SPP Alternative: Copper Helical Packing

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MidnightThunder
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SPP Alternative: Copper Helical Packing

Post by MidnightThunder » Sat Aug 13, 2016 9:56 am

Hi all,

I have been messing around with my toys this week moving pieces around and improving some aspects here and there. I got to my condensers and was replacing the mesh scrubbies in the vapor path with a twisted turbulator I've seen around here from flattened out copper. Well as I was playing around with it, I came up with an idea.

I continued twisting the copper around until it spiraled on itself and then slightly backed off to create a void in the center.
Helical Packing.jpg
Helical Packing closeup.jpg
Thinking this has potential to do similar HETP's to SPP?

Definitely gonna give it a shot, but wanted to get some more experienced opinions.

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Re: SPP Alternative: Copper Helical Packing

Post by MidnightThunder » Sat Aug 13, 2016 1:17 pm

Playing around with it, if it is close to horizontal, the void in the center can hold 6-8 drips of water. I'm thinking maybe due these spirals actually having a solid surface for water to sit on, unlike the wire surface in SPP and mesh, it may increase contact time between vapor and condensate. If nothing else, I'm thinking they should increase efficiency over the rolled mesh I have thanks to the increased mass.

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Re: SPP Alternative: Copper Helical Packing

Post by rad14701 » Sat Aug 13, 2016 2:40 pm

Nice idea, MidnightThunder, but I'm a bit skeptical... But, hey, you never know... Keep us posted on your results in comparison to other structured packing(s)... It would probably be best to compare to either copper or stainless steel scrubbers... Definitely looks expensive unless you sourced some free or almost free copper to play with...

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Re: SPP Alternative: Copper Helical Packing

Post by MidnightThunder » Sat Aug 13, 2016 10:28 pm

Well the starting amount was all left over tube from old coils that were too small so that's where the idea started. It was gonna be scrapped anyways. But I will have to buy some more to fill any decent size of 2 inch. The good news is, it's made from flattened out 1/4" refrigeration tube which goes for $10 / 20 ft around here. The amount seen is from roughly 20 feet. I reckon I'll need anywhere from 50 - 75 dollars worth to fill an 18" section of 2" so maybe a little cheaper than SPP. However, now I'm intrigued, so once I get everything up and running, I'll post some results on it's performance versus the copper stainless scrubbers I've been using.

On a side note, this stuff is HEAVY. I didn't weigh any portions yet, but the thermal mass will equal or exceed SPP. Not sure if there is an upper limit to the effectiveness of thermal mass increasing efficiency, but even if it just makes the column stable enough to run without insulation, I'm all for it! Nothing worse than covering up all pretty copper.

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Re: SPP Alternative: Copper Helical Packing

Post by just sayin » Sun Aug 14, 2016 3:55 am

Midnight Thunder,
Your experiment looks interesting. I hope it gives you great result. I saw something on a Russian site years ago that may interest you.
They were cutting plastic tubing to lengths equal to their diameter. Plastic is obviously a no no here, but their home made "Raschling rings" were said to be quite effective. About that time posts on SPP started to hit the forums and drew my attention to the new "magically powerful" packing and I never got around to cutting up more that about a foot or two of 1/4" OD copper tubing. I am sure it is still in a little jar some where.
It was very time consuming to cut by the way....
Keep us posted!
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Re: SPP Alternative: Copper Helical Packing

Post by greggn » Sun Aug 14, 2016 8:04 am

How long are each of those pieces and into what diameter column are you going to load them ? I suspect you may have a significant void volume as they won't settle in your column as they appear to in that bucket in your photo.
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Re: SPP Alternative: Copper Helical Packing

Post by MidnightThunder » Sun Aug 14, 2016 12:12 pm

I have just finished enough for 10" in my 2" x 18" extension column with 4" of rolled mesh on top and bottom to hold them in. That is with $20 worth of refrigeration tube, i.e. 2$/1" height in a 2" column. In the photo they do have a bit of a void but when packed in the column and tapped against a solid surface, they settle in very well.

They are roughly 1/4" in diameter by 1-1.5" long. They will have a bit of a void, sort of the intention to be able to run these at a higher heat input than scrubbies. I was reading about SPP yesterday and how HETP gets more efficient at or near column flooding. Thinking this may be applicable with this type of packing.

So far the longest part of this project has been pounding out the copper tube but I still have maybe 5 hours invested total between coming up with the idea and producing the current quantity. Could probably produce enough for a 30" column in a total of 6 hours. At the least, this is an inexpensive, somewhat quick way to get a packing with high thermal mass and more than plenty copper in the column if you have a SS column. Still not giving up on the idea that this could function better than mesh.

Gotta do a couple cleaning runs so I'll report back with pics and an update when I get to run this.

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Re: SPP Alternative: Copper Helical Packing

Post by DAD300 » Sun Aug 14, 2016 8:12 pm

You're flattening 1/4" tubing...have you thought of just cutting the tubing into bits, say 3/8", and not flattening it?
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Re: SPP Alternative: Copper Helical Packing

Post by MidnightThunder » Sun Aug 14, 2016 8:59 pm

Didn't really consider that as it would be too similar to raschig rings and may not yield any better HETP's than the mesh I've been using. My thought is that the small gap in between the spiral section will hold water due to it's surface tension, as long as it is not back spread too far apart. Also, after just doing a cleaning run where the same helical tube, just longer and more tightly wound, was put into the product takeoff to introduce turbulence into the flow and redirect where the distillate would fall, I observed the distillate spiraling around the helix even with a steady stream flowing down it. I'm hoping that in the column, this will slow the condensed liquids trip to the boiler and give it more contact time with rising vapors.

