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Journal of Chemical Engineering of Japan, Vol. 37, No. 10, pp.

12151223, 2004 Research Paper

The Effect of Off-bottom Clearance on Macro Instabilities in a Stirred

Nobuo MATSUDA 1, Yutaka TADA 2, Setsuro HIRAOKA2,
Shaoxiang QIAN3 and Hiroshi TAKEDA 3
Information Science and Technology,
Oshima National College of Maritime Technology,
1091-1, Komatsu, Oshimacho, Oshima-gun,
Yamaguchi 742-2193, Japan
Materials Science and Engineering,
Nagoya Institute of Technology, Gokisocho,
Showa-ku, Nagoya-shi, Aichi 466-8555, Japan
Rflow Co., Ltd., Takanashi Build., 10-45, Takasago 1,
Soka-shi, Saitama 340-0015, Japan

Keywords: Agitated Vessel, Flow, Long-time Fluctuation, Frequency Analysis, Macro Instabilities

The Effects of off-bottom clearance on Macro instabilities (low frequency fluctuations of flow) gener-
ated by a Rushton turbine in a fully baffled cylindrical flat-bottomed vessel was investigated by laser
Doppler velocimetry and a laser sheet flow visualization. The frequency of Macro instabilities depended
on off-bottom clearance C, that is, the volume between the impeller and the bottom or the surface. Two
frequencies of Macro instabilities above and below the impeller in the range of 0.3D C 0.8D showed
linear correlation to the off-bottom clearance C, where D is the vessel diameter. However, for C < 0.3D or
C > 0.8D, the frequencies did not follow the linear correlation to the off-bottom clearance C.

Introduction numerical simulation results of the large-scale and low

frequency phenomena (Matsuda et al., 1999a, 1999b,
Mechanically stirred tanks are widely used in in- 2000, 2001) and also pointed out the importance of
dustry for a variety of mixing processes in order to the phenomena with power spectrum, fractal dimen-
promote mixing, heat transfer and mass transfer. The sion analysis and chaos analysis in the torque time se-
flow phenomena in a stirred vessel with full baffles is ries of a stirred tank with a paddle impeller.
one of the main subjects of experimental analyses and The large-scale and low frequency phenomena
numerical analyses and are studied from various points have been studied by Bruha et al. (1993, 1994, 1995,
of view, such as mean flow velocity, turbulence inten- 1996) and Montes et al. (1997) and were referred to as
sity, turbulent kinetic energy and the rate of dissipa- Macro instabiliflIes (MI). Montes et al. (1997) showed
tion of turbulent kinetic energy. As the results of the that the impeller revolution (Reynolds number) affected
energetic research on the flow, much knowledge of the MI. Roussinova et al. (2000) have reported the detailed
mixing process has been obtained and efficient mix- experimental results about MI. They measured the flow
ing and blending equipments have been designed. velocity for four kinds of impellers (PBT, A310, HE3,
Winardi et al. (1988), Winardi and Nagase (1991), and RT) and three geometries (impeller diameter, the
Kresta and Wood (1993), Chapple and Kresta (1994) number of baffles, off-bottom clearance) with laser
and Montes et al. (1997) showed that there exist fluc- Doppler velocimetry (LDV) and have concluded from
tuation phenomena that are spatially on a large scale the experimental analyses that the geometry affected
and with low frequency in time. MI sensitively.
We paid attention to the fluctuation phenomena On the other hand, the change in the flow patterns
in a stirred vessel and have examined the characteris- of a stirred vessel was studied from visual observa-
tics about the magnitude, the frequency and the dy- tions and LDV measurement by Kresta and Wood
namics in detail. We reported the experimental and the (1993) and Chapple and Kresta (1994). They have
linked the stability of the flow with the geometrical
configuration and the turbulent intensity. We showed
MI differed significantly from type to type of the
Received on January 5, 2004. Correspondence concerning this
article should be addressed to Y. Tada (E-mail address:
impellers, a Rushton turbine, a paddle impeller and a
tada.yutaka@nitech.ac.jp). pitched blade turbine (Matsuda et al., 2000).

