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Fluids/Solids Handling

Optimize Mixing by Using the Proper Baffles

Kevin J. Myers, University of Dayton

Mark F. Reeder and Julian B. Fasano, Chemineer, Inc.

It is common knowledge that baffles promote better flow in an agitated vessel, but how to apply them and what kind to use take some ingenuity.

A gitated vessels are used throughout the chemical engineering industries (CEI) for diverse applications including storing, blending and reacting materials. Agitator

design requires specification of the motor, drive and impeller system that will satisfy both process (1, 2, 3) and mechanical (4) requirements. In addition, most agitated vessels are baffled, and the design of the baffle system must also economically satisfy process objectives.

Why use baffling?

During agitation of a low-viscosity liquid, the ro- tating impeller imparts tangential motion to the liq- uid. Without baffling, this swirling motion approxi- mates solid-body rotation in which little mixing ac- tually occurs. Think about stirring a cup of coffee or a bowl of soup: The majority of the mixing occurs when the spoon is stopped or the direction of stir- ring is reversed. The primary purpose of baffling is to convert swirling motion into a preferred flow pat- tern to accomplish process objectives. The most common flow patterns are axial flow, typically used for blending and solids suspension, and radial flow, used for dispersion. However, baffling also has some other effects, such as suppressing vortex for- mation, increasing the power input and improving mechanical stability. A common agitation objective is suspending set- tling solids in a low-viscosity liquid, and Figure 1 il-

lustrates the effect of baffling on this. In the unbaf- fled vessel on the left, the swirling flow field is inef- fective at dispersing the solids that are grouped in a rotating pile below the pitched-blade impeller. Also, a large surface vortex is visible at the top of the shaft. In the vessel on the right, the baffles are visi- ble on the left and right sides of the vessel and as a thin gray strip that bisects the impeller and shaft. The presence of baffles produces axial flow, in which the discharge flow produced by the impeller impinges on the base of the vessel, flows radially to the vessel wall, then up the wall, returning to the im- peller from above. This flow pattern can be inferred from the solids that are distributed rather uniformly throughout the liquid. All parameters (impeller, speed, solids, etc.) are the same in the two vessels in

speed, solids, etc.) are the same in the two vessels in ■ Figure 1. Agitation in
speed, solids, etc.) are the same in the two vessels in ■ Figure 1. Agitation in

Figure 1. Agitation in an unbaffled vessel (left) leads to swirling flow with surface vortex formation and poor solids distribution, while standard baffling (right) with a pitched-blade turbine promotes axial flow that results in good solids distribution.

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Figure 1. The only difference is the presence of baffles. However, note that baffles do lead to a difference in power input. This point will be discussed later.

Why consider baffling alternatives?

As evidenced by Figure 1, in most applications, the key to successful agitation is providing the proper flow field to achieve process objectives. In some instances, particularly the most challenging ones, selection of the proper baffling system is critical to providing the opti- mal flow field.

Standard baffling

Many agitated vessels, including the one on the right in Figure 1, use standard baffling, which consists of four flat vertical plates, radially-directed (i.e., normal to the vessel wall), spaced at 90 deg. around the vessel periphery, and running the length of the vessel’s straight side. Standard baffle width is 1/10 or 1/12 of the vessel dia. (T/10 or T/12) (5). Sometimes, baffles are flush with the vessel wall and base, but, more often, gaps are left to permit the flow to clean the baffles. Recommended gaps are equal to 1/72 of the vessel dia. (T/72) between the baffles and the vessel wall, and 1/4 to one full baffle width between the bottom of the baf- fles and the vessel base.

Why use standard baffling?

The decision to use standard baffling is often an easy one. First, standard baffling typically provides near-op- timal performance, and because of the symmetric place- ment of the baffles around the vessel periphery, stan- dard baffling provides a high degree of mechanical sta- bility. In addition, in turbulent operation, many impeller characteristics, such as the power and pumping num- bers (Pg c /N 3 D 5 ρ and N Q = Q/ND 3 , respectively), are es- sentially independent of the impeller Reynolds number

Nomenclature

D =

g c

N =

N P = N Q =

N Re = impeller Reynolds number (ND 2 ρ/µ), dimensionless

impeller dia., m force conversion factor, kg-m/s 2 /N

impeller rotational speed, s -1 (rev/s) impeller power number (Pg c /N 3 D 5 ρ), dimensionless impeller pumping number (Q/ND 3 ), dimensionless

=

P

=

impeller power draw, W

Q

=

impeller pumping rate, m 3 /s

S

=

impeller submergence (distance below surface), m

T

=

vessel dia., m

Greek letters

µ viscosity, Pa-s(kg/m•s)

ν kinematic viscosity (µ/ρ), m 2 /s

ρ density, kg/m 3

=

=

=

when standard baffling is used. Fully turbulent agitation occurs for impeller Reynolds numbers (N Re = ND 2 ρ/µ) greater than about 10,000. In contrast, in under-baffled vessels, the impeller power number continually de- creases with increasing Reynolds number, introducing an additional complication to the design process (5). And last, but far from least, because of its widespread use, the choice of standard baffling is supported by ex- tensive design and scaleup data. It is the lack of such data and the potential sacrifice in mechanical stability that are the primary cautions when considering the use of non-standard baffles.

