Measurement and numerical simulation of moisture transport by capillarity, gravity and diffusion in porous potash beds
As a hygroscopic salt, granular potash can easily absorb large quantities of water vapor from humid air during storage and transportation processes. Subsequent drying will result in potash particles sticking together to form clumps or cakes. In order to avoid or decrease caking, it is essential to know the local history of moisture content and moisture movement in a bed of potash. In this thesis, experimental measurements and numerical simulations are used to investigate moisture transport and redistribution by capillarity, gravity and diffusion effects within a potash bed. The important properties required to model moisture transfer in granular porous potash (i.e. porosity, permeability, specific surface area and irreducible saturation) are investigated experimentally and theoretically. It is shown that for a mixture with a wide range of particle sizes the potash bed properties can be predicted knowing the properties for each narrow range of particle size in the mixture. An experimental test facility was designed and constructed to test moisture transfer within a potash bed. The test procedures are presented along with an uncertainty analysis. The moisture content spatial distribution for different particle sizes under different initial conditions is investigated and data are presented. A one-dimensional transient numerical model of moisture transport accounting for diffusion, capillarity and gravity effects within potash beds is developed. Two different moisture transport mechanisms are presented. In a wet region, where local moisture saturation level, S, is larger than an irreducible saturation, S0, liquid water exists as continuous liquid film on the particles; moisture is transferred by liquid film movement due to capillarity and gravity effects. In a dry region where S is less than S0, water vapor diffusion is the only mechanism of moisture transfer and water is adsorbed in layers on the surfaces. From the experimental data and numerical simulation analysis, it is shown that the irreducible saturation, S0, is a strong function of particle size. It will decrease with a particle size increase. The numerical model is validated by comparison with some typical experimental case studies. Agreement between the experimental data and simulation results is well within the experimental 95% uncertainty bounds. It is concluded from this research that the complex moisture transport process by diffusion, capillarity and gravity effects within a potash bed can be modeled and simulated. Experimental and simulation results indicate that direct water drainage will more readily occur for large particle sizes than for small particles for the same initial moisture content.
Irreducible saturation, Water transfer, porous media, permeability, moisture diffusion
Master of Science (M.Sc.)