Fluidization is a process similar to liquefaction
Liquefaction may refer to:* Liquefaction, the general process of becoming liquid* Soil liquefaction, the process by which sediments become suspended* Liquefaction of gases in physics, chemistry, and thermal engineering* Liquefactive necrosis in pathology...

 whereby a granular material
Granular material
A granular material is a conglomeration of discrete solid, macroscopic particles characterized by a loss of energy whenever the particles interact . The constituents that compose granular material must be large enough such that they are not subject to thermal motion fluctuations...

 is converted from a static solid
Solid is one of the three classical states of matter . It is characterized by structural rigidity and resistance to changes of shape or volume. Unlike a liquid, a solid object does not flow to take on the shape of its container, nor does it expand to fill the entire volume available to it like a...

-like state to a dynamic fluid
In physics, a fluid is a substance that continually deforms under an applied shear stress. Fluids are a subset of the phases of matter and include liquids, gases, plasmas and, to some extent, plastic solids....

-like state. This process occurs when a fluid (liquid
Liquid is one of the three classical states of matter . Like a gas, a liquid is able to flow and take the shape of a container. Some liquids resist compression, while others can be compressed. Unlike a gas, a liquid does not disperse to fill every space of a container, and maintains a fairly...

 or gas
Gas is one of the three classical states of matter . Near absolute zero, a substance exists as a solid. As heat is added to this substance it melts into a liquid at its melting point , boils into a gas at its boiling point, and if heated high enough would enter a plasma state in which the electrons...

) is passed up through the granular material.

When a gas flow is introduced through the bottom of a bed of solid particles, it will move upwards through the bed via the empty spaces between the particles. At low gas velocities, aerodynamic drag
Drag (physics)
In fluid dynamics, drag refers to forces which act on a solid object in the direction of the relative fluid flow velocity...

 on each particle is also low, and thus the bed remains in a fixed state. Increasing the velocity, the aerodynamic drag forces will begin to counteract the gravitational forces, causing the bed to expand in volume as the particles move away from each other. Further increasing the velocity, it will reach a critical value at which the upward drag forces will exactly equal the downward gravitational forces, causing the particles to become suspended within the fluid. At this critical value, the bed is said to be fluidized and will exhibit fluidic behavior. By further increasing gas velocity, the bulk density of the bed will continue to decrease, and its fluidization becomes more violent, until the particles no longer form a bed and are “conveyed” upwards by the gas flow.

When fluidized, a bed of solid particles will behave as a fluid, like a liquid or gas. Like water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

 in a bucket
A bucket, also called a pail, is typically a watertight, vertical cylinder or truncated cone, with an open top and a flat bottom, usually attached to a semicircular carrying handle called the bail. A pail can have an open top or can have a lid....

: the bed will conform to the volume of the chamber, its surface remaining perpendicular to gravity; objects with a lower density than the bed density will float on its surface, bobbing up and down if pushed downwards, while objects with a higher density sink to the bottom of the bed. The fluidic behavior allows the particles to be transported like a fluid, channeled through pipe
Water pipe
Water pipes are pipes or tubes, frequently made of polyvinyl chloride , ductile iron, steel, cast iron, polypropylene, polyethylene, or copper, that carry pressurized and treated fresh water to buildings , as well as inside the building.-History:For many centuries, lead was the favoured material...

s, not requiring mechanical transport (e.g. conveyor belt
Conveyor belt
A conveyor belt consists of two or more pulleys, with a continuous loop of material - the conveyor belt - that rotates about them. One or both of the pulleys are powered, moving the belt and the material on the belt forward. The powered pulley is called the drive pulley while the unpowered pulley...


A simplified every-day-life example of a gas-solid fluidized bed
Fluidized bed
A fluidized bed is formed when a quantity of a solid particulate substance is placed under appropriate conditions to cause the solid/fluid mixture to behave as a fluid. This is usually achieved by the introduction of pressurized fluid through the particulate medium...

 would be a hot-air popcorn
Popcorn, or popping corn, is corn which expands from the kernel and puffs up when heated. Corn is able to pop because, like sorghum, quinoa and millet, its kernels have a hard moisture-sealed hull and a dense starchy interior. This allows pressure to build inside the kernel until an explosive...

 popper. The popcorn kernels, all being fairly uniform in size and shape, are suspended in the hot air rising from the bottom chamber. Because of the intense mixing of the particles, akin to that of a boiling liquid, this allows for a uniform temperature of the kernels throughout the chamber, minimizing the amount of burnt popcorn. After popping, the now larger popcorn particles encounter increased aerodynamic drag which pushes them out of the chamber and into a bowl.

The process is also key in the formation of a sand volcano
Sand volcano
A sand volcano or sand blow is a cone of sand formed by the ejection of sand onto a surface from a central point. The sand builds up as a cone with slopes at the sand's angle of repose. A crater is commonly seen at the summit...

 and fluid escape structures in sediment
Sediment is naturally occurring material that is broken down by processes of weathering and erosion, and is subsequently transported by the action of fluids such as wind, water, or ice, and/or by the force of gravity acting on the particle itself....

s and sedimentary rock
Sedimentary rock
Sedimentary rock are types of rock that are formed by the deposition of material at the Earth's surface and within bodies of water. Sedimentation is the collective name for processes that cause mineral and/or organic particles to settle and accumulate or minerals to precipitate from a solution....



In 1920s, the Winkler process was developed to gasify coal in a fluidized bed, using oxygen. It was not commercially successful.

