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How new substances form: Learning to control and optimize processes

Date:
September 19, 2013
Source:
University of Stuttgart
Summary:
Gas bubbles rise in a liquid. What looks like a bottle of sparkling mineral water actually is a type of reactor frequently used in industry -- a bubble column. These reactors are found in laboratories and large technology towers at almost any chemical plant. New compounds, created at the bubble's boundary layers, are the raw materials for numerous objects of our everyday life. Developing ways to control these processes and to optimize them is therefore of great interest.

Stuttgart researchers simulate processes in bubble column.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Stuttgart

Gas bubbles rise in a liquid. What looks like a bottle of sparkling mineral water actually is a type of reactor frequently used in industry -- a bubble column. These reactors are found in laboratories and large technology towers at almost any chemical plant. New compounds, created at the bubble's boundary layers, are the raw materials for numerous objects of our everyday life. Developing ways to control these processes and to optimize them is therefore of great interest. In the framework of the Collaborative Research Center (SFB 716), scientists from the Institute of Chemical Process Engineering at the University of Stuttgart work on exactly this topic. They develop computer simulations to test relevant factors.

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Inside of a bubble column, gas bubbles rise in a liquid. While this happens, chemical processes take place at their outer layers where different substances are in contact. About 90 percent of all products of the chemical industry are generated in this way. These products are ultimately incorporated into a variety of goods such as cosmetics, clothing, plastic items (bottles, garbage bags, foils), as well as synthetic fuels, such as those used for the propulsion of ships or missiles.

Simulations are one way to better understand and optimize the process of formation of those chemical

products. So far, scientists mostly modeled the circulation of gas bubbles and the induced fluid flow, using computer simulations. However, this approach only allows for limited predictions about varying process conditions.

This could be changed by particle simulations, which were developed at the Collaborative Research Center (SFB 716) focusing on "Dynamic Simulations of Systems with Large Numbers of Particles" at the University of Stuttgart. The research team led by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Ulrich Nieken at the Institute of Chemical Engineering concentrates its research efforts on the boundary layers of the gas bubbles, since this is where the actual chemical reactions take place.

The researchers develop computer simulations to test relevant factors such as column size, quantities

of liquid, or different combinations of substances. By means of these simulations, they want to clarify important details like: Under what conditions do the desired reactions occur? What chemical phenomena play a role? What quantity of the final product can be produced, and how can these processes be accelerated to optimize throughput?

To achieve this, the researchers develop complex numerical calculation schemes for which they utilize high performance computer clusters or graphics cards. The methods developed by the scientists of the SFB are cutting edge in simulations of the described processes.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Stuttgart. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Manuel Hirschler, Franz Keller, Manuel Huber, Winfried Säckel, Ulrich Nieken. Ein gitterfreies Berechnungsverfahren zur Simulation von Koaleszenz in Mehrphasensystemen. Chemie Ingenieur Technik, 2013; 85 (7): 1099 DOI: 10.1002/cite.201200211

Cite This Page:

University of Stuttgart. "How new substances form: Learning to control and optimize processes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130919085628.htm>.
University of Stuttgart. (2013, September 19). How new substances form: Learning to control and optimize processes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 5, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130919085628.htm
University of Stuttgart. "How new substances form: Learning to control and optimize processes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130919085628.htm (accessed March 5, 2015).

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