Primary Driving Force in Wood Vacuum Drying
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Committee Chairman: Fred M. Lamb
The objective of this research based on both the theory and experimentation was to prove that the total pressure difference is the primary driving force during the vacuum drying. The theoretical drying rates of diffusion, free water bulk flow and water vapor bulk flow were calculated and compared. The concept of equilibrium moisture content under the vacuum was developed. The theoretical maximum moisture content drop in one cycle was calculated using energy balance. The model was developed for the vacuum drying to understand the mechanism of the vacuum drying including the boiling front and its movement.
To evaluate the effect of the sample size on the drying rate, four different thicknesses (1, 1.5, 2, 2.5 inches) and three different lengths (5, 10, 15 inches) were used. In the cyclic drying, the specimens were heated to the 60 C. The vacuum was pulled to about 18 mm Hg. The vacuum pump was kept running for 140 minutes. It was found that in cyclic vacuum drying, drying rate was not affected by the thickness. However, it was affected by the length. The cyclic drying curve consisted of two distinct parts. The fast drying period lasted about 10 to 20 minutes. The slow drying period occurred next when the pressure inside wood got close to the ambient pressure.
In end grain vacuum drying, the specimens were coated with wax, wrapped in the plastic film and inserted into a rubber tube to prevent the moisture loss from the side surfaces during drying. The specimen size was 1×1×10 inches. Red oak and white oak were sealed and dried in both cyclic and continuous vacuum drying. The results showed that sealed specimens dried almost as fast as unsealed specimen. There was little moisture loss from the side surfaces. There was a moisture gradient along the length in both cyclic drying and continuous vacuum drying.
Red oak specimens of 2.5×1.5×10 inches were used to study the boiling front in the vacuum drying. In order to detect the boiling phenomenon, the saturation pressures were calculated and were compared with the pressures at the same time and the same location. Boiling occurred during drying and the boiling front retreated to the center of wood as drying proceeded. The retreating speed depended on the heat supply and the permeability.
Vacuum drying at room temperature was investigated. The specimens were dried at 20 C and pressure near 18 mm Hg. The results showed that wood can be vacuum dried at room temperature with little or no degrade at a reasonable drying rate.
All experimental results support the objective of this study that the primary driving force is the total pressure difference.
- Doctoral Dissertations