Natural gas in its originally extracted form comprises carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide as small, but non-negligible fractions of its dominant component, methane. Natural gas in the above form is typically subjected to a sweetening process that removes these acid gases. Microscale technologies have the potential to substantially enhance mass transport phenomena on account of their inherently high surface area to volume ratio. The present work reports the mass transfer characteristics during gas-liquid absorption in a microreactor. The absorption of CO2 mixed with N2 into aqueous diethanolamine was investigated in a single straight channel having a hydraulic diameter of 762 micrometer and circular cross-sectional geometry. The performance of the reactor was characterized with respect to the absorption efficiency and mass transfer coefficient. Close to 100% absorption efficiency was obtained under optimum operating conditions. Shorter channel lengths were observed to yield enhanced values of mass transfer coefficient on account of the improved utilization of the liquid reactants’ absorption capacity for a given reactor volume. In comparison to the 0.5 m long channel, the mass transfer coefficients with the 0.3 m and 0.1 m channels were higher on an average by 35.2% and 210%, respectively. Parametric studies investigating the effects of phase superficial velocity, liquid and gas phase concentration were performed. The mass transfer coefficients achieved using the present minichannel reactor were 1–3 orders of magnitude higher than that reported using conventional gas-liquid absorption systems.

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