Assessing the degree of plug flow in oxidation flow reactors (OFRs): a study on a potential aerosol mass (PAM) reactor
Oxidation flow reactors (OFRs) have been developed to achieve high degrees of oxidant exposures over relatively short space times (defined as the ratio of reactor volume to the volumetric flow rate). While, due to their increased use, attention has been paid to their ability to replicate realistic tropospheric reactions by modeling the chemistry inside the reactor, there is a desire to customize flow patterns. This work demonstrates the importance of decoupling tracer signal of the reactor from that of the tubing when experimentally obtaining these flow patterns. We modeled the residence time distributions (RTDs) inside the Washington University Potential Aerosol Mass (WU-PAM) reactor, an OFR, for a simple set of configurations by applying the tank-in-series (TIS) model, a one-parameter model, to a deconvolution algorithm. The value of the parameter, N, is close to unity for every case except one having the highest space time. Combined, the results suggest that volumetric flow rate affects mixing patterns more than use of our internals. We selected results from the simplest case, at 78 s space time with one inlet and one outlet, absent of baffles and spargers, and compared the experimental F curve to that of a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation. The F curves, which represent the cumulative time spent in the reactor by flowing material, match reasonably well. We value that the use of a small aspect ratio reactor such as the WU-PAM reduces wall interactions; however sudden apertures introduce disturbances in the flow, and suggest applying the methodology of tracer testing described in this work to investigate RTDs in OFRs to observe the effect of modified inlets, outlets and use of internals prior to application (e.g., field deployment vs. laboratory study).