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Basic Mixing Principles - Mixing Technologies - Mixing Solutions

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Basic Mixing Principles

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Basic Mixing Principles

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When considering any mixing application it is important to realise that,

there is no one solution to a given mixing problem. The optimum
solution will depend on a variety of different factors. Mixing Solutions
Limited have both the knowledge, experience and product range to

Effective Flow Generation


specify precisely the right system configuration to best serve the total


needs of a particular mixing operation.

Lancer Propeller

Mixing Mechanisms
Mixing is achieved by a number of different mechanisms, as
summarised in the following table. The most important mechanism will
vary for any given application, and a given process may rely on any or
all of these mechanisms.
In order to arrive at an optimum mixer design a detailed
understanding of the various mechanisms involved and their
importance in achieving the process result is required.



Laminar shear


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Induced by pumping action of the impeller, Fluid moves through the different parts of
vessel, preventing stratification.
Caused by turbulent flow a wide range of vortices. Smallest in the impeller region where
dissipation is the highest. Separates bulk of fluid into smaller elements.
Below the scale of macro mixing fluid elements are further dispersed by laminar shearing.
Elements are stretched, distorted and folded.
Final smallest scale mixing. Diffusion of reactants takes place and is driven only by
concentration gradient. Takes place on scale smaller than any eddy size.

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Basic Mixing Principles - Mixing Technologies - Mixing Solutions

D = Impeller Diameter
C = Impeller off Bottom
N = Impeller speed
Z = liquid Depth
T = Vessel Diameter
click image to enlarge
Basic Mixing Applications
By far the most common of mixing applications are those which rely upon flow to achieve the required process result.
These applications are often referred to as, 'Flow Controlled Applications', and include such applications as Blending,
Solids Suspension and Heat Transfer. Whilst it is not possible to cover all possible applications these can be assigned to
Application Classes. Some of the more common application classes are considered here.
Blending / Homogenisation of Miscible Liquids
Blending involves the mixing of two or more miscible liquids to achieve a uniform mixture throughout the entire
volume of the tank, usually within a specified period of time. It is important to note that the blending of liquids having
widely varying density and/or viscosity requires special attention and may require longer blend times to ensure the
liquids are mixed.
Typical Blending Applications
Chemical Reactions
Simple blending of miscible
Make-Up Tanks
Storage, Feed, or Holding

Information Required for Mixer Selection


Blend Time


Volume (s)

Pressure & Temperature

Any specific process requirement

Solids Suspension
The suspension of solid particles in a liquid is achieved by providing a flow field with sufficient velocity to lift the solids
to the required level within the tank. Careful consideration should be given to the degree to which the solids are
suspended as this has a significant effect on the required mixer power.
Principally there are five degrees
of suspension as follows:

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Basic Mixing Principles - Mixing Technologies - Mixing Solutions

Solids Just Suspended

Off Bottom Suspension
Moderate Uniformity
Nearly Uniform Suspension
Uniform Suspension

Information Required for Equipment Selection

SG of Liquid

Percent solids by Weight

SG of Solid

Slurry viscosity

Solids size or distribution of range

Degree of Suspension required

Heat Transfer
There are many applications that either exothermic, endothermic or simply require heating or cooling. This requires
heat to be transported to or from the process fluid via a heat transfer surface usually in the form of coils or a vessel
jacket. Mixers are used to improve heat transfer by effecting the mixer side film coefficient. It should however be
recognised that this represents only part of the overall heat transfer equation and that variables not controlled by the
mixer may have a much greater influence on the overall heat transfer.
Typical Heat Transfer
Chemical Reactions

