Chemical Engineering Science, Vol.61, No.9, 2762-2770, 2006
Investigation of laminar flow in a stirred vessel at low Reynolds numbers
Many mixing applications involve viscous fluids and laminar flows where the detailed as well as overall flow structures are important. In order to understand the fluid dynamic characteristics of low Re laminar flows in mixing vessels, the flow induced by a Rushton impeller for three Re namely, 1, 10 and 28, was studied both experimentally and computationally. It was found that for the highest Re, the flow exhibited the familiar outward pumping action associated with radial impellers under turbulent flow conditions. However, as the Re decreases, the net radial flow during one impeller revolution was reduced and for the lowest Re a reciprocating motion with negligible net pumping was observed. This behaviour has not been reported in the literature in the past and represents a highly undesirable flow pattern from the standpoint of effective mixing. The CFD results successfully reproduced this behaviour. In order to elucidate the physical mechanism responsible for the observed flow pattern, the forces acting on a fluid element in the radial direction were analysed. The analysis indicated that for the lowest Re, the material derivative of radial velocity near the blade tip is small thus a balance exists between pressure and viscous forces; the defining characteristic of creeping flow. The velocity and pressure forces are in phase because the velocity is driven by the pressure field generated by the rotation of the impeller. Based on these findings, a simplified analytic model of the flow was developed that gives a good qualitative as well as quantitative representation of the flow. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.