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PRESSURE DROP THROUGH A PACKED BED
SUMMARY
As fluid flows through a packed bed it experiences a pressure loss due to
friction. This article describes the use of the Carman-Kozeny and Ergun

equations for the calculation of pressure drop through a randomly packed bed
of spheres.

DEFINITIONS
f

: Packed bed friction factor

: Gravitational constant ( g = 9.81 m/s)

: Height of the packed bed (m)

: Fluidisation pressure drop (Pa)

P : Pressure drop through the packed bed (Pa)


U

: Superficial fluid velocity (m/s)

: Spherical equivalent particle diameter (m)

: Bed voidage

: Density of the fluid flowing through the packed bed (kg/m3)

: Density of particles in the packed bed (kg/m3)

: Viscosity of the fluid flowing through the packed bed (Pa.s)

INTRODUCTION
As a fluid passes through a packed bed it experiences pressure loss due to
factors such as friction. The relationships required to predict the pressure
drop for a fluid flowing through a packed bed have been known for some
time, with Darcy observing in 1896 that the laminar flow of water through a
bed of sand was governed by the following relationship:

PHU
This relationship was initially analysed in terms of the Hagen-Poiseuille
equation for laminar flow through a tube and was later formulated as the
Carman-Kozeny equation for pressure drop for laminar flow through a
packed bed in 1937. The following sections present the Carman-Kozeny
equation and subsequently Ergun's general equation for the pressure drop
through a randomly packed bed of spheres.

LAMINAR FLOW THROUGH A PACKED BED


The pressure drop for laminar fluid flow through a randomly packed bed of
monosized spheres with diameter x may be calculated using the CarmanKozeny equation as follows:

HP=180x23U(1)2

TURBULENT FLOW THROUGH A PACKED BED


The pressure drop for turbulent flow through a packed bed may be calculated
from the turbulent component of the Ergun equation (discussed in section 5)
as presented below:

HP=1.75x3fU2(1)

GENERAL EQUATION FOR PRESSURE DROP


THROUGH A PACKED BED
Ergun (1952), using a extensive set of experimental data covering a wide
range of particle size and shapes, presented a general equation to calculate the
pressure drop across a packed bed for all flow conditions (laminar to
turbulent). This equation is commonly referred to as the Ergun equation for
flow through a randomly packed bed of spheres and takes the following form:

HP=150x23U(1)2+1.75x3fU2(1)
The Ergun equation combines both the laminar and turbulent components of
the pressure loss across a packed bed. In laminar flow conditions the first
component of the equation dominates with the Ergun equation essentially
reducing to the Carman-Koreny equation presented in Section 3, although
with a slight variation in the constants used due to variations in the
experimental data with which the correlations was developed. In the laminar
region the pressure drop through the packed bed is independent of fluid
density and has a linear relationship with superficial velocity.
Under turbulent flow conditions the second component of the Ergun equation
dominates. Here the pressure drop increases with the square of the superficial

velocity and has a linear dependence on the density of the fluid passing
through the bed.

Calculating a Packed Bed Friction Factor


The Ergun equation may also be expressed through the use of a packed bed
friction factor in a similar manner to how pressure drop is calculated for fluid
flow in a pipe with the Darcy friction factor. The packed bed friction factor
may be calculated using the packed bed Reynolds number as follows:

f=Re150+1.75
The Ergun equation may then be calculated using the packed bed friction
factor as expressed below:

HP=fx3fU2(1)

PACKED BED OF NON-SPHERICAL PARTICLES


Although the Ergun equation was constructed for mono-sized spherical
particles, pressure drop can still be calculated for randomly packed nonspherical particles using the spherical equivalent particle diameter xSV (the

diameter of a sphere having the same surface area to volume ratio as the nonspherical particle). Here the Ergun equation becomes :

HP=150xSV23U(1)2+1.75xSV3fU2(1)
Alternatively if the particles in the packed bed are not mono-sized the
surface-volume mean diameter xSV, should be used in place of the
spherical equivalent particle diameter xSV.
Article Created: July 23, 2013

ARTICLE TAGS
Laminar Flow

Packed Bed

Reynolds Number

Turbulent Flow

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