Large-Eddy Simulations of Hydrocyclones
Bukhari, Mustafa Mohammedamin T.
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This dissertation investigates the flow physics, turbulence structure, and particle classification process in hydrocyclones using large-eddy simulations of turbulent multiphase flow. Two types of hydrocyclones are considered. The first is a classifying hydrocyclone, and the second is a mineral flotation hydrocyclone, also known as an air-sparged hydrocyclone (ASH). Large-eddy simulations (LES) are conducted for multi-phase flow (air, water, and sand particles) so that the complex anisotropic turbulence of a swirling flow is computed correctly. The effects of mesh refinements on the mean flow and turbulence stresses are investigated, and (LES) results are validated by comparisons with experimental data for classifying hydrocyclone. The two-phase flow in air-sparged hydrocyclone has not been analyzed before. ANSYS CFX software V17.2 has been used to conduct the simulations. Firstly, large-eddy simulations have been conducted for two-phase flow (water and air) in a conventional hydrocyclone using the Eulerian two-fluid (Eulerian-Eulerian) and Volume-of- Fluid (VOF) models. Subgrid stresses are modeled using a dynamic eddy–viscosity model, and results are compared to those using the Smagorinsky model. The effects of grid resolutions on the mean flow and turbulence statistics have been thoroughly investigated. Five block-structured grids of 0.72, 1.47, 2.4, 3.81, and 7.38 million elements have been used for the simulations of a typical conventional hydrocyclone designed and tested by Hsieh (75 mm hydrocyclone) . Mean velocity profiles and normal Reynolds stresses have been compared with experimental data. The results of the Eulerian two-fluid model agree with those of the VOF model. A fine mesh in the axial and radial directions is necessary for capturing the turbulent vortical structures. Turbulence structures in the hydrocyclone are dominated by helical vortices around the air core. Energy spectra are analyzed at different points in the hydrocyclone, and regions of low turbulent kinetic energy are identified and attributed to stabilizing effects of the swirling velocity component. Turbulent energy spectra in the different regions of the hydrocyclone have been analyzed. The energy spectra are calculated at two points near the air-water interface. They show a short inertial subrange where energy decays as f−5/3, followed by viscous damping where energy drops as f−7, where f is frequency. However, for the points located near the boundary where high turbulent kinetic energy is found, the energy spectra exhibit f^(−4) decay. Secondly, the two-fluid (Eulerian two-fluid) model and large-eddy simulation are used to compute the turbulent two-phase flow of air and water in a cyclonic flotation device known as an Air-Sparged Hydrocyclone (ASH). In the operation of ASH, the air is injected through a porous cylindrical wall. The study considers a 48-mm diameter hydrocyclone and uses a block-structured fine mesh of 10.5 million hexahedral elements. The air-to-water injection ratio is 4, and a uniform air bubble diameter of 0.5 mm has been specified. The flow field in ASH has been investigated for the inlet flow rate of water of 30.6 L/min at different values of underflow exit pressure. The present simulations show that the value of static pressure imposed at the underflow section strongly affects the distribution of air volume fraction, water axial velocity, tangential velocity, and swirling layer thickness in ASH. The loci of zero-axial velocity surfaces have been determined for different exit pressures. The water split ratio through the overflow opening varies with underflow exit pressure as 6%, 8%, 16%, and 26% for 3, 4, 5, and 6 kPa, respectively. These results indicate that regulating the pressure at the underflow exit can be used to optimize ASH's performance. Turbulent energy spectra in different regions of the hydrocyclone have been analyzed. Small-scale turbulence spectra at near-wall points exhibit f^(−4) law, where f is frequency. Whereas for points at the air-column interface, the energy spectra show an inertial subrange f^(−5/3) followed by a dissipative range of f^(−7) law. Thirdly, large-eddy simulation (LES) has been used to investigate the flow separation in multi-phase flow (gas, liquid, and solid) in a classifying hydrocyclone using the multi-fluid (Eulerian multi-fluid) model. The results of the CFD simulation are compared with the Hsieh  experimental data. The water phase is considered a continuous phase, while air and solid particles are considered dispersed phases. Drag between water-air and water-sand is the only considered interfacial force. The Schiller-Naumann and Wen-Yu models are used to model the drag, and the Gidaspow model is used to calculate the solid pressure term. Various particle sizes are tested in the hydrocyclone to investigate the underflow recovery percentages. The results agree with the experimental data for the particles of a diameter smaller than 20 μm, while the results vary based on the model for the large particles. Therefore, using the Wen Yu and Schiller-Naumann model for the drag model and the Gidaspow model for the solid pressure in the three-fluid model could give acceptable results for the small particles underflow recovery and volume fraction distribution. However, the models failed for large particles. Finally, the large particle size separation needs more investigation.
General Audience Abstract
Hydrocyclones are widely used in mining and chemical industries. They can be used as separation devices to separate solid or fluid particles based on their size or/and weight. They can also be used as flotation devices to capture certain mineral particles from a slurry of water and solid particles. The flow field within a hydrocyclone is complex as it involves flow of different phases of matter (liquid, gas, and solid). It is also a turbulent flow in which the velocity and pressure fluctuate in time with many frequencies. The efficiency of the hydrocyclone depends on its geometry and distribution of the velocity. Computer simulations are very efficient tools to predict and study the flow field in hydrocyclones. This dissertation used a computer simulations to explain how turbulence could affect the particle separation from the slurry inside the hydrocyclones. The water's velocity fields, swirling flow, air behavior, pressure distribution and turbulence statistics are analysed. Understanding the turbulence structure and statistics in hydrocyclones is important for particle tracking and dispersion. Also, turbulent structure affects the motion of the air bubbles and solid particles in the flow field, which eventually will affect the hydrocyclone's performance. In short, a more comprehensive understanding of the behavior of turbulence of hydrocyclones represents an important tool that can guide the design of hydrocyclones according to their use goals and will help engineers who model these processes to develop a better model.
- Doctoral Dissertations