Baffling effects

Figures 2 and 3 illustrate how baffling in turbulent operation affects two primary agitator characteristics. Figure 2 shows that the impeller power number increas-

5 4 3 2 Radial Impellers 1 Mixed Impellers Axial Impellers 0 0 1 2
5
4
3
2
Radial Impellers
1
Mixed Impellers
Axial Impellers
0
0
1 2
3 4
Relative Power Number

Number of Standard Baffles

Figure 2. Increased baffling increases the power draw of an agitator.

1.0 Radial Impellers 0.8 Mixed Impellers Axial Impellers 0.6 0.4 0.2 0.0 0 1 2
1.0
Radial Impellers
0.8
Mixed Impellers
Axial Impellers
0.6
0.4
0.2
0.0
0
1 2
3 4
Relative Blend Time

Number of Standard Baffles

Figure 3. Baffling also reduces blend time.

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Fluids/Solids Handling

es as the number of standard width baffles (T/12) is in- creased. Data are presented for three impeller styles: ra- dial-flow impellers, such as straight-blade and Rushton turbines, mixed-flow impellers, such as pitched-blade turbines, and axial-flow impellers, such as high-effi- ciency impellers. All data in this figure are normalized with respect to the unbaffled condition, with each im- peller style being normalized individually, rather than with respect to a common reference. “Normalized” means that, if the unbaffled radial-flow power number is 2.5 and the unbaffled high-efficiency impeller num- ber is 0.2, then all of the radial-flow impeller data are divided by (normalized) 2.5 and all of the high-efficien- cy impeller data are divided by 0.2. The power number of radial-flow impellers is most strongly influenced by the extent of baffling, continual- ly increasing with the number of baffles. The mixed- flow and axial-flow impeller power numbers are affect- ed to a lesser extent, approximately doubling for a sin- gle baffle compared to an unbaffled system, but in- creasing only marginally as the number of baffles is further increased.

there are situations in which no baffling is used. Baffles are rarely used with side-entering agitators or with close-clearance impellers, such as gates, anchors and helical ribbons, for which the impeller-to-tank dia. ratio is typically greater than 90% (D/T > 0.90). Baffles are also generally not used in rectangular or square tanks that prevent swirl by providing some natural baffling in their sharp corners as illustrated in Figure 4. The flow field in the unbaffled square vessel in this figure is quite similar to that of the baffled cylindrical vessel in Figure 1 (all conditions, such as speed, impeller and solids, are the same in Figures 1 and 4: only the vessel has been changed). For impeller Reynolds numbers less than about 50, the viscous action of the liquid at the vessel wall causes a natural baffling effect, eliminating the nearly solid-body rotation that can occur during agitation of low-viscosity liquids in unbaffled vessels. Thus, no baffles or narrow baffles might be used (6). Simply for convenience, small agitated vessels, less than a few hundred gallons, also may not be baffled. In these systems, angled and/or off- center mounting of the agitator can be used to eliminate

Flat-plate baffles are the norm because of their ease of manufacture and installation and the associated economy.

It may seem counterintuitive to want to increase the power input to an agitated vessel. Why not operate at a lower power input in an unbaffled vessel? The reason for using baffles is that the higher power input is often necessary to achieve process objectives. Figure 3 illus- trates that at equal power input with surface addition of the material to be incorporated, the turbulent blend time of an unbaffled vessel is substantially greater than that of a baffled system. In this instance, all impeller styles are affected in a similar manner, with the addi- tion of a single baffle significantly decreasing the blend time, but the addition of further baffles having minimal effect. Again, all data have been normalized with respect to the unbaf- fled condition for each par- ticular impeller style.

unbaf- fled condition for each par- ticular impeller style. ■ Figure 4. Even when unbaffled, the

Figure 4. Even when unbaffled, the flow in square and rectangular vessels is similar to that in fully-baffled cylindrical vessels.

