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Choosing the right mixing vessel

April 13, 2013

Countless industries today require chemically engineered high viscosity products or mixes. Food products, plastics, minerals, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals are just a few of many items of everyday use that are packaged and marketed in the physical state of a homogeneous mix or emulsion. What we see as a ‘gel’ or a ‘paste’ is not a very simple commodity to manufacture. It consists of two or more ingredients that will not dissolve in one another and thus have to be blended together at extremely high speeds, so as to break down the sizes of the particles of the individual ingredients, such that in the end all the particles are suspended together in what is now known as a colloid, emulsion, powder, or any of those names that we are more familiar with.

The scale on which these mixes are prepared vary from a simple laboratory setup, to inline systems that are used for much larger batches at a time. Owing to the very specific environmental requirements of the mixing process, mainly that of temperature and pressure, the equipment used is specially designed for the purpose of high speed mixing. The main action happens inside the mixing vessel, which is a specially fabricated tank made of stainless steel or alternatively of carbon steel. The vessel has a cylindrical profile, with a base that is generally conical (15 or 30 degrees usually), but can be flat or dish shaped also if needed. Since it must withstand very high forces that cause agitation within the material to be mixed, the vessel is designed to remain steady during the entire process.

Mixing vessels are available in a huge variety of sizes. While the sizes depend to a great extent on what the manufacturing company offers, generally anything between 5 litres and 50000 litres can be easily obtained, either off the shelf, or on special request. The variety available extends to the method by which the material is fed into the vessel, and as such, top entry, side entry and bottom entry vessels are commercially available and can be opted for depending on the particular mixing process they need to be used for. Insulation if desired can be added to the package. Insulation on the outer surface ensures that there is no physical injury to the operators due to the extremely high temperatures attained during the synthesis. A fiberglass coating on the sides and bottom surfaces can see to that.

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