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Compression Process of Liquid Ring Vacuum Pump

D S Mallick, Fellow
This paper makes an effort to establish that the compression process effected in a liquid ring vacuum pump is nearisothermal. The paper concludes that the effect of convective mass transfer in a liquid ring vacuum pump is so dominant that sufficient heat transfer takes place during the process of compression and, as a result, near-isothermal process is achieved. The method adopted for a typical case study is convective mass transfer calculation, applying Colburn analogy and results obtained conclude that the effect of mass transfer is so overwhelming that the effect should be similar for almost all the families of liquid ring vacuum pumps. An experiment was also conducted with the same parameters and results obtained by the experiment are found to tally with the theoretical approach.
Keywords: Liquid ring vacuum pump; Performance characteristics; Isothermal compression process

NOTATION A CA D d h hm Jm L MA Mw n p1 , p2 pw

u, v m2

: velocity along x and y directions, respectively : dynamic viscosity, kg/m/s

: area,

: mass concentration of component A per unit volume , kg/m3 : diffusion coefficient, m2/s : diameter, m : overall heat transfer coefficient, w/m2/k : convective mass transfer coefficient, m/s : Colburn J factor : characteristic length, m : mass flow rate of component A due to diffusion, kg/s : molecular weight of gas : polytropic factor : pressure at vacuum pump inlet and outlet, respectively, torr : partial pressure of water vapour in air : pressure differential of A across boundary layer : Reynolds Number : universal gas constant, kgm/kg mol K : Schmidt Number : temperature at vacuum pump inlet and outlet, respectively, K : temperature potential, C

INTRODUCTION Liquid ring vacuum pumps have been found to be an excellent choice for creating vacuum for various process industries in recent time. These are available in the market to create vacuum even upto 50 mm of mercury (a) and capacity of 40 000 actual m3/h (am3/h). The degree of achievable suction pressure which can be handled by this type of vacuum pump is only limited by the vapour pressure of the sealant liquid. For water sealed pumps, the lowest practical operating pressure will be around 30 torr50 torr. Barring this limitation, liquid ring vacuum pumps are found to have excellent acceptability with regard to: (a) energy cost, (b) tolerance for entrained solid, (c) response to surge in air loading, (d) performance in pumping condensable gas, (e) response to failure in precondenser (when applied), (f) response to excessive discharge pressure, (g) operation in corrosive environment by suitably selecting appropriate, material of construction of the pumps, (h) skills required for field maintenance, and (i) faster evacuation capacity during start up. This paper, after a brief discussion on the basics of a liquid ring vacuum pump, deals with performance characteristics of the pumps and establishes that the operation of the pump can be approximated to an isothermal compression process at seal liquid temperature because of the heat transfer effected due to very strong convective mass transfer phenomenon taking place inside the liquid ring vacuum pumps. The calculations have been performed considering a typical case study that the author has recently commissioned. The theoretical calculations are then found to be corroborated by test data carried out at manufacturers test bed. PRINCIPLE OF OPERATION The liquid ring vacuum pump is a non-pulsating rotary vacuum pump which uses clever application of liquid as compressant (Figure 1). 31

Re Ro Sc T1 , T2

D S Mallick is with Development Consultants Pvt Ltd, 24 B, Park Street, Kolkata 700 016. This paper (revised) was received on September 16, 2004. Written discussion on the paper will be entertained till July 31, 2005.

Vol 86, April 2005

In this sector, liquid moves outward draws gas from inlet ports into rotor chambers

In this sector, liquid moves inwardcompresses gas in rotor chambers

Inlet connections Body Liquid

Rotating liquid compressant

Inlet port

Inlet port


Key Rotor Stationary part Liquid compressant In this sector,compressed gas escapes at discharge ports