Information Required for Equipment Selection

Bulk Viscosity

Temperature of the heat transfer

Viscosity at heat transfer surface



Product Thermal Conductivity

Bulk Temperature

Product Specific Heat

Optimum Mixer Selection Criteria

A full and accurate specification of the mixing vessel, the process parameters, and the required mixer performance is
the first crucial step to arriving at an optimum mixing operation. Some of the many other variables that can affect
mixer performance and so need to be considered in arriving at the optimum mixer design are noted on these pages.
Impeller Type
The function of any mixing impeller is to convert the rotational energy of the mixer shaft into the correct combination
of flow, shear and turbulence to achieve the required process result.
As no one-impeller design is capable of providing optimum performance under every process condition, optimum
process performance is dependent upon selecting an impeller design that has the specific characteristics required by a
given process.
At Mixing Solutions we have a range of impellers that is one of the most extensive in the industry and enables our
engineers to select the most appropriate impeller for any given situation.
Number of Impellers
The use of a single impeller is the usual preferred option on the basis of cost. However, changes in the ratio of liquid
level (Z) to vessel diameter (T) can have an adverse effect on the flow patterns generated within the vessel. This can
result in the need to consider the use of multiple impellers in order to achieve an economic solution.
Z/T ratio alone is not the only consideration when determining the number of impellers required. Multiple impellers
may also need to be considered for other reasons including, when high viscosity fluids are involved, for mixing at low
level during filling and emptying or where draw down from the liquid surface is a requirement.
Impeller Positioning
Whether utilising a single or a multiple impeller configuration the positioning of the impellers within the process fluid
can have a significant effect on the overall process performance. Incorrect positioning can lead to staged flow patterns,
poor dispersion of additives and impellers being out of the liquid at crucial stages of the process.
D/T Ratio
The ratio of mixing impeller diameter (D) to vessel diameter (T) has a very significant effect on the performance of
most fluid mixers and the optimum D/T is a function of both process conditions and process requirements.
Normally the optimum D/T will be in the range 0.2 < D/T < 0.5. Some special applications however, sometimes
operate outside this range.
Bottom Clearance
The impeller bottom clearance (C/T ratio) can also have a very significant effect on the overall performance of a mixer,
effecting both power draw and pumping efficiency. The optimum C/T ratio is essentially dependent upon impeller type

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Basic Mixing Principles - Mixing Technologies - Mixing Solutions

but can also be effected by process conditions.

Normally, the optimum C/T will be in the range: 0.1 < C/T < 0.3. Hydrofoils however can operate at much higher
levels, up to C/T = 0.5 or more.
Vessel Geometry
When designing a vessel for mixer duty it is important to understand the role that tank geometry plays in determining
the final mixer design. Poor aspect ratios and or inappropriate bottom shapes can both result in increase mixer cost
and in certain circumstances make it impossible to optimise the mixer design.
Aspect Ratio
It is generally accepted that the ideal aspect ratio for most mixing tanks is one where the liquid depth (Z) is equal to
the tank diameter (T) as this allows for the optimum number of impellers, optimum power input and optimum power
In practise, the optimum Z/T will be in the range 0.9 < Z/T ^ 1.2 as this does not significantly effect mixer design.
Bottom Shape
Tank bottom shape can have a significant effect on the flow patterns generated within the mixing vessel and hence the
mixers ability to achieve optimum process performance. Normally a dish-bottom tank is the preferred bottom shape.
However, flat-bottoms and shallow cones (less than 15) can be used for many processes without any particular
problem. In the case of flat bottomed tanks mixer performance can often be significantly improved by the introduction
of corner fillets.
In general deep cones should be avoided especially where the requirement is solids suspension.
The importance of proper tank baffling in obtaining optimum mixer
performance should not be underestimated. In a correctly baffled tank the
mixer develops the fluid regime required to achieve the optimum process
An incorrectly baffled tank on the other hand can lead to poor mixer
performance and may even result in the mixer not being able achieve the
process result for which it was designed.
It is normally desirable to set the baffles off the wall and off the bottom of
the tank to prevent solids or fluids from stagnating at those points. The
optimum baffling arrangement however, will vary from process to process
and is dependant upon a variety of factors including, vessel geometry,
vessel internals, specific power, the required surface effects, and viscosity.
Mixing Intensity
Within the process industries in general it has become convenient to characterise the level of mixing required for a
given application in terms of agitation intensity. This practise has led to the introduction of terms like mild or vigorous
agitation. Whilst such general terms are convenient they can mean different things to different people and so need
quantifying if they are to be of any practical use.
The following table gives a general overview of the various degrees of agitation in common use throughout the

Blending Intensity
Non critical blending operations, Storage
or Holding Tanks, Feed Tanks, Flocculation
Long Blend Time
Surface barely in motion
Viscosity Ratio < 10

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Basic Mixing Principles - Mixing Technologies - Mixing Solutions

Adequate for most mixing duties,
Make-up tanks, Reaction tanks, Blend tanks
Moderate blend Time
Surface in strong motion
Viscosity Ratio < 50

Critical mixing operations
Most Heat Transfer
pH control
Rapid Blend Time Surface in rolling
boil Viscosity Ratio < 500

Special critical applications
Critical Heat Transfer
High Shear requirements
Nearly instantaneous blending
Surface boiling splashing and vortexing
Viscosity Ratio < 10,000

Mixer Related Dimensionless Numbers

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