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Chemical and Process Engineering 2015, 36 (1), 21-37 DOI: 10.1515/cpe-2015-0002


Zhuqing Wen, Jerzy Petera*

Politechnika Łódzka, Wydział Inżynierii Procesowej i Ochrony Środowiska, ul. Wólczańska 213, 90-924 Łódź, Poland

In this paper a two-disc spinning disc reactor for intensified biodiesel synthesis is described and numerically simulated. The reactor consists of two flat discs, located coaxially and parallel to each other with a gap of 0.2 mm between the discs. The upper disc is located on a rotating shaft while the lower disc is stationary. The feed liquids, triglycerides (TG) and methanol are introduced coaxially along the centre line of rotating disc and stationary disc. Fluid hydrodynamics in the reactor for synthesis of biodiesel from TG and methanol in the presence of a sodium hydroxide catalyst are simulated, using convection-diffusion-reaction species transport model by the CFD software ANSYS©Fluent v. 13.0. The effect of the upper disc’s spinning speed is evaluated. The results show that the rotational speed increase causes an increase of TG conversion despite the fact that the residence time decreases. Compared to data obtained from adequate experiments, the model shows a satisfactory agreement.

Keywords: spinning disc, biodiesel synthesis, ANSYS©Fluent, numerical simulation, TG conversion


Biodiesel production involves the transesterification of oil or fat feedstock with methyl alcohol under alkaline conditions in a liquid-liquid environment. These include a wide range of vegetable oils such as sunflower oil, soya bean oil, peanut oil, and rapeseed oil. Another potential source of feedstock is waste tallow and fats derived from meat, fish and chicken processing facilities and from the rendering industry. There is also the potential to produce biodiesel from waste cooking oils, which are also a valuable feedstock for potential biodiesel production. Transesterification is a liquid-liquid two phase reaction at the interface between oils and alcohol because they are immiscible. In liquid-liquid reactions immiscible reactants must be transferred from one phase to another under diffusional regime before reaction takes place and this mass transfer can become the limiting step. Therefore, the efficiency of mass transfer is of importance for improving production capacity, reducing process cost and equipment size. It is desired that mass transfer rate is increased to a level allowing the reactions to proceed according to reaction kinetics (Krawczyk, 1996). Thus it is important to enhance contact and contact area between the two liquid phases and decrease resistance to mass transfer in the reactor. Conventional mechanical stirring or dispersion may improve the mass transfer but usually it is not satisfactory. The interfacial contact can be improved by establishing small-scale liquid structures or eddies within which mass transfer is enhanced (Green et al., 1999). Creating these small-scale liquid structures (micro mixing) is the role of new equipment and reactor design for coping with such immiscible systems .

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