CFD and 3D are causing a stir in the world of reactors


In order to develop and test new processes for the production of responsible fuels or bio-based chemical intermediates, complex and miniature reactors for IFPEN pilot units have been developed and produced using an innovative method, where traditional design and manufacturing ones are not suitable for obtaining appropriate geometries.

The new methodology is based on CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) to design and optimize the geometry(1) then on 3D printing techniques to make the reactor. It has been applied to design a stirred tank reactor that can be used for gas/liquid chemical reactions, in the presence of solid catalytic particles.

The latter, contained inside a basket closed by grids, are suspended by the flow, thereby forming a catalytic ebullating bed.
Optimization of the basket geometry is obtained by interactive combination of simulation, production of a prototype by 3D printing and experimental validation on models. Finally, the optimized reactor is manufactured by metal 3D printing (figure).

Three-phase stirred tank reactor
Three-phase stirred tank reactor: from CFD (left*) to technological reality (right).
* - The orange area shows the catalytic ebullating bed area

This approach that is simultaneously economical and highly reactive can be used to rapidly design and produce innovative reactors. It thus paves the way for new opportunities for the design of chemical reactors. Currently applied in experimental facilities, it could be extended to an industrial scale in the near future, once additive manufacturing has reached the standards required for certification of components.

(1) V. Santos-Moreau, L. Brunet-Errard, M. Rolland, Numerical CFD simulation of a batch stirred tank reactor with stationary catalytic basket, Chem. Eng. J., Vol. 207–208, 2012, pages 596-606, ISSN 1385-8947.
DOI: 10.1016/j.cej.2012.07.020


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