Measurement of Effective Diffusivity: Chromatographic Method (Pellets & Monoliths)

  • Runtong Zhang

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This thesis aims to find out the effective diffusivity (Deff) of a porous material – γ-alumina, using an unsteady state method with two inert gases at ambient condition with no reactions. For porous materials, Deff is important because it determines the amount of reactants that transfers to the surface of pores. When Deff is known, the apparent tortuosity factor of γ-alumina is calculated using the parallel pore model. The apparent tortuosity factor is important because: (a) it can be used to back-calculate Deff at reacting conditions; (b) once Deff with reactions is known, the Thiele modulus can be calculated and hence the global reaction rate can be found; (c) apparent tortuosity factor is also important for modelling purposes (e.g. modelling a packed-bed column or a catalytic combustion reactor packed with porous γ-alumina in various shapes and monoliths).Experimental measurements were performed to determine the effective diffusivity of a binary pair of non-reacting gases (He in N2, and N2 in He) in spherical γ-alumina pellets (1 mm diameter), and in γ-alumina washcoated monoliths (washcoat thickness 20 to 60 µm, on 400 cpsi (cells per square inch) cordierite support). The method used is based on the chromatographic technique, where a gas flows through a tube, which is packed with the sample to be tested. A pulse of tracer gas is injected (e.g. using sample loops: 0.1, 0.2, 0.5 ml) and by using an on-line mass spectrometer the response in the outlet of the packed bed is monitored over time. For the spherical pellets, the tube i.d. = 13.8 mm and the packed bed depths were 200 and 400 mm. For monoliths the tube i.d. = 7 mm and the packed lengths were 500 and 1000 mm. When the chromatographic technique was applied to the monoliths, it was observed that experimental errors can be significant, and it is very difficult to interpret the data.However, the technique worked well with the spherical pellets, and the effective diffusivity of He in N2 was 0.75 – 1.38 × 10-7 m2 s-1, and for N2 in He was 1.81 – 3.10 × 10-7 m2 s-1. Using the parallel pore model to back-calculate the apparent tortuosity factor, then a value between 5 to 9.5 was found for the pellets.
Date of Award10 Dec 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorStan Kolaczkowski (Supervisor) & Serpil Awdry (Supervisor)


  • effective diffusivity
  • tortuosity factor
  • γ-alumina (pellets and monoliths)
  • chromatographic method
  • convolution theorem
  • Péclet number
  • axial dispersion coefficient
  • adsorption equilibrium constant
  • first moment and second central moment
  • chromatographic pulse response curve
  • packed-bed column and fictitous bed
  • Gaussian-shaped curves/distribution function
  • Mercury porosimetry
  • Nitrogen adsorption analysis

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