Discharge ports

Discharge connections

Cross Sectional View Working Principle Figure 1 Liquid ring vacumn pump

The rotor is mounted eccentrically with respect to the centre line of cylindrical pump body. As the rotor turns, liquid in the pump body is thrown against the outside wall by centrifugal force. A ring of liquid gets formed along the body wall. Because the rotor is eccentric, during each revolution, the liquid ring will create varying working spaces whose volume increases as the rotor moves from lower to upper vortex and start decreasing as the particular impeller moves from upper to lower vortex, thus creating a vacuum in the upper travel of its working space and compressing this in the lower half. DESIGN VARIATION Depending on port arrangement, the pump can be ported-cone type or flat head type. In flat head type, gas enters and leaves the rotor from the side and not from the centre whereas, in ported-cone type, the entry and exit is from centre. Depending on number of compression cycles per revolution, the pumps can be single acting or double acting. In double acting design (Figure 2), the body of the pump being elliptical, effects two compression strokes per revolution. The advantage of this pump is that areas of higher pressure and low pressure sectors being located diametrically opposite, dynamic balancing is ensured. DISCHARGE CHARACTERISTICS The liquid ring vacuum pump, by its principle of operation, is essentially a positive displacement rotary compressor. During each revolution, the pump discharges nearly fixed volume of gas, as is normally expected from a positive displacement compressor system. 32

However, liquid ring vacuum pump has one major characteristic feature that distinguishes it from the other types of positive displacement devices. This is its capability to effect the compression process in nearly isothermal condition. The presence of liquid ring creates a high convective heat and mass transfer phenomenon which is enough to dissipate the thermal effect due to compression and, thus, near-isothermal compression is achieved. Even if the suction air temperature is quite high (say around 150 C , as found in vacuum handling system of ESP fly ash), the effect of instantaneous convective heat and mass transfer is so rapid that the outlet gas temperature from the pump is noted to reach close to seal water inlet temperature almost instantaneously. This phenomenon is unique and explains achievement of highest degree of thermodynamic efficiency of compression. Because of this effect, the discharge temperature of the gas remain fairly constant, irrespective of compression ratio at varied suction temperatures. Therefore, the pump can also be labelled as a constant mass discharge equipment, corresponding to a fixed suction pressure. However, for varying suction pressure, the mass discharge will vary, since, the actual volumetric rate of flow remains nearly constant. Therefore, with high absolute suction pressure, the mass rate of discharge can get enhanced. This unique feature makes this type of pump much more preferred with respect to steam jet ejector for faster evacuation during start up and faster turnaround during cycling of batch operations. Therefore, a separate specially sized pump (like IE (I) JournalMC

Compression sector Inlet sector

Rotating liquid compressant Discharge sector


Inlet ports

Discharge sector

Discharge ports Rotor Inlet sector

Sealant temperature maximum this

Compression sector Key Rotor Cast iron body

Schematic Section at Inlet and Discharge Sectors

Liquid compressant Working Principle

Figure 2 Double acting pump

hogging ejector applied to evacuate in power station condenser at start up) is rarely needed in conjunction with a liquid ring vacuum pump for effecting faster start up. However, the liquid ring vacuum pump is not an absolutely constant discharge volume transfer pump. The factors that cause deviation are: (a) The gas volume confined and compressed in each rotor chamber depends on physical property of the sealant. Again, the shape also depends on speed (rpm) of the rotor. Therefore, rate of discharge will also depend on the nature of sealant and speed (rpm). (b) As the suction pressure of the liquid ring vacuum pump approaches vapour pressure of the sealant at the sealant temperature, more and more sealant liquid vapour will occupy the chamber space. When the suction pressure is equal to vapour pressure of the sealant, the entire chamber is occupied by liquid vapour and consequently, the pump capacity gets reduced to zero (Figure 3). (c) As in reciprocating compressors, a small amount of compressed gas does not get the opportunity to squeeze out through discharge ports. Such gas occupies some space at the low pressure zone and therefore, the discharge capacity is lost to that extent. The more the compression ratio, more will be the effect due to this. (d) Location of the discharge port with respect to the desired compression ratio is very important. Ideally, Vol 86, April 2005

discharge port should be so located that the desired compression ratio has just been achieved when the rotor chamber reaches the discharge port. Advancement of compression effect will unnecessarily overpressure the gas irreversibly, consuming more energy of compression. Again, postponement will result in rotor chambers reaching the discharge port too early when required pressure is yet to be developed. As a result, not all the pressurised gas gets an opportunity to escape out through the port and some slippage of pressurised gas back to the suction side takes place. This effect makes the pump to run inefficiently at off-design condition.
2000 Dry air capacity actual, m3/h Theoretical displacement (assumed constant)

