Fossil materials are widely used raw materials in polymerization processes; hence, in many cases, the primary goal of green and sustainable technologies is to replace them with renewables. An exciting and promising technology from this aspect is the isocyanate-free polyurethane production using vegetable oil as a raw material. Functional compounds can be formed by the epoxidation of vegetable oils in three reaction steps: epoxidation, carbonation, and aminolysis. In the case of vegetable oil carbonation, the material properties vary strongly, with the composition affecting the solubility of CO2
in the reaction mixture. Many attempts have been made to model these interactions, but they generally do not account for the changes in the material properties in terms of spatial coordinates. A 2D CFD model based on the combination of the k-ε turbulence model and component mass balances considering the spatial inhomogeneities on the performance of the reactor was created. After the evaluation of the mesh independence study, the simulator was used to calculate the carbonation reaction in a transient analysis with spatial coordinate-dependent density and viscosity changes. The model parameters (height-dependent mass transfer parameters and boundary flux parameters) were identified based on one physical experiment, and a set of 15 experiments were used for model validation. With the validated model, the optimal operating temperature, pressure, and catalyst concentration was proposed.
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