Computational Analysis of Different Sparging Systems and their Influence in the Fluid-Dynamic Behavior of Bubble Column Reactors

Research output: NRELPresentation


Bubble column bioreactors are being actively considered for gas fermentation applications, specifically for CO2 utilization, and sugars to fuels conversion. Their main advantages include good mass transfer without any moving parts and low-cost of operation and maintenance. However, the design and scale-up of such reactors is challenging specifically for carbon capture applications where a mixture of gases (e.g. CO2/CO/H2) with variable solubilities is used. The overall performance of scaled-up bioreactors (e.g., mass transfer rate) is largely affected by gas holdup, bubble size distribution (BSD), and multiphase hydrodynamics. We investigate the effect of gas sparger designs on the performance of these large-scale bioreactors using computational fluid dynamics simulations in this work, so as to improve CO2 conversion at scale. The gas distribution systems in bubble column reactors not only determines operational regime, but also affects the evolution of the BSD, which in turn influences interfacial mass transfer and ultimately the efficiency of the gas-liquid exchange process. In addition to the BSD, uniformity in gas sparging affects gas holdup and bubble residence time which constitute important metrics of performance in gas-liquid systems. In this work, we use computational models to simulate high fidelity representations of different sparger designs and their effect on the operation of a bubble column reactor. Four different types of spargers have been selected for the computational study (Fig. 1): ladder, multi-ring, single-ring and toroidal. Their effect on superficial velocity, gas holdup mixing efficiency, and BSD will be evaluated in this work. The model uses a multiphase Eulerian framework similar to [1] and include a composition of mixtures of H2/CO/CO2 gases, common in fermentation applications.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages21
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NamePresented at the 2023 AIChE Annual Meeting, 5-10 November 2023, Orlando, Florida

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-2C00-88079


  • bioreactor
  • computational fluid dynamics
  • fuels
  • hydrodynamics
  • multiphase modeling


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