Chemical Engineering Journal, Vol.352, 558-571, 2018
A fundamental investigation of gas/solid mass transfer in open-cell foams using a combined experimental and CFD approach
In this work, we combine numerical (CFD) simulations and experimental measurements in a fundamental investigation of the fluid-solid mass transfer properties of open-cell foams, which are promising support for catalytic applications limited by external heat and mass transfer. CFD simulations are exploited to gain insight into the complex transport mechanisms and to enable a parametric analysis of the geometrical features by means of virtually-generated structures. Catalytic activity experiments under diffusion control are used to validate the CFD results and to extend the range of conditions and foam morphologies investigated. Analysis of the flow field by CFD simulations provides a rational basis for the choice of the average strut size as a physically sound characteristic length for mass transfer correlations. Results from both numerical simulations and experimental tests are interpreted according to a fully-theoretically based geometrical model for the prediction of the specific surface area, which accounts for the detailed node-strut geometry. The effects of cell size and strut shape are properly included in the functional dependence of the Sherwood number on the Reynolds number. The effect of porosity requires one additional dependence, wherein the Sherwood number is inversely proportional to the square of the void fraction. The resulting Sherwood-Reynolds correlation is in excellent agreement with experimental data and CFD simulations. It enables accurate ( +/- 15%) estimation of the external mass transfer coefficients for open-cell foams when coupled with the proposed geometrical model from two readily accessible pieces of geometrical information, i.e. the void fraction and either the cell size or the pore diameter of the foam. The derived correlation can be applied to the design of novel enhanced open-cell foam catalyst substrates and structured reactors.