Microdynamic analysis of the particle flow in a cylindrical bladed mixer

Y. C. Zhou, A. B. Yu, R. L. Stewart, J. Bridgwater

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A microdynamic study of the particle flow in a vertical axis mixer with slowly rotating flat blades has been performed by means of a modified discrete element method. The conditions are comparable to recent experiments conducted using positron emission particle tracking, with a mixer being 249 mm in diameter, filled by 16,000 monosized spheres of 5 mm diameter, and two blades rotating at a speed of 19 rpm. The dependence of flow behaviour on particle-particle and particle-wall sliding and rolling frictions is quantified and the results are used to establish the spatial and statistical distributions of microdynamic variables related to flow and force structures such as velocity, porosity, coordination number, particle-particle and particle-wall interaction forces. While the geometry and operational conditions are relatively simple, the particle flow is shown to be very complicated. There is a three-dimensional zone in front of a blade where particles have a strong recirculating flow. Increasing sliding friction coefficient or decreasing rolling friction coefficient can promote the formation of this zone. The flow and force structures of particles in the mixer are not uniform, although macroscopically steady flow is reached readily. The results show that increasing the rolling friction coefficient and, in particular, the sliding friction coefficient can increase the bed porosity and decrease the mean coordination number. The recirculating flow and the mixing kinetics are promoted by increasing the sliding friction coefficient or decreasing the rolling friction coefficient. Furthermore force arching is strong in the particle bed, with large inter-particle forces concentrating near the bottom corner just in front of the blade and propagating into the bed. Increasing the sliding or rolling friction coefficient increases the potential energy of particles in the mixer, but the kinetic energy is not sensitive to these coefficients. The increased potential energy gives increased particle-particle and particle-wall interaction forces and hence an increased torque required to drive the system. The results highlight the capacity and usefulness of numerical simulation in developing an understanding of the interplay of structure, forces, velocities and mixing in granular systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1343-1364
Number of pages22
JournalChemical Engineering Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Discrete element method
  • Dynamic simulation
  • Flow structure
  • Interparticle friction
  • Mixing
  • Powder technology

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