Only have $10 in the copper so I won't be too distraught if it isn't as effective as I had hoped, but still a fair packing choice if i didn't already have mesh to use.

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Re: SPP Alternative: Copper Helical Packing

Post by DAD300 » Mon Aug 15, 2016 11:27 am

Small copper tubes will outperform ceramic raschig rings because of the thermal transfer of heat. But I fear the size of your spirals will be to too uniform and create a channel.

But experimentation is the mother...
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Re: SPP Alternative: Copper Helical Packing

Post by Hound Dog » Mon Aug 15, 2016 12:34 pm

I don't think 10" worth with mesh on either end is enough to tell any results. I am all for experimentation but I think you need to fill a 36" column to know what you have.
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Re: SPP Alternative: Copper Helical Packing

Post by MidnightThunder » Thu Aug 18, 2016 3:45 pm

Hound Dog, thanks for the suggestion. I will try that when I get some more tube and time to play with, but until then I'm just gonna toss the 18" extension with 10 inches worth of this stuff in the middle just for a little added purification.

DAD, could you elaborate on how it might channel? Are you suggesting it would channel on each individual spiral? or from one to another?

I now have another even simpler method that I'm gonna try out concurrently using 5/16" 7bundles/7strand 316L cable that i'm gonna remove two of the bundles and use the remaining cable to create a spiral and then cut down to size.

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Re: SPP Alternative: Copper Helical Packing

Post by Hound Dog » Thu Aug 18, 2016 4:21 pm

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Re: SPP Alternative: Copper Helical Packing

Post by Yummyrum » Thu Aug 18, 2016 5:32 pm

Midnight thumper , I'm curious to see how you go with this.
I have several old copper hot water tanks that are either beaten to death or are thin and corroded . I think cutting them into strips and twisting up some packing would be a fit final use for them.

How did you twist yours ? Do you do it in long lengths and cut up or twist up short sections ?.

Regarding surface tension , remember alcohol acts differently to water

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Re: SPP Alternative: Copper Helical Packing

Post by DAD300 » Thu Aug 18, 2016 9:47 pm

The strips as photographed in your hand are about 3" long. In a 2" column the will be stacked mostly vertical. Shorter they would be more random...less channeling.
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Re: SPP Alternative: Copper Helical Packing

Post by Yummyrum » Fri Aug 19, 2016 6:53 am

DAD300 wrote:The strips as photographed in your hand are about 3" long. In a 2" column the will be stacked mostly vertical. Shorter they would be more random...less channeling.
Dad , don't know about your hand size but those pics are about a few finger joint sections apart to me :? ...looks like about 35mm -45mm to me :esmile:

Still ...I see your point ..small sections would stack up easier with more randomnes

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Re: SPP Alternative: Copper Helical Packing

Post by MidnightThunder » Sat Aug 20, 2016 9:31 am

After flattening out the copper tubing to a ribbon, I put one end in a vise and the other end was tightened into a drill chuck and just let it spin until it made a tight spiral, tighter than pictured. I then backed it up just enough to create the small opening in the spiral. This was done in large sections, about 24" to 36" and then cut down to size with bolt cutters, along the gap so you don't crush any of the spiraling.

The photographed pieces have since been cut down to about half the size when I noticed some would get wedged in a slanted orientation and be difficult to remove. They are now all roughly 1-1.5" long. I may cut them even shorter after some more trials with a larger section, if I feel it will be a benefit.

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Re: SPP Alternative: Copper Helical Packing

Post by Hound Dog » Sat Aug 20, 2016 10:19 am

Have you run this yet? Like to know how it works.
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Re: SPP Alternative: Copper Helical Packing

Post by Mobrewer » Thu Sep 15, 2016 7:54 pm

Watching...

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Re: SPP Alternative: Copper Helical Packing

Post by MidnightThunder » Wed Dec 07, 2016 8:49 pm

Long overdue update on the progress: I have spent more time on building other aspects of my still and have only produced a small quantity of this so far. I do intend to take this project off the back burner and have enough packing to fill 30" - 40" of 2" for testing by the start of the new year. I will report back when I have some new information.

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Re: SPP Alternative: Copper Helical Packing

Post by MidnightThunder » Sun Jan 01, 2017 4:04 pm

OK so I ran a mash of cheap vodka watered down to 5 gallons at 20% through my VM head. I packed the column with 22" of this packing with a S.S. scrubber taking up 5" underneath to hold the copper packing in place. When I got into the hearts, I opened the take-off valve wide open, yielding me a r.r. of 4:1, and fed the boiler 2500 Watts. I was able to pull 93.5% at a rate of half a gallon an hour. I was only able to get 25 oz of clean neutral before I could detect the tails pulling through, but even without airing it overnight, this was CLEAN. I believe this to be a little better than previous runs but I never really run the same mash twice so it's hard to compare results.

All in all, this looks like a good idea for somebody who wants to source all their stuff locally and not from the net, as I was never able to find true copper mesh locally. The total was maybe $40-$50 dollars to fill 22" of 2" column.

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Re: SPP Alternative: Copper Helical Packing

Post by MidnightThunder » Mon Sep 14, 2020 9:12 am

An update on this project. After succesful runs in my 2" column, I am adopting this packing in my new 4" VM column. I will have a 24" packed section of CHP in a 4" stainless column with a glass chimney at the top to view how the CHP reacts above a 6" plate, fed by 9Kw to push azeo in hopefully rates of gallons per hour. Picks and results to come soon when everything is assembled and tested

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