A fermenter or reactor for zootechnic liquid materials, comprising
a fermentation vessel or container, having positioned therein a
movable member for the mixing and stirring of the liquid material.
In the reactor or fermenter, said member comprises at least one
substantially vertical tube or pipe having windows or slots formed
therein as distributed along the length thereof; within said tube
or pipe an Archimedean screw is housed and rotatable about its own
axis through the action of a drive member. Such a fermenter or reactor
is suitable to ensure an accurate mixing of the fermenting mass,
while slowly stirring the latter and bringing all of the mass particles
in contact with the microbic flora without any disturbance to the
What we claim is:
1. A fermentation reactor for zootechnic liquid material, comprising
a fermentation vessel for containing the liquid material to be processed
by the reactor, a tube contained within the vessel and positioned
therein with a substantially vertical orientation, said tube defining
a plurality of slots along its length, said slots having a generally
elongated shape and having a width and a length much greater than
said width, said slots being oriented on said tube with their lengths
substantially aligned with the axis of said tube, an Archimedean
screw contained within said tube, said screw being positioned with
its axis substantially in coincidence with the axis of said tube,
said screw having an upper portion and a lower portion, the lower
portion of said screw comprising material handling surfaces positioned,
configured and dimensioned to convey a larger volume of liquid when
said screw is rotated at a given speed than the volume of liquid
which the upper portion of said screw conveys at said given speed,
and scraping blade means projecting outwardly from said lower portion
of said screw and inclined with respect to the axis of said screw.
2. A fermentation reactor as in claim 1 wherein said slots are
distributed in groups spaced apart from one another along the axis
of the tube.
3. A fermentation reactor as in claim 2 further comprising drive
means for rotating said screw about its own axis.
4. A fermentation reactor as in claim 2 wherein the number of helix
starts in the lower portion of the screw is greater than the number
of helix starts in the upper portion of the screw.
5. A fermentation reactor as in claim 2 wherein the helix pitch
in said lower portion of said screw is smaller than the helix pitch
in said upper portion of said screw.
6. A fermentation reactor as in claims 4 or 5 wherein said scraping
blades are inclined at an angle in the range from about 10.degree.
to about 15.degree. with respect to the axis of the Archimedean
7. A fermentation reactor as in claim 2 wherein each group of slots
consists of at least three identical slots equi-spaced around the
perimeter of the tube.
8. A fermentation reactor as in claims 2 or 7 wherein the distance
separating each group of slots from the next adjecent group of slots
is about one-fourth the length of the tube.
9. A fermentation reactor as in claims 1, 2 or 7 wherein the slots
at the lowermost end of said tube have a length and a width greater
than the length and the width of the other slots on said tube.
This invention relates to a fermenter or reactor for zootechnic
liquid materials, particularly for bovine and swine liquid materials.
In order to recover combustible gases and fertilizing muds and accordingly
to reduce the pollution deriving from the use thereof as such, the
zootechnic liquid materials are subjected to anaerobic fermentations
in fermenters or reactors, wherein such liquid materials are maintained
for predetermined periods of time at controlled temperatures and
Stirring of liquid materials in fermenters or reactors has the
function of moving the whole mass of liquid materials in order to
bring each of the particles in contact with the microbic flora and
permit degassing of such a mass, that is to facilitate the release
of gases (mostly comprising methane gas) developed during fermentation.
Therefore, such a stirring of the fermenting liquid material mass
should be complete and accurate, but cannot be violent or excessive
as it would disturb the fermentation cycle, either slowing or entirely
Additionally, it should be taken into account that zootechnic liquid
materials are very thick and that a fertilizing mud tends to be
separated therefrom; finally, layers of material having different
specific gravity are formed in the fermenter or reactor, which should
be prevented as far as possible, while avoiding an excessive mixing
for the above disclosed reasons.
To mix a fermenting liquid material, common blade stirrers were
tried, but the results were disappointing: a liquid material could
be maintained substantially uniform and accurately mixed, only by
vigorously stirring it to such an extent as to damage or impair
the fermentation thereof.
It is the object of the present invention to provide a fermenter
or reactor, particularly for fermentation of zootechnic liquid materials,
which is provided with means for accurately mixing the liquid material
mass, while slowly stirring it, bringing all of the liquid material
particles in contact with the microbic flora without any disturbance
to the fermentation cycle and allowing an optimum degassing of the
It is another object of the invention to provide a fermenter or
reactor of the above mentioned type, which is of simple structure
and low cost of manufacture and operation.
These and still further objects are accomplished by a fermenter
or reactor, accomodating therein at least one substantially vertical
tube or pipe, in which windows or slots are formed as distributed
along the length of said tube or pipe, an Archimedean screw being
housed within such a tube or pipe and connected to a rotation driving
In order that the structure and characteristics of a fermenter
or reactor according to the invention be more clearly understood,
a preferred embodiment thereof will now be described merely by way
of example with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:
FIG. 1 is a diagrammatic axial sectional view of a fermenter or
FIG. 2 is a diagrammatic axial elevational view of an Archimedean
screw comprising the mixing and stirring for the liquid material
contained in the fermenter or reactor.
Referring first to FIG. 1, in which a fermenter or reactor for
zootechnic liquid materials has been outlined, as comprising a vessel
or container 1, provided with an opening 2 for the liquid material
inlet, an opening 3 for the discharge of fertilizing muds, and circulation
openings, etc., which have not been numbered on the drawing for
the sake of simplicity. The liquid material in the fermenter or
reactor reaches the level shown by the dash-dot line L.
