. W. n and ρ) (see Chisti [2] for a [11] Y. Chem. pp.H. many empirical correlations for shear rate in bubble columns [10] H. (24). This theoretically derived dependence is of course in complete agreement with the well-established empirical Theoretical reasoning presented here leads to equations for equation of Metzner and Otto [4] (Table 1).

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