The first large scale commercial implementation, in the early 1940s, was the fluid catalytic cracking (FCC)
Fluid catalytic cracking
Fluid catalytic cracking is the most important conversion process used in petroleum refineries. It is widely used to convert the high-boiling, high-molecular weight hydrocarbon fractions of petroleum crude oils to more valuable gasoline, olefinic gases, and other products...

 process, which converted heavier petroleum
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

 cuts into gasoline
Gasoline , or petrol , is a toxic, translucent, petroleum-derived liquid that is primarily used as a fuel in internal combustion engines. It consists mostly of organic compounds obtained by the fractional distillation of petroleum, enhanced with a variety of additives. Some gasolines also contain...

. Carbon-rich "coke
Coke (fuel)
Coke is the solid carbonaceous material derived from destructive distillation of low-ash, low-sulfur bituminous coal. Cokes from coal are grey, hard, and porous. While coke can be formed naturally, the commonly used form is man-made.- History :...

" deposits on the catalyst particles and deactivates the catalyst in less than 1 second
The second is a unit of measurement of time, and is the International System of Units base unit of time. It may be measured using a clock....

. The fluidized catalyst particles are shuttled between the fluidized bed reactor and a fluidized bed burner where the coke deposits are burned off, generating heat for the endothermic
In thermodynamics, the word endothermic describes a process or reaction in which the system absorbs energy from the surroundings in the form of heat. Its etymology stems from the prefix endo- and the Greek word thermasi,...

 cracking reaction.

By the 1950s fluidized bed technology was being applied to mineral and metallurgical processes such as drying, calcining
Calcination is a thermal treatment process applied to ores and other solid materials to bring about a thermal decomposition, phase transition, or removal of a volatile fraction. The calcination process normally takes place at temperatures below the melting point of the product materials...

, and sulfide roasting
Roasting (metallurgy)
Roasting is a step in the processing of certain ores. More specifically, roasting is a metallurgical process involving gas–solid reactions at elevated temperatures with the goal of purifying the metal component. Often before roasting, the ore has already been partially purified, e.g. by froth...


In the 1960s, several fluidized bed processes dramatically reduced the cost of some important monomers. Examples are the Sohio process for acrylonitrile
Acrylonitrile is the chemical compound with the formula C3H3N. This pungent-smelling colorless liquid often appears yellow due to impurities. It is an important monomer for the manufacture of useful plastics. In terms of its molecular structure, it consists of a vinyl group linked to a nitrile...

 and the oxychlorination process for vinyl chloride
Vinyl chloride
Vinyl chloride is the organochloride with the formula H2C:CHCl. It is also called vinyl chloride monomer, VCM or chloroethene. This colorless compound is an important industrial chemical chiefly used to produce the polymer polyvinyl chloride . At ambient pressure and temperature, vinyl chloride...


In the late 1970s, a fluidized bed process for the synthesis of polyethylene
Polyethylene or polythene is the most widely used plastic, with an annual production of approximately 80 million metric tons...

 dramatically reduced the cost of this important polymer
A polymer is a large molecule composed of repeating structural units. These subunits are typically connected by covalent chemical bonds...

, making its use economical in many new applications. The polymerization reaction generates heat and the intense mixing associated with fluidization prevents hot spots where the polyethylene particles would melt. A similar process is used for the synthesis of polypropylene
Polypropylene , also known as polypropene, is a thermoplastic polymer used in a wide variety of applications including packaging, textiles , stationery, plastic parts and reusable containers of various types, laboratory equipment, loudspeakers, automotive components, and polymer banknotes...


Currently, most of the processes that are being developed for the industrial production of carbon nanotubes use a fluidized bed.

A new potential application of fluidization technology is chemical looping combustion
Chemical looping combustion
Chemical looping combustion typically employs a dual fluidized bed system where a metal oxide is employed as a bed material providing the oxygen for combustion in the fuel reactor...

, which has not yet been commercialized. One solution to reducing the potential effect of carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...

 generated by fuel combustion (e.g. in power station
Power station
A power station is an industrial facility for the generation of electric energy....

s) on global warming
Global warming
Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

 is carbon dioxide sequestration. Regular combustion
Combustion or burning is the sequence of exothermic chemical reactions between a fuel and an oxidant accompanied by the production of heat and conversion of chemical species. The release of heat can result in the production of light in the form of either glowing or a flame...

 with air produces a gas that is mostly nitrogen
Nitrogen is a chemical element that has the symbol N, atomic number of 7 and atomic mass 14.00674 u. Elemental nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and mostly inert diatomic gas at standard conditions, constituting 78.08% by volume of Earth's atmosphere...

 (as it is air's main component at about 80% by volume), which prevents economical sequestration. Chemical looping uses a metal
A metal , is an element, compound, or alloy that is a good conductor of both electricity and heat. Metals are usually malleable and shiny, that is they reflect most of incident light...

An oxide is a chemical compound that contains at least one oxygen atom in its chemical formula. Metal oxides typically contain an anion of oxygen in the oxidation state of −2....

 as a solid oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

 carrier. These metal oxide particles replace air (specifically oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

 in the air) in a combustion reaction with a solid, liquid or gaseous fuel in a fluidized bed, producing solid metal particles from the reduction
Redox reactions describe all chemical reactions in which atoms have their oxidation state changed....

 of the metal oxides and a mixture of carbon dioxide and water vapor
Water vapor
Water vapor or water vapour , also aqueous vapor, is the gas phase of water. It is one state of water within the hydrosphere. Water vapor can be produced from the evaporation or boiling of liquid water or from the sublimation of ice. Under typical atmospheric conditions, water vapor is continuously...

, the major products of any combustion reaction. The water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

 vapor is condensed, leaving pure carbon dioxide which can be sequestered. The solid metal particles are circulated to another fluidized bed where they react with air (and again, specifically oxygen in the air), producing heat and oxidizing
Redox reactions describe all chemical reactions in which atoms have their oxidation state changed....

the metal particles to metal oxide particles that are recirculated to the fluidized bed combustor.

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