Copyright 2004 The Society of Chemical Engineers, Japan 1215

Table 1 Experimental conditions

a [] b [m] Bw [m] C [m] D [m] d [m] N [s 1 ] Re []

1.0 0.02 0.02 0.020.18 0.20 0.1 1.667 18500

temperature of tap water: 25C

Fig. 1 Experimental apparatus for velocity measurement:

FLV probe, color separator box, laser gen- Fig. 2 Stirred vessel, impeller and the measurement loca-
erator, power unit, FLV driver, personal tions (solid circles) in the case of off-bottom clear-
computer (digital signal processor), stirred ves- ance C = 0.5D. D, vessel diameter; d, impeller di-
sel ameter; b, impeller clearance; B w , baffle width;
H, liquid height

The purpose of this paper is to obtain the cor-

relations between the off-bottom clearance and the with double Bragg cells. The radial and/or axial com-
frequency of MI in a fully baffled cylindrical vessel ponents of velocity were measured at various points in
with a Rushton turbine. The local fluctuations of the the vessel. The measurement points were at three
velocity field are measured for several geometric con- vertical levels; the middle levels of the space above
figurations with LDV and the influence of the off- and below the impeller and the impeller level (z = 0).
bottom clearance on the frequency of MI is analyzed The measurement points (solid circles) in the case of
by flow visualization. off-bottom clearance C = 0.5D were on lines la, lc (z =
0) and lb on a vertical plane that includes the impeller
1. Experimental axis as shown in Figure 2.
Due to the structure of the LDV equipment, the
Figure 1 shows the experimental apparatus for flow velocity cannot be measured below the impeller
velocity measurement. The experiments were carried for C < 0.2D and above the impeller for C > 0.8D. The
out in a cylindrical acrylic resin vessel of diameter axial and radial velocity signals were recorded for
D = 200 mm with a flat bottom and four baffles of about 15 min. In order to obtain almost continuous
width Bw = D/10, equally spaced at the tank wall. The Doppler signals, the rate of sampling data (the number
tank was filled with the working fluid, tap water, to a of data per second) was set to about 77 Hz. Thus, about
height equal to the diameter (D = H) and was sur- 40,000 data were recorded for each experimental run.
rounded by an outer square acrylic resin tank filled with The velocity was measured in a turbulent regime with
the same working fluid in order to minimize the effect a mixing Reynolds number shown in Table 1.
of vessel curvature on the intersecting beams and thus The flow was visualized using the nylon particles
on the optical distortion. A discharge type impeller, a as a tracer with the equipment shown in Figure 3. The
Rushton turbine, was used, which was consisted of a specific gravity of the nylon particles was 1.02, the
disk with six rectangular blades of width D/10 and particle size was 0.150.35 mm and the nylon parti-
length D/12. The geometrical parameters and the cles follow the flow in the vessel well. As shown in
impeller speeds are shown in Table 1. the figure, photographs of the locus of the dispersion
The flow velocities were measured by dual com- light from the nylon particles on the vertical plane of a
ponent LDV with an argon-ion laser (Kanomax Japan, laser sheet were continuously taken for 18 seconds with
Inc.) in a forward scatter mode and in a fringe mode camera of iris 2.8 and shutter speed 1/4 s.


Fig. 4 Time series of (a) radial velocity Vr and (b) axial velocity Vz (C = 0.5D, N = 1.67 s1)

pass filter in order to remove high frequency noise.

