Automation of a static-synthetic apparatus for vapour-liquid equilibrium measurement.
The measurement of vapour-liquid equilibrium data is extremely important as such data are crucial for the accurate design, simulation and optimization of the majority of separation processes, including distillation, extraction and absorption. This study involved the measurement of vapour-liquid equilibrium data, using a modified version of the static total pressure apparatus designed within the Thermodynamics Research Unit by J.D. Raal and commissioned by Motchelaho, (Motchelaho, 2006 and Raal et al., 2011). This apparatus provides a very simple and accurate means of obtaining P-x data using only isothermal total pressure and overall composition (z) measurements. Phase sampling is not required. Phase equilibrium measurement procedures using this type of apparatus are often tedious, protracted and repetitive. It is therefore useful and realizable in the rapidly advancing digital age, to incorporate computer-aided operation, to decrease the man hours required to perform such measurements. The central objective of this work was to develop and implement a control scheme, to fully automate the original static total pressure apparatus of Raal et al. (2011). The scheme incorporates several pressure feedback closed loops, to execute process step re-initialization, valve positioning and motion control in a stepwise fashion. High resolution stepper motors were used to engage the dispensers, as they provided a very accurate method of regulating the introduction of precise desired volumes of components into the cell. Once executed, the control scheme requires approximately two days to produce a single forty data points (P-x) isotherm, and minimizes human intervention to two to three hours. In addition to automation, the apparatus was modified to perform moderate pressure measurements up to 1.5 MPa. Vapour-liquid equilibrium test measurements were performed using both the manual and automated operating modes to validate the operability and reproducibility of the apparatus. The test systems measured include the water (1) + propan-1-ol (2) system at 313.15 K and the n-hexane (1) + butan- 2-ol system at 329.15 K. Phase equilibrium data of binary systems, containing the solvent morpholine-4-carbaldehyde (NFM) was then measured. The availability of vapour-liquid equilibrium data for binary systems containing NFM is limited in the literature. The new systems measured include: n-hexane (1) + NFM (2) at 343.15, 363.15 and 393.15 K, as well as n-heptane (1) + NFM (2) at 343.15, 363.15 and 393.15 K. The modified apparatus is quite efficient as combinations of the slightly volatile NFM with highly volatile alkane constituents were easily and accurately measured. The apparatus also allows for accurate vapour-liquid equilibrium measurements in the dilute composition regions. A standard uncertainty in the equilibrium pressure reading, within the 0 to 100 kPa range was calculated to be 0.106 kPa, and 1.06 kPa for the 100 to 1000 kPa pressure range. A standard uncertainty in the equilibrium temperature of 0.05 K was calculated. The isothermal data obtained were modelled using the combined (-) method described by Barker (1953). This involved the calculation of binary interaction parameters, by fitting the data to various thermodynamic models. The virial equation of state with the Hayden-O’Connell (1975) and modified Tsonopoulos (Long et al., 2004) second virial coefficient correlations were used in this work to account for vapour phase non-ideality. The Wilson (1964), NRTL (Renon and Prausnitz, 1968), Tsuboka-Katayama-Wilson (1975) and modified Universal Quasi-Chemical (Anderson and Prausnitz, 1978) activity coefficient models were used to account for the liquid phase non-ideality. A stability analysis was carried out on all the new systems measured to ensure that two-liquid phase formation did not occur in the measured temperature range. A model-free method based on the numerical integration of the coexistence equation was also used to determine the vapour phase compositions and activity coefficients from the measured P-z data. These results compare well with the results obtained by the model-dependent method. The infinite dilution activity coefficients for the systems under consideration were determined by the method of Maher and Smith (1979b), and by suitable extrapolation methods. Excess enthalpy and excess entropy data were calculated for the systems measured, using the Gibbs-Helmholtz equation in conjunction with the fundamental excess property relation.