Pulse jet mixed process vessels comprise a key element of the U.S. Department of Energy’s strategy to process millions of gallons of legacy nuclear waste slurries. Slurry suctioned into a pulse jet mixer (PJM) tube at the end of one pulse is pneumatically driven from the PJM toward the bottom of the vessel at the beginning of the next pulse, forming a jet. The jet front traverses the distance from nozzle outlet to the bottom of the vessel and spreads out radially. Varying numbers of PJMs are typically arranged in a ring configuration within the vessel at a selected radius and operated concurrently. Centrally directed radial flows from neighboring jets collide to create a central upwell that elevates the solids in the center of the vessel when the PJM tubes expel their contents.
An essential goal of PJM operation is to elevate solids to the liquid surface to minimize stratification. Solids stratification may adversely affect throughput of the waste processing plant. Unacceptably high slurry densities at the base of the vessel may plug the pipeline through which the slurry exits the vessel. Additionally, chemical reactions required for processing may not achieve complete conversion. To avoid these conditions, a means of predicting the elevation to which the solids rise in the central upwell that can be used during vessel design remains essential.
In this paper we present a simple criterion to evaluate the extent of solids elevation achieved by a turbulent upwell jet. The criterion asserts that at any location in the central upwell the local velocity must be in excess of a cutoff velocity to remain turbulent. We find that local velocities in excess of 0.6 m/s are necessary for turbulent jet flow through both Newtonian and yield stress slurries. By coupling this criterion with the free jet velocity equation relating the local velocity to elevation in the central upwell, we estimate the elevation at which turbulence fails, and consequently the elevation at which the upwell fails to further lift the slurry. Comparing this elevation to the vessel fill level predicts whether the jet flow will achieve the full vertical extent of the vessel at the center.
This simple local-velocity criterion determines a minimum PJM nozzle velocity at which the full vertical extent of the central upwell in PJM vessels will be turbulent. The criterion determines a minimum because flow in regions peripheral to the central upwelling jet may not be turbulent, even when the center of the vessel in the upwell is turbulent, if the jet pulse duration is too short. The local-velocity criterion ensures only that there is sufficient wherewithal for the turbulent jet flow to drive solids to the surface in the center of the vessel in the central upwell.