The interception frequency of the filter was determined
such that the frequencies of MI and the blade passage
frequency would be pronounced. Next, the power spec-
trum was calculated from the filtered time series with
2.2 Macro instabilities frequencies
MI are the phenomena of change in flow patterns
that are caused by the strong secondary flow gener-
ated in a stirred vessel. Since the secondary flow and
the change in a large-scale flow pattern are produced
in the whole vessel and affect each other, it is difficult
to distinguish the frequencies of MI by the change in
Fig. 3 Visualization apparatus: laser sheet light, la- the flow patterns above and below the impeller.
ser generator, camera, stirred vessel In a vessel with a Rushton turbine, however, the
flows above and below the impeller seldom affect each
other. Thus, the effects of the off-bottom clearance on
the frequency of MI are investigated for a Rushton tur-
2. Data Analysis
bine in this work. The frequency of MI produced above
2.1 Data processing and determination of the fre- the impeller is designated as fu1 and that below the
quencies of MI impeller is designated as fu2 in this paper. The frequen-
Figure 4 shows typical time series of the radial cies fu1 and fu2 are determined as follows.
and the axial velocities near the Rushton turbine at (1) 16 power spectra of the flow velocity at each
point on line l b (see Figure 2). The signal seems to measurement position (usually 9 to 13 points) are
be so irregular that it is difficult to obtain directly any calculated with FFT and are averaged.
information from the time series. Spectral analysis with (2) The frequencies of about 1/10 to 1/100 of the blade
a fast Fourier transform is a useful way to examine the passage frequency in the average of the power
overall characteristics of signal. An average of 16 spectra are to be those of MI.
power spectra obtained by Fourier transforming of the For the off-bottom clearance where the effect of
velocity signal with 32,768 data is analyzed. MI strongly appears, the frequency for MI is easily
It is difficult, however, to determine all of the fre- determined without using a low-pass filter. When the
quencies related to the dynamics in the velocity field effect of MI is weak, however, it is difficult to deter-
from an averaged power spectrum in the domain of the mine the frequency due to the noise and the frequency
blade passage frequency to the domain related to trail- produced by the nonlinear combination of the blade
ing vortex frequency or the Kolmogoroff wave number. passage and impeller revolution frequencies. Thus the
Thus, the frequencies of MI were determined with the low-pass filter was applied in this work.
following method. First, the measured velocity time
series were processed with a moving average as a low

VOL. 37 NO. 10 2004 1217

Fig. 6 Average power spectra density of sixteen spectra computed with 215 points from axial and radial velocity time series
(C = 0.3D, N = 1.67 s 1, fCF = 2.8 Hz). (a) Vz, axial velocity; (b) Vr, radial velocity

quency of revolution of the turbine and (3) a much

lower component (fu or fMI) of MI. The frequency of f u
in Figure 5 corresponds to fMI termed by Montes et al.
Figures 6(a) and (b) are the power spectra of the
radial and the vertical velocities, respectively. Figure
6 shows two MI frequencies f u1 and f u2 appear when
C = 0.3D. Since the flow in a vessel is three dimen-
sional, some fluctuations are pronounced in the axial
velocity and the others are in the radial velocity, that
is, f u1 appears strongly in the axial velocity and fu2 ap-
pears clearly in the radial flow in Figure 6. The result
that fu1 strongly appeared in the axial velocity corre-
sponds to a dynamic vertically change in the vortex in
the larger volume space of the vessels upper part. Al-
though the power spectra near 2.1 and 4.2 Hz are de-
Fig. 5 Average power spectrum density of sixteen spectra pressed due to the moving average used as the low-
calculated with 215 points from axial velocity time
pass filter in Figures 5 and 6, they do not affect the
series (C = 0.5D, N = 1.67 s1)
characteristic frequencies f u1 and fu2, which are in the
frequency region of 0.01 to 0.1 Hz.
Figure 7 shows the frequencies and the magni-
3. Results and Discussion tude of the radial and the axial velocities, when the
off-bottom clearance C is in 0.2D to 0.7D. In Figure 7,
3.1 Time series analysis and power spectrum analy-
MI is designated as high when the peak of MI is
strong and easily detected in the power spectra for the
The power spectra shown in Figure 5 are calcu-
off-bottom clearance C = 0.5D as shown in Figure 5.
lated with cut-off frequency f CF = 2.8 Hz as a low-pass
When the peak is weak and detected with carefulness
filter from the velocity time series in Figure 4(b). The
for C 0.3D as shown in Figure 6, MI is designated as
power spectrum at the cut-off frequency was decreased
low, and when MI is not strong nor weak, it is mid-
by 3 dB, that is, 0.707 of the original one. The power
dle. As stated in Section 1, the velocity cannot be
spectra for the higher frequencies than the cut-off fre-
measured below and above the impeller for C < 0.2D
quency were decreased by more than 3 dB due to the
and C > 0.8D, respectively. From the flow visualiza-
low-pass filter. The value of the cut-off frequency fCF
tion in the later Section 3.3, when C < 0.2D and C >
was decided such that frequencies that are produced
0.8D, MI is not caused by the fluctuation of the vortex
by MI and a blade passage frequency are obtained
center position and the change in the size of an unsta-
clearly. The power spectra contain three significant
ble primary flow but is caused by the appearance and
frequency components: (1) random turbulent fluctua-
the disappearance of vortex. When C = 0.1D and C =
tions with frequencies higher than the blade passage
0.9D, the appearance and disappearance were not ob-
frequency, (2) the blade passage frequency (f p) corre-
served in the smaller volume, that is, the volume be-
sponding to the frequency of revolution of the impeller
low the impeller for C = 0.1D and that above the
or the turbine frequency (fc) corresponding to the fre-


