In this work, the fluid dynamics features of a real industrial configuration of a biogas fermenter, which consists in a cylindrical tank stirred with three top-entering shafts with multiple impellers, are investigated. The analysis is based on the experimental characterization of a laboratory model digester of 0.49 m in tank diameter obtained from the scale-down based on the geometrical similarity criterion of a full-scale digester of diameter equal to 17 m. The aim of the work is to evaluate the appropriateness of the design for the requirements of the biogas production process and to suggest possible improvements to the overall mixing operation.
The fluid dynamics investigation is carried out using either water or an aqueous solution of xanthan gum, in order to assess the impact of the variation of the rheological properties at different impeller speeds and direction of rotation of the impellers on the mixing features. To this end, Particle Image Velocimetry is adopted to obtain the velocity fields for the different liquid phases. The data analysis allows to identify possible critical fluid dynamics characteristics that may affect the fermentation, as for example the presence of stagnant zones, where sinking layers might be expected, thus explaining the failure of the biogas production often observed in the biogas production plant.