467108 Computational Fluid Dynamics Study of Full-Scale Aerobic Bioreactors: Evaluation of Dynamic Oxygen Distribution, Gas-Liquid Mass Transfer, and Reaction
In order to advance the design of extremely large aerobic bioreactors, we have performed computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations of bubble-column reactors. A multiphase Euler-Euler model is used to explicitly account for the spatial distribution of air (i.e., gas bubbles) in the reactor. Expanding on the existing bioreactor CFD literature (typically focused on the hydrodynamics of bubbly flows), our simulations include interphase mass transfer of oxygen and a simple phenomenological reaction representing the uptake and consumption of dissolved oxygen by submerged cells.
The simulations reproduce the expected flow profiles, with net upward flow in the center of column and downward flow near the wall. At high simulated oxygen uptake rates (OUR), oxygen-depleted regions can be observed in the reactor. By increasing the gas flow to enhance mixing and eliminate depleted areas, a maximum oxygen transfer (OTR) rate is obtained as a function of superficial velocity. These insights regarding minimum superficial velocity and maximum reactor size are incorporated into NREL’s larger techno-economic models to supplement standard reactor design equations.