Fig. 7 Profiles of macro-instability frequency for N = 1.67 s 1. (a) C = 0.2D, fu1 = 0.24 Hz and fu2 = 0.73 Hz, (b) C = 0.3D,
fu1 = 0.22 Hz and fu2 = 0.78 Hz, (c) C = 0.4D, fu1 = 0.37 Hz and fu2 = 0.58 Hz, (d) C = 0.5D and fu = 0.42 Hz, (e) C =
0.6D, fu1 = 0.57 Hz and fu2 = 0.37 Hz, (f) C = 0.7D, fu1 = 0.68 Hz and fu2 = 0.21 Hz

impeller for C = 0.9D. Thus MI frequencies of these tion, that is, the Reynolds number in this work is con-
cases are not shown in Figure 7. stant. Two frequencies f u1 and f u2 of MI are observed
The figure shows that the frequency change with when C 0.5D and are merged to f u when C = 0.5D.
the off-bottom clearance, though the impeller revolu- When C = 0.4D (Figure 7 (c)), f u1 = 0.37 Hz is lower

VOL. 37 NO. 10 2004 1219

Fig. 9 Photographs of the flow in the stirred vessel. (a) C = 0.5D, N = 1.67 s1, (b) C = 0.3D, N = 1.67 s1; and , primary
flows; , secondary flow


fu1 = 0.98C 0.07 (1)

fu2 = 1.14C + 0.99 (2)

When C = 0.2D, the frequency of MI deviates from

the correlations, Eqs. (1) and (2).
The reason for the appearance of the characteris-
tic frequencies of MI is considered as follows. Various
size vortexes are generated by nonlinear interactions
in a turbulent flow. Smaller vortexes receive energy
from larger vortexes due to the extension and distor-
tion, which is an energy transfer mechanism from larger
vortexes to smaller vortexes. Since vortexes are not
Fig. 8 Correlation between frequencies (f u1 and f u2 ) of generated in infinite space but in finite one, the vol-
macro instabilities and off bottom clearance C for ume of the mixing tank under the geometric and oper-
a Rushton turbine. ating conditions, some vortexes of some scale may exist
for a long time and some vortexes of another scale may
not. This is probably the reason why the characteristic
than fu2 = 0.58 Hz. When C = 0.6D (Figure 7(d)), f u1 = frequencies of MI arise.
0.57 Hz and fu2 = 0.37 Hz. It means that higher fre- 3.3 Visualization
quency MI arises in the smaller volume space in a Figures 9(a) and (b) show typical flows for C =
Rushton turbine. When C = 0.5D (Figure 7(d)), the 0.5D and 0.3D in the stirred vessel, respectively. In
volumes above and below the impeller are equal to each this work the impeller rotates clockwise when we see
other and fu = fu1 = f u2 = 0.42 Hz is observed. from the top. In the left side of Figure 9(a), the radial
3.2 Correlation between frequencies of MI and off- flow from the turbine reaches the wall, collides with
bottom clearance the buffer and makes two primary circulation flows (
The effects of the off-bottom clearance C on the in Figures 9(a) and (b)), which go up to the surface or
frequencies fu1 and f u2 of MI are shown in Figure 8, down to the bottom. In Figure 9(b), after a primary
where the frequency f u1 increases and the frequency fu2 circulation flow ( in Figure 9(b)) grow up to a verti-
decreases with the increase in the off-bottom clearance. cal long ellipse flow above the impeller, a small sec-
It means that MI is influenced by the off-bottom clear- ondary circulation flow ( in Figure 9(b)), which has
ance, that is, the volume of the space above or below the opposite rotation to the primary circulation, is gen-
the impeller. erated near the impeller tip in the upper primary circu-
When 0.3D C 0.8D for a Rushton turbine, the lation and a secondary circulation flow ( in Figure
frequencies of MI are correlated by the following equa-


