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1 Summary
The main objectives of this experiment were to determine the pressure drop of a distillation
column for various boil up rates and to determine weeping and flooding points, to measure
overall efficiency of the column by McCabe-Thiele diagram and to make heat balances around
boiler and condenser to determine overall thermal efficiency. A distillation column containing
eight stages with a feed tank and a total reflux was used in this experiment. A batch feed of
ethanol water mixture was charged in the feed tank. The boil up rate was varied by varying
power input to the reboiler and compositions of top and bottom products were noted to calculate
overall plate efficiency by McCabe-Thiele method. Pressure drop in the distillation column
was also noted by a U-tube manometer. Inlet and outlet temperatures of cooling water were
also noted to calculate thermal efficiency. The flow rate of cooling water in condenser was
measured by a rotameter. The process was carried on at three different powers- 0.5kW, 0.75kW
and 1.00kW. The inlet and the outlet temperature of the condenser along with the volume of
condensate collected and the time for collection were also recorded. Compositions of top and
bottom products were noted with the help of a refractometer. The theoretical number of stages
were obtained by drawing a McCabe-Thiele diagram by plotting the vapor composition against
the liquid composition for ethanol and using the distillate composition to be 82% ethanol and
the bottom product composition to be 16% ethanol. A graph of pressure drop vs. boil-up rate
was drawn on log-log plot to observe the weeping and flooding points. The stages of the column
were found 6. The actual stages of the experiment are 8. So the overall efficiency of the column
is calculated as 75.0%. Heat released to water varied from 0.097 kW to 0.5201 kW and hence
the thermal efficiency of the column increased from 19.41% to 52.01% and the pressure drop
varied from 566.68 Pa to 1211.52 Pa.


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2 Experimental Setup



Figure 1: Schematic diagram of study of distillation column.

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3 Observed Data
Room temperature = 29C
Table 1: Observed data for boil-up rate, pressure drop, water flow rate and temperature-
Power
(KW)

Volume of
condensate
(mL)

Time
(s)

Pressure drop
(mm of H2O)
Degree of
foaming

Flow rate
of water
(L/min)
Temperature
(c)
Left Right T6 T7
0.50 14.5 34.30 136 194
Gentle
bubbling
0.20 29.0 36.0
0.75 14.0 17.13 135 198
Violent
boiling
0.30 29.0 43.2
1.00 16.5 16.57 105 229
Vigorous
foaming
0.40 29.0 47.8


Table 2: Observed data for refractive index and mole fraction of Ethanol-

Power (kW)

Refractive index Mole fraction (%)
Top product Bottom product Top product Bottom product
0.50 1.3620 1.3535 36.0 16.0
0.75 1.3616 1.3535 34.5 16.0
1.00 1.3625 1.3535 38.0 16.0


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4 Calculated Data

Table 3: Table of calculated data for pressure drop, boil-up rate, mass flow rate of cooling
water, heat released to water, thermal efficiency and overall plate efficiency-
Power
(kW)
Pressure
drop,
P
(Pa)
Boil-
up
rate
(L/hr)
Mass
flow
rate,
(kg/s)
Heat
released
to
water,
Qw
(kW)
Thermal
efficiency,

(%)
Number
of
theoretical
stages,
Ntheo
Number
of
actual
stages,
Nactual
Overall
efficiency,
Eo
(%)
0.50 566.68 1.522 0.00333 0.0970 19.4060
6 8 75 0.75 615.53 2.942 0.00497 0.2949 39.3160
1.00 1211.52 3.585 0.00661 0.5201 52.0100




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5 Sample Calculation

For observation no- 01

Calculation of heat released to water
Cooling water inlet temperature, T6= 29.0 C
Cooling water outlet temperature, T7 = 36.0 C
Temperature difference, T = (T7 - T6) = (36.0-29.0)
= 7 C
Heat capacity of water, Cp = 4.18 kJ/kgC
Density of water at room temperature, = 994.825 kg/m
3

Flowrate of cooling water, V = 0.2 L/min = 3.33 10
-6
m
3
/s
Mass flowrate, = V = (994.825 3.3310
-6
) kg/s
= 0.00332 kg/s
Rate of heat release to water, Qw = Cp T
= (0.00332 4.18 7) watt
= 0.09703 kW


Calculation of thermal efficiency
Heat input = 0.50 kW
Thermal efficiency, = (0.097030.50) 100%
= 19.4057%



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Calculation of boil-up rate
Volume of collected distillate = 14.5 mL
Time for distillation collection = 34.3 s
Boil-up rate = (14.534.3)mL/s
= 0.43374 mL/s
= 0.43374 (36001000) L/hr
= 1.523 L/hr

Calculation of pressure drop
Difference in manometer reading, h = (194 - 136) mm (of H2O column)
= 58 mm (of H2O column)
Density of water at room temperature (29C), w = 994.825 kg/m
3

Pressure drop, P = hg
= 5810
-3
994.825 9.81
= 566.681 Pa

Calculation of overall efficiency
From McCabe-Thiele diagram,
Number of theoretical stages required, Ntheo = 6
Number of actual stages, Nactual = 8
Overall efficiency, Eo = 100%
N
N
actual
theo

