Numerical model of an ultrasonically induced cavitation reactor and application to heavy oil processing

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1 Scopus citations


This study describes a numerical approach to model ultrasonically induced cavitation (UIC) reactors. UIC forms vapour-filled cavities in a liquid medium due to an applied acoustic field and their eventual collapse. UIC reactors are characterized by the presence of a vibrating probe that generates pressure waves by high-frequency oscillations (>20 kHz), which control the formation, dynamics, and eventual collapse of the vapour cavities. Those vapour cavities eventually enhance mixing and favour the occurrence of gas-liquid reactions. The zones of high mixing and reactivity coincide with the presence of the bubble cloud, which depends on the shape of the vessel and sonotrode. The development of advanced computational fluid dynamics (CFD) models is crucial to optimizing UIC processes’ geometry and operation parameters. A new algorithm for modelling UIC has been implemented within the OpenFOAM framework in the present study. The volume-of-fluid (VoF) method employs a diffuse interface approach for the volume fraction transport equation. The bubble dynamics are solved with sub-grid models, and the coupling between the main flow field and the sub-grid scales is performed through source terms in the transport equations. The source terms are de-coupled from convective and diffusive components of the volume fraction equation. The history of the bubbles is considered to consist of nucleation, oscillations, and collapse. The oscillations are resolved via the Rayleigh–Plesset equation. The concluding part of the work demonstrates the application of the algorithm to simulate the operation of an UIC reactor, which was designed to desulfurize fuels using the oxidative (ODS) process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100362
JournalChemical Engineering Journal Advances
StatePublished - Nov 15 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The work was sponsored by the Clean Combustion Research Center at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). Computational resources were provided by the KAUST Supercomputing Laboratory (KSL).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022


  • Heavy fuel oil
  • OpenFOAM
  • Oxidative desulfurization
  • Ultrasonically induced cavitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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