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I am planning to model the laminar flow reactor shown in the picture below using computational fluid dynamics (CFD). The laminar flow reactor is used to study a multiphase flow: a layer of sheath air that cushions a stream of aerosols.

laminar flow reactor

Currently, I am in the process of narrowing down the software to be used. In my (limited) understanding of CFD, both ANSYS Fluent and Comsol are valid commercial options for modelling this system. However, both come with the troubles of closed source code and licensing cost.

As open source alternatives, I am considering openFOAM and FEnics. If I understand correctly, both have most of what I need (basic solvers, multiphase flow, particle tracking). However, do they have features for tracking the dynamics of particle size distributions? This feature is of importance for modelling aerosols.

Moreover, has anybody done modelling of a laminar flow reactor in either openFOAM or FEnics in general? Googeling this topic did not find me any useful information.

I am thankful for any advise. At this point, my CFD skills are limited to single phase incompressible laminar flow. I am planning learn more through this project.

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I don't know about these things in FEniCS. For openFOAM there are libraries for multiphase flow. The implementation of population balance equations to track particle size distributions in openFOAM has been done and discussed in this paper.

The question 'openFOAM or FEniCS' can maybe decided by deciding on whether you want to use finite volumes or finite elements for your discretizations. If your major concern are robust and fast simulations, I suggest you stick to finite volumes and openFOAM. If you have more time and if you want to rely on rather clean and consistent than stable numerical schemes, finite elements and FEniCS might be the better choice.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the link to the paper. this is really helpful! if I could choose, I would use FEniCS, because I favour Python and clean and consistent schemes. I'll look into this more, and may end up using openFOAM anyway ;-). $\endgroup$ – seb May 9 '13 at 14:19
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    $\begingroup$ I have just discovered another viable option, called FLUIDITY. It seems very capable of multiphase-flow modelling. Since you seem to know a lot about this topic, I just wanted to ask you opinion. Have you used FLUIDITY before. If yes, any comments? $\endgroup$ – seb May 11 '13 at 10:34
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    $\begingroup$ Haven't heard of it before. It seems like a good option. First of all because it is open source. You should find out, what has been done with this code before and check, whether there is a community that may help when you run into problems. $\endgroup$ – Jan May 11 '13 at 11:23
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Given the complex multi-phase nature of your problem, and the need for particle tracking, you may consider a solver based on the lattice Boltzmann method, which excels in both fields.

To your list of open-source tools, you can add the lattice Boltzmann solver Palabos. As you can see from the examples on the web page, it provides the models you are looking for.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to SciComp! We encourage people to post software recommendations. We also frown upon self-promotion (see the site FAQ) and ask that people disclose their affiliations with software projects they recommend within their answers. Overt self-promotion, especially without a broader contribution to the community, will be voted down, closed, and deleted. $\endgroup$ – Geoff Oxberry May 13 '13 at 19:55

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