Hydrodynamics of Packed Bed Reactor in Low Gravity 2005-01-3035
Packed bed reactors are well known for their vast and diverse applications in the chemical industry; from gas absorption, to stripping, to catalytic conversion. Use of this type of reactor in terrestrial applications has been rather extensive because of their simplicity and relative ease of operation. Developing similar reactors for use in microgravity is critical to many space-based advanced life support systems. However, the hydrodynamics of two-phase flow packed bed reactors in this new environment and the effects of one physicochemical process on another has not been adequately assessed. Surface tension or capillary forces play a much greater role which results in a shifting in flow regime transitions and pressure drop. Results from low gravity experiments related to flow regimes and two-phase pressure drop models are presented in this paper along with a description of plans for a flight experiment on the International Space Station (ISS). Understanding the packed bed hydrodynamics and its effects on mass transfer processes in microgravity is crucial for the design of packed bed chemical or biological reactors to be used for water reclamation and other life support processes involving water purification.