NUMERICAL SIMULATIONS OF FLUID FLOW AND HEAT TRANSFER IN POLYMER ISOLATION PROCESS IN STEAM CONTACTORS
The removal of volatile components from a polymer solution, often referred to as "devolatilization", is a crucial step in the commercial manufacture of many polymers. One of the methods to separate solvent is through stripping of solvent with superheated steam in contactor. In this process the final particle size in terms of diameter, D, has a strong dependence on the heat exchange. The current study uses computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations to model the devolatilization process of polymer manufacturing in a steam contactor. The process involves the injection of polymer mixture (referred to as polymer cement herewith) and steam in separate inlet streams and the subsequent evaporation or stripping of the hydrocarbon from the cement resulting in polymer particles at of the contactor. The compressible Navier-Stokes equations coupled with the discrete phase model (DPM) formulation in the commercial software ANSYS FLUENT are solved to model this process. Contours and profiles of velocity, temperature and heat fluxes are analyzed to assess the efficiency of the process, thus making CFD a useful tool in optimizing the devolatilization in terms of steam usage.