Batch Distillation Column
Distillation is a process used to separate a mixed fluid stream into its components based on their boiling points. The process is an equilibrium process between a liquid flowing down the column and a vapor travelling up the column. The intent of distillation is to recover one or more pure product streams from the incoming mixed fluid stream. Oil and gas, consumer products, chemicals and pharmaceutical industries all use distillation to create products.
The purpose behind the MPEDD distillation column is to demonstrate fluid flow within a column, and separate an initial feed of water and acetic acid. The column is a batch column, there is an initial charge pot that will be filled once per use, with four equilibrium trays. The top of the column has a condesing unit leading to a valve that provides reflux to the column and sampling of the distillate stream. To show the change in the distillate product we have an pH indicator that will change color as our product becomes a purer water stream.
Cooling towers are commonly used in industrial processes. A stream of hot water travels down the column while an air stream travels upwards, causing evaporative cooling. Packing is used in a cooling tower to increase the contact surface area between the water and air streams. Cooling towers typically open systems and lose a small percentage of water in the form of vapor, this vapor cloud is commonly mistaken for smoke.
The purpose of the MPEDD cooling tower is to demonstrate the effects of different types of packing, and show the cooling we achieve in our column. Our column consists of tank of water that is pumped to a water heater and then to the top of the column. There is a fan that sits on the top of the tank that pushes air up the column. We have ping pong balls and aqua-balls (used in fish tanks) that have different surface areas to demonstrate the effect of surface area on cooling. We are improving our methods for measuring temperature along the column.
Plug Flow Reactor
Plug flow reactors are a type of continuous reactor. Reactants are mixed at the reactor inlet and travel down the reactor as a plug. The further the length down the reactor, the higher the conversion of reactants that is achieved. Plug flow reactors can be used for both gas and liquid systems. Some industrial uses include: gasoline production and bioreactors.
MPEDD's PFR runs an iodine clock reaction, which is actually composed of two different reactions. Two solutions are simultaneously gravity fed into a long tube where they react and a visible plug can be seen. Based on the flow rate of the solutions the plug can be moved to different parts in the tube.
This project is still in the design phase.