Computational modeling of 3D printed porous media for process engineering.

Type of content
Theses / Dissertations
Publisher's DOI/URI
Thesis discipline
Chemical Engineering
Degree name
Doctor of Philosophy
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Kadzungura, Luckmore

Triply periodic minimal surface (TPMS) structures, known for their unique geometric properties such as high surface area, customizable pore structures, and continuous networks, are evaluated as promising candidates for process engineering applications, including separation, heat exchange, and fluid flow management. This thesis details a computational approach to model and analyze TPMS structures in the Open- FOAM environment using the Finite Volume Method (FVM). Phenomena such as pressure drop, particulate flow, residence time distribution, heat transfer in TPMSbased heat exchangers, and adsorption were all simulated, with the computational results validated by experimental studies.

The investigation centered on the Schoen Gyroid, Schwarz Primitive, and Schwarz Diamond surfaces, generated by implicit mathematical functions and parameterized to manipulate pore size, unit cell size, and overall shape. Insights were derived on how the selection of TPMS structures and geometric parameters impact process engineering applications. The determination of pressure drop across different TPMS structures, for both laminar and turbulent flows, was found to be influenced by their inherent pore connectivity and tortuosity. The contrast between low and high Reynolds numbers clearly illustrated as the transitional fluid flow behaviour at about Reh = 20. Additionally, particle flow behaviour was seen to be affected by variables such as pore size, velocity, particle size, and surface properties. A study of the residence time distribution in TPMS structures showed that cell orientations pose effects on the perfomances and also provided insights into their potential use in mixing and reaction engineering.

The performance of TPMS-based heat exchangers was evaluated, with findings showing efficient operation at low Reynolds numbers 20 Reh 300, pointing to their potential for effective heat transmission due to the extensive surface area and interconnected channels. In separation processes, the adsorption capabilities of TPMS structures were analyzed, highlighting the importance of customized surface qualities for enhanced selectivity and capacity. Experimental tests conducted to validate the computational findings supported the projected performance of TPMS structures in various process engineering applications, particularly in the areas of fluid flow and heat transfer, which validates the credibility of the computational models.

In conclusion, the research offers an in-depth, experimentally validated computational methodology for modeling TPMS structures for process engineering applications, placing emphasis on their performance across diverse applications. The groundwork is laid for the development and optimization of innovative TPMS-based materials with application-specific advantages, thereby contributing to the advancement of more efficient and sustainable process engineering solutions.

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