Evaporation is the vaporization of a liquid. Chemical process industries, in general, use evaporator for the vaporization of a solvent from a solution. We have already discussed the heat transfer for boiling liquids in early chapter. However the evaporation is so important operation in chemical process industry that it is considered an individual operation. In this chapter we will focus on the evaporation with an objective to concentrate a solution consisting of a non-volatile solute and a volatile solvent. If we continue the evaporation process, the residual mater will be solid, which is known as drying. However, our aim is not to dry but to concentrate the solution, moreover, we will also not deal with the crystallization, in which the evaporation leads to formation of crystal in the solution. It is suggested that reader should learn the difference between evaporator, drying and crystallization.
As we will deal with the solution for the evaporation process, a few of the facts must be known about the solution properties
9.1 Solution properties
Knowledge of solution properties is important for the design of the equipment for evaporation. Some of the important properties of the solution are given below,
Initially, the solution may be quite dilute and the properties of the solution may be taken as the properties of solvent. As the concentration increases, the solution becomes viscous and heat transfer resistance increases. The crystal may grow on the heating coil or on the heating surface. The boiling points of the solution also rise considerably. Solid or solute contact increases and the boiling temperature of the concentrated solution became higher than that of the solvent as the same pressure (i.e. elevation in boiling point).
Many of the materials like organic substance may foam during vaporization. If the foam is stable, it may come out along the vapor known as entrainment. Heat transfer coefficient changes abruptly for such systems.
9.1.3 Degradation due to high temperature
The products of many chemical, food, pharmaceutical industries etc. are very temperature sensitive and they may get damaged during evaporation. Thus special case or technique is required for concentrating such solution.
Many solution have tendency to deposit the scale on the heating surface, which may increase the heat transfer resistance. These scales produce extra thermal resistance of significant value. Therefore, scaling in the equipment should not be ignored thus de-scaling becomes an important and routine matter.
9.1.5 Equipment material
The material of the equipment must be chosen considering the solution properties so that the solution should neither be contaminated nor react with the equipment material.
Equipment, in which evaporation is performed, is known as evaporator. The evaporators used in chemical process industries are heated by steam and have tubular surface. The solution is circulated in the tube and the tubes are heated by steam. In general the steam is the saturated steam and thus it condenses on the outer tube surface in order to heat the tube. The circulation of the solution in the tube have reasonable velocity in order to increase the heat transfer coefficient and remove of scales on the inner surface of the tube. The steam heated tubular evaporators may be classified as natural and forced circulation evaporators.
9.2.1 Natural circulation evaporator
In this category the main evaporators are,
As the name indicates, the circulation of the solution is natural and the density difference derives it. The solution gets heat up and partially vaporized as it flows up the tubes. The heated liquid flows up because of the density difference. Vapor-liquid disengagement occurs above the tube. Thick liquor comes down from this down comer and withdrawn from the bottom. The natural-circulation evaporators may be used if the solution is quite dilute. In the dilute solution the natural circulation will be at sufficient speed. It may also be used when the solution does not have suspended solid particles. As the solution stays in the tube for larger time, the solution should not be heat sensitive.
The Calandria type or short-tube evaporators have short tubes as compared to the long tube evaporators. The short-tube evaporation uses circulation and solution flows many times in the evaporators. However, in case of the long tube evaporator the flow is once through.
9.2.2 Forced circulation evaporator
Natural circulation evaporators have many limitations (as mentioned earlier) through they are economical as compared to forced circulation evaporator. A forced circulation evaporator has a tubular exchanger for heating the solution without boiling. The superheated solution flashes in the chamber, where the solution gets concentrated. In forced circulation evaporator horizontal or vertical both type of design is in- practice. The forced circulation evaporators are used for handling viscous or heat sensitive solution.
9.2.3 Falling film evaporator
Highly heat sensitive materials are processed in falling film evaporators. They are generally once-through evaporator, in which the liquid enters at the top, flows downstream inside the heater tubes as a film and leaves from the bottom. The tubes are heated by condensing steam over the tube. As the liquid flows down, the water evaporates and the liquid gets concentrated. To have a film inside of the tube, the tube diameter is kept high whereas the height low to keep the residence time low for the flowing liquid. Therefore, these evaporators, with non-circulation and short resistance time, handle heat sensitive material, which are very difficult to process by other method. The main problem in falling film evaporator is the distribution of the liquid uniformly as a thin film inside the tube.
