Mathematical modeling and process simulation of perlite grain expansion in a vertical electrical furnace

Panagiotis Angelopoulos, Dimitrios Gerogiorgis*, Ioannis Paspaliaris

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Expanded perlite is a lightweight material with remarkable thermal and acoustic insulation properties, rendering it widely useful in the construction and manufacturing industries. Currently applied expansion technology has certain technical disadvantages, which adversely affect product quality and limit the range of its applications. To overcome these established drawbacks, a new expansion process has been designed on the basis of a vertical electrically
heated expansion furnace. The novel furnace enables precise control of experimental conditions, in order to allow for efficient adjustment of particle residence time and internal temperature. The quality of expanded perlite strongly depends on raw material thermophysical properties as well as furnace operating conditions, and the experimental investigation of the isolated effect of each parameter on expanded product quality is technically cumbersome and extremely time-consuming.

A mathematical model for perlite grain expansion has been developed in order to perform a detailed numerical investigation of process efficiency, toward the optimization of the expansion process in the novel pilot-scale furnace. The dynamic model consists of ordinary differential equations for both air and particle heat and momentum balances, as well as nonlinear algebraic equations for both air and perlite melt thermophysical and transport properties, probing the air temperature distribution within the vertical electrical furnace as well as the particle velocity, temperature and size along its trajectory inside the heating
chamber. The effect of raw material physical properties (raw feed origin, initial particle size, effective water content) as well as operational parameters (air inlet temperature and flowrate, furnace wall temperature) on evolution of the particle state variables is presented and discussed. Model results indicate perlite expansion is strongly affected by raw ore feed origin, size and water content. Moreover, operating conditions affect expansion considerably, and furnace wall temperature has the strongest effect on the final particle expansion ratio attained.
The new dynamic model is instrumental towards achieving a detailed comprehension of perlite expansion in the vertical electrical furnace towards process optimization and control.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1799-1822
Number of pages23
JournalApplied mathematical modelling
Issue number5-6
Early online date11 Oct 2013
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014


  • Bubble growth
  • Dynamic modeling
  • Perlite expansion
  • Process design
  • Process operation
  • Process simulation


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