Non-standard baffling applications

Despite the popularity of standard baffling, there are many instances in which non-standard baffling is commonly used. In fact,

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excessive swirling. Mechanical complications and the as- sociated costs generally preclude the use of angled and off-center mounting with larger agitators. The flow patterns produced by off-center mounting in unbaffled vessels are shown in Figure 5. In the vessel on the left, the impeller is mounted vertically, but mid- way between the vessel centerline and wall, rather than on the vessel centerline. This reduces, but does not eliminate swirl. Although the solids are somewhat dis- persed through the liquid, they are still grouped in a loose swirling pile at the center of the vessel base. In the vessel to the right, in addition to mounting the

In the vessel to the right, in addition to mounting the ■ Figure 5. Off-center agitator
In the vessel to the right, in addition to mounting the ■ Figure 5. Off-center agitator

Figure 5. Off-center agitator mounting (left) reduces swirl in unbaffled vessels, while angled, off-center mounting (right) approximates the flow in fully-baffled vessels.

impeller off the vessel cen- terline, the agitator is angled at approximately 10 deg. to the vertical. This combina- tion in an unbaffled vessel approximates the flow field produced in a fully-baffled tank. When using angled mounting with an axial-flow impeller, the discharge flow produced by the impeller should oppose the swirling motion produced by the

impeller’s rotation (5). Baffles might not be used in vessels that require sterility or in which material hang-up during draining is problematic. Although choosing not to use baffles makes vessel cleaning eas- ier, it can make optimal agitator design difficult. Some agitated vessels do not use baffles per se, but contain internals such as heat-exchanger tube-bundles that provide sufficient baffling to accomplish process ob- jectives. In fact, some reactors that are used to carry out highly exothermic or endothermic reactions con- tain so many heat exchanger tubes that the vessel is over-baffled, making it difficult for the agitator to pro- mote sufficient flow. Flat-plate baffles are the norm because of their ease of manufacture and installation and the associated econo- my. A potential problem with them is that material can hang up or become trapped in stagnant regions near them, particularly in more viscous or non-Newtonian liq- uids, or in the presence of filamentous materials. This leads to the use of profiled baffles, often triangular or semicircular in shape, attached flush to the vessel wall

or semicircular in shape, attached flush to the vessel wall ■ Figure 6. A single baffle,

Figure 6. A single baffle, often used in glass-lined vessels, reduces, but does not eliminate, swirl and surface vortexing.

1.00 1.0 0.86 0.80 0.8 0.67 0.6 0.4 0.2 0.0 One One Two Four Beavertail
1.00
1.0
0.86
0.80
0.8
0.67
0.6
0.4
0.2
0.0
One
One
Two
Four
Beavertail
Concave
Concave
Standard
Relative Power Number

Baffle Configuration

Figure 8. The concave baffle increases power input in systems that use a

limited number of baffles.

that eliminate stagnant regions. The use of profiled baf- fles is limited to critical applications such as polymeriza- tion reactors and clean-in-place reactors, which are com- monly used in the pharmaceutical industry. Another op- tion is using baffles that are not mounted normal to the vessel wall, but that are angled away from the direction of impeller rotation.

Glass-lined vessels

Use of a limited number of baffles, one or two, is usually avoided because it does not provide adequate mechanical stability. However, there is one notable ex-

20

16

12

8

4

2

S = 0.5D S = D None One Two Four Four Four T/12 T/12 T/12
S
= 0.5D
S
= D
None
One
Two
Four
Four
Four
T/12
T/12
T/12
Half
T/40

Baffle Configuration

Relative Drawdown Power
Relative Drawdown Power

Figure 7. Common baffle styles for glass-lined vessels are the beavertail baffle (left) and the concave baffle.

Figure 9. The power required to draw down floating solids is affected by

the baffle system and the impeller submergence, S.

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Fluids/Solids Handling

Fluids/Solids Handling ■ Figure 10. Drawdown of floating solids in an unbaffled tank (left) relies upon
Fluids/Solids Handling ■ Figure 10. Drawdown of floating solids in an unbaffled tank (left) relies upon

Figure 10. Drawdown of floating solids in an unbaffled tank (left) relies upon a large surface vortex that reaches into the impeller, while narrow baffles (right) can promote drawdown and distribution of floating solids with a reduced vortex.

ception. To ensure the integrity of the vessel lining, rather than being mounted on the vessel wall, baffles in glass-lined vessels hang from flanges in the vessel’s top head. Typically, due to the limited space in this head, no more than two baffles are used in glass-lined tanks. Figure 6 demonstrates that use of a single baffle is

form distribution of settling or floating solids and en- hanced gas dispersion. An ad- ditional benefit of the concave baffle is that it prevents sur- face vortex formation, and is therefore more effective at avoiding gas entrainment at high power inputs in under- baffled vessels.

