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Second Thermal and Fluids Engineering  Conference

ISSN: 2379-1748
ISBN: 978-1-56700-430-4

MODELING POLYMER SHEET BREAKUP FOR DEVOLATILIZATION PROCESSES IN STEAM CONTACTORS

Bradley Shindle
Department of Mechanical Engineering, The University of Akron, Akron, Ohio, 44325

Kelly M. Gabor
Department of Mechanical Engineering, The University of Akron, Akron, Ohio, 44325

Abhilash J. Chandy
Department of Mechanical Engineering, The University of Akron, Akron, Ohio, 44325

Abstract

Polymers are used in a wide variety of industries and applications where the final quality of the polymer is of primary importance and is significantly affected by the manufacturing process. This paper investigates, via modeling, one manufacturing process known as polymer devolatilization. The process works by injecting a liquid sheet of the polymer and solvent mixture, or "cement", into a steam contactor to mix under high pressures and temperatures. The solvent evaporates, leaving behind a polymer with a lower concentration of volatile solvent. As the cement continues to mix with the steam, more solvent evaporates, resulting in a higher quality polymer "crumb". To study the effects of how the liquid cement breaks up in the primary breakup regime and how it affects the final polymer crumb size, two Computational Fluid Dynamic (CFD) models are used. A coupled level-set volume-of-fluid (VOF) model is used to show the primary breakup of the cement near the injector of the contactor. The primary cement droplet size distribution is calculated and then used as an initial condition for the discrete phase model (DPM), which models the secondary cement droplet breakup and solvent evaporation. As the secondary droplets are ejected from the steam contactor, diameter sizes and solvent mass fractions of the cement droplets are analyzed. Using quick and inexpensive CFD tools, analysis of upstream sheet breakup and how it affects the final polymer product could lead to an improved cement injection system and increased product quality

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