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Scale-up Design of Ultrasound Irradiator for Advanced Oxidation Process (AOP) Using COMSOL Simulation

Zongsu Wei *1

1The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA

*Corresponding author: HI 470, 2070 Neil Avenue, Columbus, OH, 43210, USA; Phone: (614) 906-8511; Fax: (614) 292-3780; E-mail:

Abstract: In this paper, COMSOL Multiphysics was used as a tool to design and characterize an ultrasound irradiator with a multi-stepped configuration, which aims to overcome disadvantages of typical irradiators and to enhance contaminant removal in large-scale water treatments. In the simulation, three different physics were coupled together for each component of the designed ultrasonic system: piezoelectric material model for transducer, linear elastic material model for irradiator, and pressure acoustics model for reactor. The COMSOL adequately simulated the acoustic wave generation in the piezoelectric transducer and propagation through the irradiator. The simulated acoustic pressure level shows the multi-stepped irradiator successfully introduced multiple high pressure regions and thus more reactive zones. Acoustic simulations in the water tank suggested the designed irradiator has a great capacity for large-scale AOPs. These compatible simulation results to experimental measurements indicate COMSOL is a reliable tool in the design and characterization of a scaled-up ultrasound irradiator.

Keywords: Ultrasound, Irradiator, Piezoelectric, Cavitation, Advanced Oxidation Process (AOP)

1. Introduction

Ultrasound has been considered a promising green technology for the advanced oxidation process (AOP) since it adds no chemicals to the treated water. It has been shown to effectively destroy various organic and inorganic contaminants in water [1]. Ultrasound induces cavitation bubbles in the aqueous solution, and collapse of those bubbles generates localized “hot spots” where temperature and pressure are as high as 5000 K and 1000 atm, respectively [2]. In this extreme condition, thermolysis and •OH

(from water molecule dissociation by heat) oxidation are two mechanisms for the contaminant degradation [1, 2].

Although ultrasound technology shows great potential in the AOP, the commonly-used ultrasound irradiator (e.g., horn type in Figure 1a) generates a localized cavitation and non-uniform cavitation field in treatment reactors. The inhomogeneous treatment makes it very challenging to scale-up the AOP with the typical irradiator [3]. Therefore, a novel configuration design of ultrasound irradiator is necessary to enhance and maximize the cavitation-induced chemical effects for large-scale AOP.

In the design process, computational simulation was commonly used as references. When expecting efficiency and economics in the design of an expensive large-scale system for AOP, the computational tool seems more attractive since it can easily investigate different reactor geometries, irradiator configurations, and ultrasound frequencies to optimize the design. Of those computational tools, COMSOL Multiphysics have been applied to simulate acoustic field and sonochemistry in reactors [4-6], which provided compatible results to laboratory measurements. The design and characterization become much simple and straightforward with the aid of computational simulations.

In this study, COMSOL simulation was carried out to assist an ultrasound irradiator design and characterization. A multi-stepped configuration (Figure 1b) was introduced to bring more energy-emitting surface and large cavitation volume. This “proof-of-concept” study with COMSOL simulation started with the simplest scenario, in which it was assumed that materials assigned including water and stainless steel were linear media. In addition, another assumption was made that acoustic waves were time-harmonic since sinusoidal alternating current (AC) was the power source.

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 Supercritical Fluid Extraction wei_paper.pdf Page 001
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