Surface incorporation

In some applications, it is actually critical that the im-

peller draw in material — gas, floating liquid or solids — from the surface. In these instances, standard baffling may not be the best approach. Partial lower baffling is often used for drawdown of material from the vessel headspace. In these instances, four baffles of standard width are used, but they extend only about half way up the vessel’s straight side, leaving the upper portion un-

the vessel’s straight side, leaving the upper portion un- ■ Figure 11. Partial lower baffles can

Figure 11. Partial lower baffles can be used to satisfy concurrent process objectives such as draw- down of floating solids (white) and suspension of settling solids (black).

Sometimes, when it is critical that the impeller draw in material, standard baffling may not be the best approach.

an improvement over an unbaffled system, but the flow is still highly tangential (note the small surface vortex at the top of the impeller shaft). The flow field in a ves- sel equipped with two standard baffles very closely ap- proximates that in a fully-baffled vessel. There are two primary challenges for baffling in glass-lined vessels. First, the surface of the baffle must be contoured because sharp corners cannot be coated with glass. As a result, the most common type of baffle used in glass-lined vessels consists of a pipe flattened to yield an elliptical cross section. This type of baffle is commonly referred to as a beavertail (Figure 7, left). The second challenge is that glass-lined vessels are under-baffled, and it can be difficult to provide suffi- cient power input to achieve process objectives. To overcome both of these challenges, a patented concave baffle has been developed (7, 8) (photo at the right of Figure 7, shown without the glass coating). The data of Figure 8, taken with a retreat-curve im- peller, the most commonly used impeller in glass-lined vessels, illustrates that the concave baffle increases power input relative to the beavertail baffle and that two concave baffles approach the power input of four standard baffles. Studies with the concave baffle con- firm that the higher power input associated with this de- sign leads to process improvements, such as more uni-

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baffled. An impeller, often a pitched-blade turbine, placed near the liquid surface, will generate a con- trolled vortex that aids in the incorporation of material into the liquid. Figure 9 compares the power requirements to draw down floating solids with a single down-pumping pitched-blade turbine and various baffle systems. Data are presented for impeller submergences below the liq- uid surface equal to one-half of the impeller diameter (S = 0.5 D) and the impeller diameter (S = D). All data in Figure 9 are normalized with respect to a common ref- erence. The power requirements of the unbaffled sys- tem are the lowest, but as shown on the left of Figure 10, the unbaffled system does a poor job distributing the solids throughout the liquid. Further, this system has a large vortex, reaching into the impeller and lead- ing to undesired air entrainment and the potential for mechanical instability. As the extent of baffling in the system is increased, from unbaffled to one, two and four standard baffles, the power requirement continually increases, particular- ly for the larger impeller submergence. The power re- quirement of the system consisting of four lower-half baffles is substantially lower than that of the fully-baf- fled system, being comparable to that of the two-baffle system. The advantage of the half-baffle system com-

pared to the two-baffle one is greater mechanical stabil- ity and better mixing in the lower portion of the vessel. The right-most data set of Figure 9 is for a narrow set of four baffles that is recommended for solids draw- down (9). This system uses four baffles that run the length of the vessel’s straight side, but the baffles are narrow, having a width equal to approximately 2% of the vessel diameter (typically T/50 to T/40, rather than the standard of T/10 or T/12). This system provides symmetry, and an associated degree of mechanical sta- bility, as well as very low drawdown power require- ments, good solids distribution throughout the liquid, and limited surface vortexing. Additionally, the drawdown power requirement of the narrow baffle system is relatively unaffected by im- peller submergence, a distinct advantage for processes in which the liquid level varies. The superior solids drawdown performance of the narrow baffle system is shown on the right of Figure 10. In some instances, it is necessary to simultaneously satisfy a number of process objectives. Figure 11 shows how a dual-impeller system in a vessel equipped with

Literature Cited

1. Fasano, J. B., et al., “Advanced Impeller Geometry Boosts Liquid Agitation,” Chem. Eng., 101, pp. 110–116 (Aug. 1994).

2. Corpstein, R. R., et al., “The High-Efficiency Road to Liquid-Solid Agitation,” Chem. Eng., 101, pp. 138–144 (Oct. 1994).