1000 Basis Water sealant, Te = 20 C 0



30 40 50 60 80 100 150 200 300 400 500 Suction pressure, torr

Figure 3 Pump capacity with respect to varying suction pressure


It can be concluded that barring the unstable zone at low vacuum, the liquid ring vacuum pump can be approximated to constant volume discharge pump. Thus, the characteristics of the pump will indicate that this is near-constant discharge pump, except for very low suction. A typical characteristic curve is furnished in the Figure 3. Generally, with water as sealant and seal water temperature as 25 C , effect of suction vapour can be nearly ignored unless the vacuum requirement is less than 70 torr80 torr. TYPICAL CASE STUDY TO DETERMINE THE PROCESS OF COMPRESSION IN A LIQUID RING VACUUM PUMP Theoretical Analysis A theoretical study is conducted below for a compression condition which indicates: Speed of impeller Inlet air temperature Quantity of air : : : 910 rpm
30 C

The methodology of calculation followed here is estimating the maximum amount of thermal energy which can get introduced in the system (at adiabetic condition) and then analyzing the capacity of liquid ring to dissipate this developed heat within the time of residence of compressed air in the chamber. Step 1 To find the temperature of compressed air in case of adiabetic compression and the heat transfer required to make it isothermal. The compressed air temperature T2 due to adiabetic compression from pressure p1 to p2 at inlet temperature of T1 is given by
T1 p = 1 T2 p2

FG IJ n 1 H K n

here p1 = 338 mm of mercury (a) p2 = 744 mm of mercury (a) T1 = 30 C = 303 K n = polytropic factor = 1.4 for adiabetic condition
303 338 = T2 744

950.5 m3/h at suction condition (-) 406 mm Hg = 338 mm Hg (a) 744 mm Hg

Inlet air pressure at vacuum pump inlet Ambient air pressure

: :

A case study was conducted for vacuum pump model number 62 manufactured by Vacuunair Engineering Co Pvt Ltd located at Ahmedabad, India. The GA drawing of the pump is furnished in Figure 4.

LM OP 1.4 1 = LM 338 OP 0.2857 N Q 1.4 N 744 Q

T2 =

303 = 379.7 K = 106.7 C 0.798

Air suction ( 150)

Air outlet ( 150)

Air suction

Vacuum gauge Elec motor Seal water inlet 1080 Water outlet ( 75) 690 Silencer


675 725 1100

Drain clock 6 nos


570 1220



Figure 4 GA of water ring vacuum pump (model VP 062)


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Therefore, the heat transfer needed to bring the gas back to its inlet temperature of 30 C [considered density of air at atmospheric pressure and temperature = 1.03 kg/m3 ; specific heat of air = 0.24 kcal/ kg C ].
= 338 950.5 1.03 0.24 ( 106.7 30 ) = 8187 k cal/h. 744

Heat Transfer due to Convective Mass Transfer In mass transfer by convection, gross fluid motion combines with diffusion to promote transport of a medium for which there exists a concentration gradient. For understanding the convective mass transfer phenomenon, the basic concept is presented here. The way the hydrodynamic boundary layer determines the local friction coefficient, or, the thermal boundary layer determines the convective heat transfer coefficient, the concentration boundary layer, similarly, determines the convective mass transfer coefficient. If a binary mixture of species A and B flows over a surface when the concentration of species A at the surface CAS differs from that in free stream C A , concentration boundary layer will develop. The relation between species transfer in the concentration boundary layer is given by Ficks Law, which states2:
MA = D C A y

Step 2 Calculation of heat transfer between hot air and liquid ring. Heat Transfer due to Natural Convection For carrying out the heat and mass transfer effect, the heat/ mass transfer surface has been modelled as cylindrical surface of 0.3 m diameter 0.6 m length (Figure 4). Since, air and water are moving at almost equal rotational speed, considered the phenomenon of convective heat transfer as natural circulation. This also results in conservative analysis. For some of the chamber spaces, the heat transfer case is heated surface facing upward; while for some other chamber spaces, the case is heated surface facing downward1. Considering the minimum of heat transfer effect due to these two configurations, the heat transfer coefficient (h) is given by1:


at the surface, species transfer rate can be presented as2:

M A = hm C AS C A




Combining equations (1) and (2)2,

hm = D C A / y C AS C A

1/ 5


Considering average T value, assuming the gas reaches isothermal condition,

0 + 106.7 30 T = = 38.35 C 2

For concentration boundary layer, the valid equation is2:

u C A C A 2C A +v =D x y y 2


Therefore, average

L 38.35 OP h=M N( 0.6 ) Q


0. 2


It is interesting to note that the shape of the equation is exactly similar to heat transfer equation across thermal boundary layer.
Free stream

= 2.544 w/m2/K = 2.188 kcal/m2/h/


Heat transfer by convection

= 2.188 ( 0.3 0.6 ) 38.35 kcal/h

c ( X)
Concentration boundary layer CA

= 47.44 kcal/h [Considered heat transfer area as a cylinder with inner diameter = 0.3 m and length as 0.6 m]. Hence, convective heat transfer phenomenon alone cannot justify that the process of compression is isothermal. However, another effect simultaneously takes place which is discussed here. Vol 86, April 2005


Figure 5 Species concentration boundary layer development on a flat plate


Similarity parameters for concentration boundary layers are Reynolds Number and Schmidt Number given as Re = vL / and Sc = / D , respectively. Schmidt Number is a dimensionless number being ratio of momentum and mass diffusivity. Since, heat and mass transfer equations are governed by dimensionless equations of the same form, the processes are called analogous. The implication of this analogy is that the dimensionless relations that govern thermal boundary layer behaviour must be the same as those that govern the concentration boundary layer. Applying this principle of analogy, Colburn analogy is given by1:

Applying appropriate values for water vapour, this comes around 0.60. Applying Colburn analogy

J m = ( hm / v ) Sc 2 / 3
J m = 0.00308 = ( hm / 14.29 ) 0.6 2 / 3
hm = 0.062 m/s.

Partial pressure of water vapour at water surface at 30 C , pw1 = 0.045 kg/cm2 = 450 kg/m2 . Assuming pw2 as partial pressure of water vapour at air at inlet condition of 30 C and 50% RH and 338 mm of Hg, pw2 = 0.5 0.045 338/744 = 0.010 kg/cm2 = 100 kg/m2. From equation (7),
C w1 = M w p w1 / R0T1 )

J m = ( hm / v ) Sc 2 / 3
where Jm = Colburn J factor which is a dimensionless mass transfer coefficient2

= 0.0296 Re

0. 2

. (5)


( hm / v ) Sc

= 0.0296 Re


= C w2 =

29 450 = 0.051 848 303 29 100 = 0.011 848 303

Solving equation (5), convective mass transfer coefficient can be determined. For an ideal gas, the relationship between convective heat transfer coefficient and mass transfer rate is given by2:
MA MA = hm PA A R0T

Therefore, mass flux of water lifted by air

= h m ( C w 2 C w1 )
= 0.062 ( 0.051 0.011) 3600 kg/h/m2


Equation (6) can be derived from equation (3) and applying ideal gas law:
C A = A = PA M W / ( R0T )

= 8.928 kg/h/m2 Area of exposed liquid surface = 0.3 0.6 m 2 Therefore, mass of water evaporated = 8.928 0.3 0.6 kg/h = 5.05 kg/h Heat transfer due to such evaporation (taking most conservative latent heat as 581 kcal/kg), heat absorbed from the working medium, that is, air = 5.05 581 kcal/h = 2930 kcal/h. Considering that equilibrium air temperature as 40 C , 45 C and 50 C , heat transfer will come as given below:


With the above basic, effect of mass transfer is calculated. The problem is similar to air blowing over water surface. Mass transfer surface area is considered limited to cylindrical surface area. Approximate velocity of air = 0.3 910 / 60 = 14.29 m/s

vd Re = is density of air, kg/m3 ; v, velocity, m/s; , dynamic where viscosity of air = 1.943 105 kg/ms; and d, diameter, m.
= 1.03 338 273 + 30 = 0.373 kg/m3 744 273 + 106.7

