Simulation of the dynamic packing behavior of preparative chromatography columns via discrete particle modeling

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Preparative packed-bed chromatography using polymer-based, compressible, porous resins is a powerful method for purification of macromolecular bioproducts. During operation, a complex, hysteretic, thus, history-dependent packed bed behavior is often observed but theoretical understanding of the causes is limited. Therefore, a rigorous modeling approach of the chromatography column on the particle scale has been made which takes into account interparticle micromechanics and fluid–particle interactions for the first time. A three-dimensional deterministic model was created by applying Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) coupled with the Discrete Element Method (DEM). The column packing behavior during either flow or mechanical compression was investigated in-silico and in laboratory experiments. A pronounced axial compression–relaxation profile was identified that differed for both compression strategies. Void spaces were clearly visible in the packed bed after compression. It was assumed that the observed bed inhomogeneity was because of a force-chain network at the particle scale. The simulation satisfactorily reproduced the measured behavior regarding packing compression as well as pressure-flow dependency. Furthermore, the particle Young's modulus and particle–wall friction as well as interparticle friction were identified as crucial parameters affecting packing dynamics. It was concluded that compaction of the chromatographic bed is rather because of particle rearrangement than particle deformation.

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