3. Bakker, A., et al., “How to Disperse Gases in Liquids,” Chem. Eng., 101, pp. 98–104 (Dec. 1994).

4. Fasano, J. B., et al., “Consider Mechanical Design of Agitators,” Chem. Eng. Progress, 91 (8), pp. 60–71 (Aug. 1995).

5. Bates, R. L., et al., “Impeller Characteristics and Power,” Chapter 3 in “Mixing: Theory and Practice,” V. W. Uhl and J. B. Gray, eds., Academic Press, New York (1966).

6. Bakker, A., and L. E. Gates, “Properly Choose Mechanical Agita- tors for Viscous Liquids,” Chem. Eng. Progress, 91 (12), pp. 25–34 (Dec. 1995).

7. Hairston, D., “Mixing Powders into Liquids,” Chem. Eng., 107 (5), pp. 29–35 (May 2000).

8. Reeder, M. F., and C. J. Ramsey, “Concave Baffle,” U.S. Patent 6,059,448 (May 9, 2000).

9. Hemrajani, R. R., et al., “Suspending Floating Solids in Stirred Tanks — Mixer Design, Scale-Up and Optimization,” Proc. Sixth European Conference on Mixing, pp. 259–265, Pavia, Italy (May 24–26, 1988).

10. Drewer, G. R., et al., “Suspension of High Concentration Solids in Mechanically Stirred Vessels,” Eighth European Conference on Mix- ing, (IChemE Symposium Series No. 136), pp. 41–48, Cambridge, U.K. (Sept. 21–23, 1994).

11. Joosten, G. E. H., et al., “The Suspension of Floating Solids in Stirred Vessels,” Trans. of the Institution of Chem. Eng., 55, pp. 220–222 (1977).

12. Siddiqui, H., “Mixing Technology for Buoyant Solids in a Nonstan- dard Vessel,” AIChE J., 39, pp. 505–509 (1993).

partial lower baffles can be used to simultaneously draw down floating solids and suspend settling solids. The lack of baffles in the upper portion of the tank per- mits sufficient swirl to incorporate the floating solids, while the baffles in the lower portion promote axial flow that is effective at suspending the settling solids. For some applications, partial upper baffling is the preferred approach. In pulp-and-paper agitation, the baffles may not extend below the impeller to prevent material hang-up and stagnant regions. A second exam- ple is high-solids-loading slurries that can be difficult to agitate, particularly if settled solids must be resus- pended. Full baffling can cause the impeller and solids to bind, while removing the lower portion of the baffles allows tangential motion that can improve solids sus- pension performance (10). Partial upper baffles have also been shown to be somewhat effective for draw- down of floating solids (11, 12).

Concluding remarks

When agitating low-viscosity liquids, standard baf- fling typically provides near-optimal process perfor- mance and good mechanical stability. In addition, stan- dard baffling is backed up by extensive design and scaleup data. However, as described here, there are situ- ations in which standard baffling may not be the best choice. The guidelines presented here are intended to identify the baffle system modifications that can be used to improve performance and the situations in which

these modifications should be considered.

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KEVIN J. MYERS is a professor in the Dept. of Chemical and Materials Engineering, Univ. of Dayton (Dayton, OH 45469-0246; Phone: (937) 229- 2627; Fax: (937) 229-3433; E-mail: kevin.myers@notes.udayton.edu). He has conducted extensive agitation research, particularly in multiphase systems. He received his bachelor’s degree from the Univ. of Dayton and

his DSc in chemical engineering from Washington Univ. in St. Louis. Myers

is a member of AIChE and the American Society for Engineering Education.

MMAARRKK FF

RREEEEDDEERR is a principal research engineer with Chemineer, Inc. (P.O.

Box 1123, 5870 Poe Ave., Dayton, OH 45401; Phone: (937) 454-3346; Fax:

(937) 454-3395; E-mail: M.Reeder@chemineer.com). He works in the R&D laboratory and is involved in development work for a wide range of mixing products, including agitators, static mixers and rotor/stator mixers. He received his bachelor’s degree from West Virginia Univ. and his master’s and PhD degrees in mechanical engineering from Ohio State Univ. Reeder’s experience also includes a post-doctoral appointment at NASA Glenn, for optical diagnostics used in jet mixing; he is also a professional engineer.

JULIAN B. FASANO is director, parts and field service, for Chemineer, Inc. (Phone: (937) 454-3263; Fax: (937) 454-3379; E-mail: J.Fasano@ chemineer.com). He has been with Chemineer for 30 years, with primary emphasis on R&D and custom equipment design. From 1984 to 1995, he served as technical director. He holds a BSc in chemical engineering from the Univ. of Dayton, an MSc in chemical engineering from Lehigh Univ., and

a PhD in materials engineering, also from the Univ. of Dayton. Fasano is a PE in Ohio and a member of AIChE.

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