Re =

0.373 14.29 0.3 1.943 10 5

= 82298
30 40 45 50

Partial pressure of saturated water vapour, kg/cm2a 0.045 0.074 0.095 0.123

Schmidt Number *

Reynolds Number *

Mass transfer flux, kg/m2/h

Heat transfer, kcal/h

J factor, from equation (5), is given by

J m = 0.0296 82298 0.2 = 0.00308

0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6

82998 82998 82998 82998

5.04 8.83 10.59 15.11

2930 5083 6156 8615

Diffusion coefficient of water vapour (D) is2 0.256 104 m2/s. Schmidt number for water vapour diffusing inter air

Sc =

Note : * The effect of variation in density, velocity and diffusion coefficient due to change in temperature has been ignored

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Table 1

Performance report for water ring vacuum pump Model Date Nozzle D Barometer Pressure : : : : Wet bulb temperature,

VP-062; 19/07/2003;
82.5 mm ;

M/C Serial Number Time d

: : :

A-1258 10.30 am
50 mm

744 mm of Hg Inlet temperature of air,


Sl No

Vacuum (VAC) mm, Hg

Dry bulb temperature,


Seal water quantity, LPM

Seal water inlet temperature,


Seal water outlet temperature,


Air exhaust temperature,


Bearing temperature,

Pump, rpm

Power consumption at pump input shaft, BkW

Capacity at nozzle (FAD), m3/h

Actual capacity at vacuum pump inlet, m3/h

1 2 3 4

201 292 406 495

30 30 30 30

28 28 28 28

30 30 30 30

40 40 40 40

35 34 35 35

38 38 39 40

38 38 42 45

34 34 35 35

910 910 910 910

19.94 22.73 23.87 24.29

729.4 589.0 443.9 317.9

913.4 912.3 950.5 934.2

Experimental Verification With a view to verify the compression characteristics of liquid ring vacuum pump, the process of compression was carried out at the test bed of the manufacturer. The test rig set up is given in Figure 6 and the test result as obtained is presented in Table 1. The test result under serial number 3 has been taken as basis for theoretical analysis. The test results indicate that the air exhaust temperature, which should reach 106.7 C for adiabatic condition, is only 42 C , which matches the approximate theoretical calculation and therefore, can be concluded to have almost reached the isothermal condition. Sufficient heat transfer could be effected to bring the exhaust air temperature down to very close to seal water temperature. CONCLUSION The theoretical as well as experimental evidence suggested verifies the fact that the process of compression in a liquid ring vacuum pump can be approximated to isothermal condition at seal water inlet temperatures. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT The author sincerely acknowledges the support and contribution made by Vacuunair Engineering Co Pvt Ltd, Ahmedabad, by allowing to use their test set up and note the results. The author also acknowledges all his colleagues at DCIPS and DCPL for their continued inspiration. REFERENCES
1. O P Arora. Heat and Mass Transfer. 3rd Edition, Khanna Publishers, 1989. 2. F P Incropera and D P Dewitt. Fundamentals of Heat and Mass Transfer. 4th Edition, John Wiley and Sons, 1996. 3. J L Ryan and D L Roper. Process Vacuum System Design and Operations. 1st Edition, McGraw Hill Book Company, 1986.

Figure 6 Vacuum pump test set-up at Vacuunair Engineering Co Pvt Ltd, Ahmedabad

Therefore, it is concluded that the outlet air temperature will be between 45 C and 50 C . Hence, the process approaches isothermal condition. Even if the effect of exact modelling of heat transfer area is considered, or the other approximations considered in this analysis are applied to exactly simulate the phenomenon, the effect of convective mass transfer is noted to be so imposing that it can be concluded that for the convective mass transfer phenomenon effect the compression process as isothermal. Moreover, the overwhelming effect of mass transfer suggests that the heat transfer mechanism is effected almost instantaneously as soon as thermal potential between gas and liquid ring develops .Study of steam table also reveals that the mass transfer potential increases very fast with each degree rise in air temperature and, therefore ,the equilibrium condition reaches very fast achieving a near-isothermal condition. Vol 86, April 2005