Discrete element method simulation of packing and rheological properties of coke and coke/pitch mixtures

Authors: Majidi, Behzad
Advisor: Darvishi Alamdari, HoushangFafard, Mario
Abstract: Global aluminum production now is around 60 000 metric tonnes, annually, which is produced by the Hall-Héroult process. The process has mostly kept the original concept developed in 1886. Pre-baked carbon anodes are an important part of the design of aluminum smelting cells. Anodes are part of the chemical reaction of alumina reduction and are consumed during the process. Thus, quality and properties of anodes have direct effects on the performance and economy of the aluminum production in today’s highly competitive market. Although the design of anodes goes back to 130 years ago, effects of raw materials properties on final quality of anodes still need to be investigated. Anodes are composed of granulated calcined coke, binder pitch and recycled anode butts. Pitch at temperatures of mixing and forming steps is a liquid. Hence the mixture is a paste of coke and butts aggregates with pitch acting as binder. Flow and compaction behavior of this mixture, because of the co-existence of a variety of physical, chemical and mechanical parameters are complicated phenomena. Given the importance of high quality and long lasting anodes in performance and so the economy of the reduction cells, understating and predicting the final properties of anodes are very important for smelters. Numerical modeling in such complicated problems can provide a virtual laboratory where effects of different materials or process parameters on anode quality index can be studied without risking the pot performance. However, the choice of the numerical framework is a critical decision which needs to be taken according to the physics of the problem and the geometrical scale of the investigated problems. Discrete Element Method (DEM) is used in this research work to model the anode paste. In the first step, DEM models of coke aggregates are used to simulate the vibrated bulk density test of coke particles and to reveal the parameters involved. As a micromechanical model, DEM provides a unique opportunity to investigate the particle-particle contacts. The developed DEM models of coke aggregates were then used to propose a new dry aggregates recipe exhibiting higher packing density. Packing density of coke aggregates has direct effect on the baked density of anodes. High density is a very favorable anode quality index as it has positive effects on mechanical strength, and consumption rate of anodes in the cell. Electrical resistivity of bed of particles was experimentally measured. Particle-particle contacts information obtained from numerical models were used to explain the electrical resistivity of samples with different size distribution. Results showed that the increase in the number of contacts in volume unit of a sample increases, the electrical resistivity of the particle bed. Packing density also influences the electrical current transfer in granular systems. According to the obtained results, keeping the contacts density as low as possible is beneficial for electrical conductivity if it does not have a negative effect on packing density. Pitch is a viscoelastic material at elevated temperatures. In the present work, rheological properties of pitch and binder matrix (pitch+fine coke particles) were experimentally measured using a dynamic shear rheometer at 135, 140, 145 and 150 ºC. Four-element Burger’s model is then used to model the mechanical behavior of pitch and binder matrix. The verified model is then used to investigate the rheological properties of pitch and coke/pitch mixtures at 150 ºC. Calibrated Burger’s model showed to have a good prediction of viscoelastic properties of pitch and binder matrix at different temperatures. Obtained numerical results showed that available empirical equations in the literature fail to predict the complex modulus of mixtures of pitch and coke particles. As pitch has viscoelastic response and coke particles have irregular shapes, rheology of this mixture is more complicated and needs well-tailored mathematical models. Complex modulus of pitch decreases by increasing the temperature from 135 to 150 ºC, this makes easier the coke/pitch mixtures to flow. DEM modeling showed that the mixture gets a better compaction and so lower porosity by vibro-compacting at higher temperatures. The ability of pitch to penetrate to inter-particle voids in the porous structure of bed of coke particles was also shown to be improved by temperature. Final anode structure with less porosity and so high density is favorable for its mechanical strength as well as its chemical reaction in the cell as Based on the obtained results and considering the physics of the problem, it can be said that discrete element method is an appropriate numerical simulation technique to study the effects of raw materials and the anode paste formulation on mechanical and physical properties of coke/pitch mixtures. The platform created in the course of this research effort, provides a unique opportunity to study a variety of parameters such as size distribution, shape and content of coke particles, content and rheological properties of pitch on densification of coke/pitch mixtures in vibro-compaction process. Outputs of this thesis provide a better understanding of complicated response of anode paste in the forming process.
Document Type: Thèse de doctorat
Issue Date: 2018
Open Access Date: 31 August 2018
Permalink: http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11794/30959
Grantor: Université Laval
Collection:Thèses et mémoires

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