Within the fermenter or reactor and coaxially therewith a tube
or pipe 4 is mounted, in which several groups of windows or slots
are formed (each group comprising three different windows or slots
which are equal and equispaced to each other) denoted by reference
numerals 5, 6, 7 and 8. As it will seen from the drawing, windows
or slots 5 are of larger length and width than the others, and windows
or slots 8 are located just at a higher level than the liquid material
level L in the fermenter or reactor. It can also be seen from the
drawing that the groups of windows or slots 5, 6, 7 and 8 are substantially
equally spaced from one another, and more particularly it will be
seen that the distance or spacing separating one group of windows
or slots from a group adjacent thereto is about 1/4th of the length
of said tube or pipe 4.
This tube or pipe 4 accomodates therein an Archimedean screw which
has been separately outlined in FIG. 2.
The Archimedean screw has a somewhat peculiar structure. At its
lower portion (in the section A-B shown by brace parenthesis) from
a cylindrical trunk 9, there radially project four blades inclined
by about 10.degree.-15.degree. relative to the vertical; followed
(section B-C) by a zone where the Archimedean screw comprises a
four start helix 11 (that is four spirals disposed around the trunk
9): then (section C-D), the screw is formed of a two start helix
12 (that is two side by side spirals disposed around the trunk 9);
finally, in section D-E no helixes project from trunk 9.
While the blades 10 are restricted to the lower portion of said
Archimedean screw, it should be appreciated that the separation
zone (Zone C) of helixes 11 from helixes 12 is positioned at said
windows or slots 5, while the helixes 12 extend to above the windows
or slots 8. It should then be pointed out that the Archimedean screw
is connected to a driving motor (not shown) and that the diameter
of tube or pipe 4 is much less than that of vessel or container
For example, it was found that a fermenter or reactor for zootechnic
liquid materials could have the following characteristics: vessel
or container 1 with a diameter of 6.5 m, a total height of 12 m;
tube or pipe 4 with a diameter of 0.5 m and height of about 12 m;
windows or slots 5 having a length of 1 m and width of 0.2 m; windows
or slots 6 and 7 having a length of 0.75 m and width of 0.18 m;
windows or slots 8 having a length and width of 0.30 m; blades 10
of the Archimedean screw axially extending for 20 cm; length of
the Archimedean screw section B-C of 1.3 M where the spirals or
helixes 11 are of four start type; and length of section C-D of
7.8 m, where the Archimedean screw helixes are of two start type.
During the liquid material fermentation (which may last from 10
to 20 days , at a temperature ranging between 30.degree. and 40.degree.
C., preferably 35.degree. C.), the Archimedean screw is rotated
at a speed ranging between 30 and 120 r.p.m., preferably at about
70 r.p.m. The liquid material in the fermenter or reactor is very
thick and has the tendency of having the greatest thickness at the
bottom of vessel or container 1. The blades 10 perform the function
of scraping the material at the bottom of tube or pipe 4, but more
important is the characteristic of the difference in number of starts
for helixes 11 and 12 in the Archimedean screw sections B-C and
Thus, at the lower portion of vessel or container 1, the liquid
material is very thick and the four start helixes 11 are such as
to vigorously mix it. Should the Archimedean screw be of four starts
also in the section C-D, at which the liquid material is less thick,
such an Archimedean screw would cause a too vigorous and fast mixing
of the liquid material, compromising the fermentation. This is the
reason why the Archimedean screw has in section C-D helixes 12 of
only two starts. Thus, as the Archimedean screw rotates, the four
start helixes 11 vigorously and at a higher speed move the thicker
liquid material, while the two start helixes 12 more smoothly move
the overlying portion of the liquid material. The liquid material
withdrawn by the blades 10 and accordingly by the helixes 11 at
the bottom of tube or pipe 4 is caused to move fast and at large
flow rate up along said tube or pipe 4: since this amount of liquid
material is larger than that which can be transported by the helixes
12 of only two starts, the excess portion of liquid material is
ejected through the windows or slots 5 of tube or pipe 4. As a matter
of fact, at the lower portion or bottom of the reactor, the thickest
portion of the liquid material is cycled by entering at the lower
end of tube or pipe 4, moving up along said tube and being mostly
ejected at the lower portion or bottom of windows 5.
In turn, the Archimedean screw helixes 12 causes a suction of liquid
material at the upper portions of windows 5, 6 and 7 and ejection
of liquid material from tube 4 through the lower portions of windows
6, 7 and 8. Thus, the Archimedean screw creates in the liquid material
volume or mass in the reactor a turbulence which is sufficiently
vigorous to bring the liquid material particles in contact with
the microbic flora, but sufficiently smooth not to disturb the fermentation,
at the same time allowing the development of the combustible gases
(mostly methane) being formed during fermentation. Experiments that
have been carried out proved that optimum results in fermentation
of zootechnic liquid materials are only possible if such liquid
materials are mixed by an Archimedean screw, such as that described.
As apparent, an Archimedean screw instead of comprising successive
sections of helixes having different number of starts could also
comprise a constant number of starts, but of varying pitch, that
is with a shorter pitch at the lower end of the Archimedean screw
that at the higher section of such an Archimedean screw.