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NPTEL Chemical Mass Transfer Operation 1

Special Module
Multi-component absorption
S1. Introduction
In multi-component absorption, a gas mixture is contacted with a liquid solvent
to selectively dissolve more components by mass transfer from the gas to the
liquid solvent. The components transferred to the liquid are referred to as
solute or absorbate. The absorption is used to separate gas mixtures, remove
impurities from a gas or recover valuable chemicals. A typical absorption
operation is shown in Figure S1.

Figure S1: Typical absorption process

The gas containing air (oxygen, nitrogen and argon of 21, 78 and 1%
respectively), water vapor and acetone vapor is fed in a counter-current
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NPTEL Chemical Mass Transfer Operation 1

multistage absorber to remove acetone vapor by contacting the gas mixture


with suitable solvent like water. From the material balance analysis as per
system shown in Figure, 99.5% of the acetone is absorbed. The gas leaving
the absorber contains some other components. Though the major component
acetone vapor is absorbed, the small amounts of other components nitrogen
and oxygen are also absorbed by the water solvent. The fraction of
component absorbed in the absorber depends on the number of equilibrium
stages and the absorption factor (A = L/KV) for that component. The
equilibrium relationship between composition in the gas and the liquid phase
in the absorber is expressed as:

y n K n xn

(S1)

where
y = mole fraction of specified component in the gas phase,
x = mole fraction of specified component in the liquid phase,
K = vaporization equilibrium constant for specified component on plate or
stage n,
n = arbitrary theoretical plate in the absorber.
In terms of total molar flow rates of the gas and liquid, and the flow rates for
the specified component Equation (S1) can be written as

vn
l
Kn n
Vn
Ln

(S2)

Or

ln

Ln
vn
K nVn

(S3)

where ln = mole of specified component in the liquid stream leaving plate n,


vn= mole of specified component in the vapor stream leaving plate n,
Ln= total mole of liquid stream leaving plate n,
Vn= total mole vapor stream leaving plate n

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NPTEL Chemical Mass Transfer Operation 1

In Equation (S3), the term Ln K nVn is referred to as the absorption factor


which is expressed as

An

Ln
K nVn

(S4)

where An is the absorption factor.

Kremser and Brown equation for multicomponent absorption


The general equations involving the theoretical plate concept and the
assumption of equilibrium between a gas and a liquid on each theoretical
plate can be derived by writing material balances around any plate and in the
column. The material balance equation is then combined with the equilibrium
expressions to give a generalized equation for the absorption.
The material balance for any component around plate n of the absorber
shown in the can be written as

Ln1 xn1 Vn1 y n1 Ln xn Vn y n


The

equations

suitable

(S5)
for

predicting

component

distributions

in

multicomponent absorption is more easily handled if compositions are placed


as defined by X and Y, where X= moles of one component in the liquid
stream per mole of solvent entering the absorber, Y= moles one component
in the gas stream leaving any plate
For plate n these concentration are defined as

X 'n

x n Ln
L0

(S6)

y nVn
V N 1

(S7)

and

Y 'n

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NPTEL Chemical Mass Transfer Operation 1

Then the Equation (S5) can be written as;

L0 X ' n1 VN 1Y ' n1 L0 X ' n VN 1Y ' n

(S8)

The material balance equation can be written for overall column as

Y ' N 1

L0 X ' N
L
Y '1 0 X ' 0
VN 1
VN 1

(S9)

Equation (S9) can be plotted as straight lines and can be used for any
absorption process. The equilibrium relationship between the gas and liquid
on the tray in terms of the new composition parameters can be written as:

Y 'n

X ' n L0 VN 1 X ' n L0 VN 1

Ln K nVn
An

(S10)

By substituting the Equation (S10), the Equation (S8) becomes

Y 'n

Y ' n 1 An 1Y ' n 1
1 An

where An Ln K nVn

(S11)
and An1 Ln1 K n1Vn1 . For a one-plate absorber

Equation (S11) is

Y '1

Y ' 2 A0Y ' 0 Y ' 2 L0 X ' 0 VN 1

1 A1
1 A1

(S12)

For the second plate the material balance would be

Y '2

Y '3 A1Y '1


1 A2

(S13)

By combining Equations (S12) and (S13) the material balance for a two tray
absorber can then be written as

Y1 '

A1 1Y '3 A1 L0 X '0

VN 1

A1 A2 A2 1

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(S14)

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NPTEL Chemical Mass Transfer Operation 1

The same procedure is followed for an absorber with three plates and finally,
for absorber with N trays

Y 'N

A1 A2 ... AN 1 A2 A3 ... AN 1 ...... AN 1 1Y ' N 1 A1 A2 ... AN 1 L0 X '0

VN 1

A1 A2 ..... AN A2 A3 ... AN A3 A4 ... AN ..... AN 1

(S15)

To obtain the equation in terms of the absorber terminal conditions, can be


determined by combining Equation (S15) with an overall component material
balance around the column. The overall component material balance is

L0 X ' N X '0 VN 1 Y ' N 1 Y '1

(S16)
/

An expression obtained from Equation (S10) for is

X 'N

AN VN 1Y ' N
L0

(S17)

If the is replaced in Equation (S16) by Equation (S17), one can write

Y 'N

Y ' N 1 Y '1 L0 X ' 0 VN 1


AN

(S18)

By introducing the Equation (S18), Equation (S15) can then be written in


terms of the terminal absorber conditions as:

Y ' N 1 Y '1
A1 A2 ..... AN A2 A3 ..... AN ..... AN

Y ' N 1
A1 A2 ..... AN A2 A3 ..... AN ..... AN 1
L X ' A2 A3 ..... AN A3 A4 ..... AN ..... AN 1
0 0
V N 1Y ' N 1 A1 A2 ..... AN A2 A3 ..... AN ..... AN 1

(S19)

The Equation (S19) can be used to determine terminal stream flow rates in a
multicomponent absorber. The left side of Equation (S19) is the fractional
absorption for any component if the liquid and gas flow rates for each tray in
the column in addition to the tray is known. If an average value of the
absorption factor is assumed to be valid for each tray as A=A1=A2=..=AN,
the absorption factors in Equation (S19) can be written as

A N 1 A
A N A N 1 ......... A 2 A
A 1
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(S20)
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NPTEL Chemical Mass Transfer Operation 1

and

A N 1 1
A N A N 1 ......... A 2 A 1
A 1

(S21)

By substituting the identities above into Equation (S19), the following


expression can be obtained

Y ' N 1 Y '1 Y ' N 1 Y ' N

A N 1 A
A N 1 1

(S22)

where A is the average absorption factor. The Equation (S22) is known as


the Kremser (1930) and Brown (1932) equation. If the value of the average
absorption factor for that component is known, the composition of the off-gas
from the absorber and the amount of material absorbed into the solvent may
be readily calculated. The average absorption factor can be defined as:

Aavg

L0
K avgV N 1

(S23)

where Kavg is the value of the average equilibrium constant for each
component at the average temperature and pressure in the absorber.
Equation (S22) can be solved either analytically or graphically. Any variable
may be determined if the other two are known.

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