Effectiveness factors and conversion in a biocatalytic membrane reactor

16 May 2018

Analytical expressions of the effectiveness factor of a biocatalytic membrane reactor, and its asymptote as the Thiele modulus becomes large, are presented. The evaluation of the effectiveness factor is based on the solution of the governing equations for solute transport in the two regions of the reactor, i.e. the lumen and the matrix (with the biofilm immobilized in the matrix). The lumen solution accounts for both axial diffusion and radial convective flow, while the matrix solution is based on Robin-type boundary conditions. The effectiveness factor is shown to be a function of the Thiele modulus, the partition coefficient, the Sherwood number, the Peclet number, and membrane thickness. Three regions of Thiele moduli are defined in the effectiveness factor graphs. These correspond with reaction rate limited, internal-diffusion limited, and external mass transfer limited solute transport. Radial convective flows were shown to only improve the effectiveness factor in the region of internal diffusion limitation. The assumption of first order kinetics is shown to be applicable only in the Thiele modulus regions of internal and external mass transfer limitation. An iteration scheme is also presented for estimating the effectiveness factor when the solute fractional conversion is known. The model is validated with experimental data from a membrane gradostat reactor immobilised with Phanerochaete chrysosporium for the production of lignin and manganese peroxidases. The developed model and experimental data allow for the determination of the Thiele modulus at which the effectiveness factor and fractional conversion are optimal.