Fig. 10 Flow patterns in the stirred vessel with a Rushton turbine impeller (C = 0.5D, N = 1.67 s 1): 1 and 2, primary flows;
3, circulation flow near the impeller tip; 4 and 5, primary flows; 6 and 7, cross path flows

9(b)) with a smaller horizontally long ellipse becomes low the impeller (8 in Figure 11) has the cycle period
stronger below the impeller. These circulation flows shorter than that of the vortex above the impeller due
were very unstable and the center of the primary flow to the space volume difference. At t = 0 s, a big long
went up and down. Figures 10 and 11 are examples of vortex can be seen (9 in Figure 11). Although it is un-
a sequence of photographs for C = 0.5D and C = 0.3D, clear from the photograph, a new small vortex in the
respectively. From the characteristics of the flow pat- big vortex is generated about 2 cm above from the
tern, the frequency of MI was calculated. impeller tip at t = 0.5 s (10 in Figure 11). The new
Two vortices of large scale above and below the vortex gradually changes to a big long one at t = 3.0 s
impeller were observed at t = 0.5 s (1 and 2 in Figure (11 in Figure 11). The frequency of such a change in a
10), a small secondary circulation flow which had the big long vortex was about 0.25 Hz from the analysis
opposite rotation to the primary circulation near the of long visualization. When the off-bottom clearance
impeller (3 in Figure 10) was generated at t = 1.5 s and C = 0.3D, the speed of movement of the vortex center
two vortices of large scale were observed at t = 2.5 s and the development of size above the impeller dif-
(4 and 5 in Figure 10). Furthermore, at t = 0 s and fered from those below the impeller with the analysis
2.0 s strong flows across the shaft moved the vortex of visualization.
up above the impeller and stretched the vortex (6 and The detail analysis about the effects of the impeller
7 in Figure 10). From the analysis of the visualization, type on MI will be discussed in another paper in the
it turns out that the frequency of changing the flow near future.
pattern in a vessel is close to the frequency of MI.
In Figure 11 the off-bottom clearance C = 0.3D, Conclusion
the volumes above and below the impeller are differ-
ent from each other and the vortices have different The effects of off-bottom clearance on MI gener-
periods of cycle. The figure shows that the vortex be- ated by a Rushton turbine in a fully baffled cylindrical

VOL. 37 NO. 10 2004 1221

Fig. 11 Flow patterns in the stirred vessel with a Rushton turbine impeller (C = 0.3D, N = 1.67 s1): 8, vortex below impeller;
9, big longwise vortex; 10 and 11, newly produced vortexes near impeller

flat-bottomed vessel with laser Doppler velocimetry f CF = cut-off frequency [s1]

and a laser sheet flow visualization was investigated fc = impeller revolution frequency [s1]
f MI = frequency of macro instabilities [s1]
and followings are obtained. fp = blade passage frequency [s1]
(1) The frequencies of MI depend on the off-bottom f u, fu1, fu2 = frequencies of macro instabilities [s1]
clearance, that is, the volume above or below the H = liquid height in the tank [m]
impeller in the vessel. N = impeller rotation speed [s1]
(2) Two frequencies of MI exist; one arises above and nb = number of impeller blades []
Re = Reynolds number []
the other does below the impeller. The frequency for r = radial co-ordinate [m]
the smaller volume space is stronger and higher than Vr = radial velocity [m/s]
that for the larger volume space. When the off-bottom Vz = vertical velocity [m/s]
clearance C = 0.5D, the two frequencies merge into z = axial co-ordinate [m]
(3) The two frequencies of MI show linear correla- Literature Cited
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