Formulation and Validation of an Efficient Computational Model for a Dilute, Settling Suspension Undergoing Rotational Mixing

Jonathan Stickel, Michael Sprague, Hariswaran Sitaraman, Paul Fischer, Nathan Crawford

Research output: NRELPoster


Designing processing equipment for the mixing of settling suspensions is a challenging problem. Achieving low-cost mixing is especially difficult for the application of slowly reacting suspended solids because the cost of impeller power consumption becomes quite high due to the long reaction times (batch mode) or due to large-volume reactors (continuous mode). Further, the usual scale-up metrics for mixing, e.g., constant tip speed and constant power per volume, do not apply well for mixing of suspensions. As an alternative, computational fluid dynamics (CFD) can be useful for analyzing mixing at multiple scales and determining appropriate mixer designs and operating parameters. We developed a mixture model to describe the hydrodynamics of a settling cellulose suspension. The suspension motion is represented as a single velocity field in a computationally efficient Eulerian framework. The solids are represented by a scalar volume-fraction field that undergoes transport due to particle diffusion, settling, fluid advection, and shear stress. A settling model and a viscosity model, both functions of volume fraction, were selected to fit experimental settling and viscosity data, respectively. Simulations were performed with the open-source Nek5000 CFD program, which is based on the high-order spectral-finite-element method. Simulations were performed for the cellulose suspension undergoing mixing in a laboratory-scale vane mixer. The settled-bed heights predicted by the simulations were in semi-quantitative agreement with experimental observations. Further, the simulation results were in quantitative agreement with experimentally obtained torque and mixing-rate data, including a characteristic torque bifurcation. In future work, we plan to couple this CFD model with a reaction-kinetics model for the enzymatic digestion of cellulose, allowing us to predict enzymatic digestion performance for various mixing intensities and novel reactor designs.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2017

Publication series

NamePresented at the 88th Annual Meeting of The Society of Rheology, 12-16 February 2017, Tampa, Florida

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PO-5100-67519


  • cellulose suspension
  • CFD
  • computation fluid dynamics
  • large-volume reactors
  • rotational mixing
  • settling suspensions


Dive into the research topics of 'Formulation and Validation of an Efficient Computational Model for a Dilute, Settling Suspension Undergoing Rotational Mixing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this