9.3 Performance of steam heated tubular evaporators
The performance of a steam heated tubular evaporator is evaluated by the capacity and the economy.
9.3.1 Capacity and economy
Capacity is defined as the no of kilograms of water vaporized per hour. Economy is the number of kg of water vaporized per kg of steam fed to the unit. Steam consumption is very important to know, and can be estimated by the ratio of capacity divided by the economy. That is the steam consumption (in kg/h) is
Steam Consumption = Capacity / Economy
9.3.2 Single and multiple effect evaporators
In single effect evaporator, as shown in fig. 9.1, the steam is fed to the evaporator which condenses on the tube surface and the heat is transferred to the solution. The saturated vapor comes out from the evaporator and this vapor either may be vented out or condensed. The concentrated solution is taken out from the evaporator.
Now we can see if we want the further concentrate, the solution has to be sent into another similar evaporator which will have the fresh steam to provide the necessary heat.
It may be noted that in this process the fresh steam is required for the second evaporator and at the same time the vapor is not utilized. Therefore it can be said the single effect evaporator does not utilized the steam efficiently. The economy of the single effect evaporator is thus less than one. Moreover, the other reason for low economy is that in many of the cases the feed temperature remains below the boiling temperature of the solution. Therefore, a part of the heat is utilized to raise the feed temperature to its boiling point.
Fig.9.1: Single effect evaporator
In order to increase the economy we may consider the arrangement of the two evaporators as shown in the fig. 9.2.
The figure 9.2 shows that the two evaporators are connected in series. The saturated vapor coming out from the evaporator-1 is used as steam in the second evaporator. Partially concentrated solution works as a feed to the second evaporator. This arrangement is known as double effect evaporator in forward feed scheme. A few of the important point that we have to note for this scheme is that the vapour leaving evaporator-2 is at the boiling temperature of the liquid leaving the first effect. In order to transfer this heat from the condensing vapor from the evaporator-1 to the boiling liquid in evaporator-2, the liquid in evaporator-2 must boil at a temperature considerable less than the condensation temperature of the vaporization, in order to ensure reasonable driving force for heat transfer. A method of achieving this is to maintain a suitable lower pressure in the second effect so that the liquid boils at a lower temperature. Therefore, if the evaporator-1 operates at atmospheric pressure, the evaporator-2 should be operated at same suitable vacuum.
Fig.9.2: Double effect evaporator with forward feed scheme
The benefit of the use of multiple effect evaporators is that in this arrangement multiple reuse of heat supplied to the first effect is possible and results in improved steam economy.
9.3.3 Boiling point elevation
The evaporators produce concentrated solution having substantially higher boiling point than that of the solvent (of the solution) at the prevailing pressure. The increase in boiling point over that of water is known as boiling point elevation (BPE) of the solution. As the concentration increases the boiling point of the solution also increases. Therefore, in order to get the real temperature difference (or driving force) between the steam temperature and the solution temperature, the BPE must be subtracted from the temperature drop. The BPE may be predicted from the steam table (in case water is a solvent).
An empirical rule known as Dühring rule is suitable for estimating the BPE of strong solution. The Dühring rule states that the boiling point of a given solution is a linear function of the boiling point of the pure water at the same pressure. Therefore, if the boiling point of the solution is plotted against that of the water at the same pressure, a straight line results. Different lines are obtained at different concentrations. The fig. 9.3 shows representative Dühring plots for a solution (non-volatile solute in water).
Fig.9.3: Representative Dühring lines for a system (non-volatile solute in water) mole fraction of solute in the solution (a) 0.1 (b) 0.2 (c) 0.25 (d) 0.39 (e) 0.35 (f) 0.45 (g) 0.5 (h) 0.6 (i) 0.7
The fig.9.3 helps to find out the boiling point of solution at moderate pressure. For example if a solution having ‘x’ mole fractions of solute have a pressure over it such that water boils at T° C, by reading up from the x-axis at T °C to the line for the x mole fraction solution and then moving horizontally to the y-axis, the boiling point of the solution can be found at that pressure.