= 100%
8
6
= 75%

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6 Graphs


0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
V
a
p
o
r

c
o
m
p
o
s
i
t
i
o
n
,

y

E
t
O
H

(
m
o
l
e
%
)
Liquid composition, x
EtOH
(mole%)
y-x plot for Ethanol-water system
Equilibrium
line
y=x
Figure 2: Determination of number of equilibrium stages by McCabe-Thiele method.
XD = 82% XB = 16%
1

2

3

4

5

6


8


100
1000
10000
1 10
P
r
e
s
s
u
r
e

d
r
o
p
,

P

(
P
a
)
Boil-up rate, V (L/hr)
Plot of pressure drop vs. boil-up ratio
Weeping
point
Flooding
point
Figure 3: Graph of pressure drop vs. boil-up ratio.

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7 Results and discussions

Figure 4: Tabulated results of boil-up rate, pressure drop, heat transfer to boiling water, thermal
efficiency and overall efficiency-
Pressure drop,
P
(Pa)
Boil-up rate
(L/hr)
Heat released to
water, Qw
(kW)
Thermal efficiency,

(%)
Overall efficiency,
Eo
(%)
566.68 1.522 0.0970 19.4060
75 615.53 2.942 0.2949 39.3160
1211.52 3.585 0.5201 52.0100

Several aspects of the experiment are discussed below-
The separation of liquid mixtures into their several components is one of the major processes
of the chemical and petroleum industries, and distillation is the most widely used method of
achieving this end. In this experiment, we used a fractionating distillation column to perform
the distillation process. In the column, we used eight sieve trays. We used a re-boiler to boil
the feed from the feed tank and a condenser to perform the condensation. There was no bottom
product or overhead product.

In this experiment, the total pressure drop across each tray is the sum of that caused by the
restriction of the holes in the sieve tray, and that caused by passing through the liquid on top
of the tray. As the velocity of the vapors passing up the column increases so did the overall
pressure drop. From the graph of pressure drops vs. boil-up rate (log/log), we found that at high
boil-up rates the pressure drop rise quit sharply than at low boil-up rates. This characteristic of
the graph is similar to the theory. From the graph, we got the weeping and flooding points
location.

We performed energy balance using the observed data and calculated the rate of heat release
to the water flowing through the condenser and thus the rate of heat loss. The energy balance
indicates that the rate of heat loss was quit high. The heat could be lost to the atmosphere with
air. Moreover, the heat might be lost from the system through different pipes which were not

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insulated properly (or lost their insulation in these years) and because of the friction caused by
the sieve trays. On addition, there is a possibility that we could not get the accurate temperature
readings due to the fluctuation of reading indicator.

McCabe-Thiele diagram was used to calculate the theoretical number of stages required to
obtain distillate product containing 82 mole% ethanol and bottom product containing 16
mole% ethanol. This method is based on the assumption of constant molal overflow (CMO)
which might not be attained always. The theoretical number of stages were found to be six but
the actual number of stages were eight including total reboiler and from these values the overall
efficiency was found which is 75.0%.
However, we used the McCabe-Thiele type construction but we could not satisfy the
assumptions of McCabe-Thiele method, which are
Constant heat of vaporization
No heat loss
No heat produces on mixing, etc.

Some important theoretical backgrounds of this experiment have been discussed here:
In the bubble regime the liquid is close to being a stagnant pool with distinct bubbles rising
through it. This regime occurs at low gas flow rates. The poor mixing causes poor liquid and
vapor contact, which results in low stage efficiency. Because of the low gas flow rate and low
efficiency, the bubble regime is undesirable in commercial applications.
At higher gas flow rates the stage will often be in a foam regime. In this regime, the liquid
phase is continuous and has fairly distinct bubbles rapidly rising through it. There is a distinct
foam similar to the head resting atop the liquid in a mug of beer. Because of the large surface
area in a foam, the area for vapor-liquid mass transfer is large, and stage efficiency may
be quite high. However, if the foam is too stable it can fill the entire region between stages.
When this occurs, entrainment becomes excessive, stage efficiency drops, and the column may
flood (fill up with liquid and become inoperative). This may require the use of a chemical

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antifoam agent. The foam regime is usually at vapor flow rates that are too low for most
industrial applications.
At even higher vapor flow rates the froth regime occurs. In this regime the liquid is continuous
and has large, pulsating voids of vapor rapidly passing through it. The surface of the
liquid is boiling violently, and there is considerable splashing. The liquid phase is thoroughly
mixed, but the vapor phase is not. In most distillation systems where the liquid-phase mass
transfer controls, this regime has good efficiency. Because of the good efficiency and
reasonable vapor capacity, this is usually the flow regime used in commercial operation.
At even higher gas flow rates the vapor-liquid contact on the stage changes markedly. In the
spray regime the vapor is continuous and the liquid occurs as a discontinuous spray of droplets.
The vapor is very well mixed, but the liquid droplets usually are not. Because of this poor liquid
mixing, the mass transfer rate is usually low and stage efficiencies are low. The significance of
this is that relatively small increases in vapor velocity can cause the column to go from the
froth to the spray regime and cause a significant decrease in stage efficiency (for example, from
65% to 40%).