Mechanical Inhibition of Foam Formation via a Rotating Nozzle

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Entry by Emily Redston, AP 225, Fall 2011

Work in progress

Reference

Mechanical Inhibition of Foam Formation via a Rotating Nozzle, by W. D. Ristenpart, A. G. Bick, E. A. van Nierop, and H. A. Stone, J Fluid Eng-T Asme 133 (4) (2011).

Keywords

bubbles, capillarity, confined flow, drops, foams, nozzles, rotational flow, two-phase flow

Introduction

Many industrial processes involve a step where two or more liquid streams are combined in one container. If one of the liquids is poured, sprayed, or dripped into liquid already in the container, air is oftentimes entrained upon impact, and the consequent bubbles form a foamy layer. Generally these foams are an unintended and unwanted by-product of the process. Foams have many deleterious effects because they can (1) interfere with unit operations, (2) decrease process efficiency, (3) increase process time, and (4) lead to additional process defects. Therefore, a great number of commercial chemical additives have been developed to minimize the impact of foams; for example, anti-foaming agents are added to prevent foam formation. Unfortunately, these additive chemicals have several drawbacks: they may contaminate the final product, pose environmental disposal problems, and increase the overall process cost and complexity. Non-chemical strategies are thus desirable. Although some work has suggested that mechanical or ultrasonic vibrations help disrupt foams after they form, there had been no demonstration of a non-chemical technique that prevents foam formation until this paper.

In this paper, the authors present a simple mechanical apparatus that, for appropriate flow rates, significantly reduces the amount of foam generated when a liquid is sprayed into a container. Specifically, they demonstrate a technique to substantially prevent bubble entrainment due to what they refer to as “multidrop” impacts. Multidrop bubble entrainment occurs when two successive drops impact a liquid-air interface within a critical time interval. In earlier work, they demonstrated that the critical time interval is proportional to the time required for an impact crater, formed by the first drop, to close by capillarity (approximately 5 ms for millimeter scale water droplets). The key implication here is that bubble formation, and hence foam formation, can be minimized in the multidrop regime simply by ensuring that no two droplets impact the air-liquid interface at the same location within the critical time interval. Building on this observation, the authors report a design for a rotating nozzle that prevents successive collocated impacts, thereby minimizing bubble entrainment. They demonstrated that a lab-scale prototype can reduce the volume of foam formed by as much as 95% for a given flow-rate, provided the angular velocity of the nozzle is sufficiently high.

The Set-Up

Figure 1. The experimental apparatus. (a) Side-view schematic (not to scale). (b) Top-view schematic. The gear and nozzle rotate with angular velocity omega. (c) Photo of the apparatus. The white objects are the gears; the gear on right is connected to a rotating shaft.

Results

Figure 1. The beads-on-a-string experimental model.

Conclusion